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think: Language and Self-Consciousness

Self-consciousness is widely discussed inside and outside of philosophy. It often finds linguistic expression in self-ascriptions of mental states such as "I think" and "I'm in pain". The philosophical discussion of self-consciousness is therefore intimately related to the understanding of utterances of this form. To a large extent, the debate is based on the cognitivist assumption that such self-ascriptions are autobiographical assertions whose content is identical with the semantic content of the sentences uttered. Expressivists in the tradition of Ryle and Wittgenstein, on the other hand, have claimed that such utterances are not expressions of second-order attitudes, of beliefs about one's thoughts or pains, but rather expressions of the thoughts or pains themselves. The aim of our research project is to provide a speech-act theoretical account of psychological expressivism and to explore the possibilities of expressivism also in relation to questions of first-person authority, self-knowledge, and self-consciousness.


Workshop Self-ConsciousnessLatest event

Workshop think4: "Self-Consciousness – Philosophy Meets Empirical Science” on December 15 and 16, 2017".

Subjects that exhibit self-consciousness are able to consciously recognize mental and bodily states as their own. Philosophical, neuroscientific and psychological theories of self-consciousness seek to account for this ability at different levels of explanation. Relevant questions are, for instance: How does self-consciousness emerge in a brain? Is self-consciousness in any interesting way distinct from the awareness of other things? Is it a non-conceptual, pre-reflective feature of all experiences? Further questions concern our way of referring to self-conscious states and the specific kind of knowledge that we seem to have of ourselves.The aim of this workshop is to explore contemporary neuroscientific and psychological answers to these questions and to discuss concepts and theories that philosophy can offer.

The program is available here. Participation is free and open to all who are interested. Registration please by email to .

Past events

  • think1: Sprache und Selbstbewusstsein (2014) (Programme, Poster)
  • think2: Repräsentationen des Ich (2015) (Programme, Poster)
  • workshop with Dorit Bar-On: Neo-Expressivism (2016) (Poster)
  • think3: Philosophy and the Semantics of "I" (2016) (Programme, Poster)


The First Person – Semantic, Epistemic, and Scientific Perspectives                   

The project investigates the purportedly special epistemic status of I-thoughts. These are thoughts by which we represent self-related mental states, such as our own beliefs, desires, and feelings (e.g., "I believe that it is snowing" and "I am in pain"). The project

  1. examines the semantic structure and the epistemic character of I-thoughts, 
  2. analyses selected psychological and neuroscientific studies that either support or cast into doubt this epistemic status, and 
  3. reflects more generally on the scientific status and the methodological relevance of self-reports in psychological and neuroscientific research.

Principal investigator: Katharina Kraus

Doctoral student: Maik Niemeck

The research project is funded by the Eliteprogramme for Postdocs of the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung.