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Pitt-Tsinghua Summer School for Philosophy of Science

Institute of Science Technology and Society, Tsinghua University • Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh


2019  Şerife Tekin (U. Texas, San Antonio):
Naturalistic Approaches to The Self
Aug 12-16, 2019


Course description:
From Socrates’s admonition to know oneself to William James’s disambiguation of “the self as knower” from “the self as known,” the concept of the self has occupied a central place in philosophical and scientific inquiry. Traditional philosophical approaches to the self have been rejuvenated, enriched, and at times challenged, in the last few decades, due to increased empirical investigation of the self and various self-related phenomena, by cognitive and behavioral sciences (primarily, psychology, psychiatry anthropology, and cognitive neuroscience). This course will revisit the fundamental questions about the metaphysics of the self in light of recent research in cognitive and behavioral sciences. We will discuss questions such as: What is the self? Is the self empirically investigable? If so, what are the methods for empirically scrutinizing the self? What is the structure of self-pathologies?

Lecture 1: What is the Self? A Historical Overview
In lecture 1, we will do an overview of the fundamental questions on the metaphysics of the self in the Western philosophical approaches and juxtapose them against the conceptions of the self in Buddhist traditions.

Required Readings:
Tekin, Ş. 2015. Self, Philosophical Considerations, Encyclopedia of Clinical Psychology. R. Cautin and S. Lilienfield (eds.) Wiley-Blackwell Press.

Tekin, Ş. 2018. There is Such Thing as The Self and It is Empirically Tractable. Aeon Magazine. https://aeon.co/essays/the-self-does-exist-and-is-amenable-to-scientific-investigation

Optional Readings:
Descartes, R. 1641. “Meditation II.” Meditations on First Philosophy.

Locke, D. 1694. "Of Identity and Diversity." Ch. XXVII of The Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

Hume, D. 1740. "Of Personal Identity. "Section 6 of part IV, Book I, A Treatise of Human Nature.

James, W. 1890. “Consciousness and the Self.” Ch. X of The Principles of Psychology.

Metzinger, T. 2011. “The No-Self Alternative.” The Oxford Handbook of the Self, ed. Shaun Gallagher, 279-296.

Siderits, M. 2011. Buddhist Non-Self: The No-Owner’s Manual. The Oxford Handbook of the Self, ed. Shaun Gallagher, 297-315.


Lecture 2: What is the Self? Philosophical Approaches
In lecture 2, we will discuss some of the most influential philosophical approaches to the self; with a focus on the relationship between the self and narratives.

Required Readings:
Dennett, Daniel C. 1992. The self as a center of narrative gravity. In Frank S. Kessel, P. M. Cole & D. L. Johnson (eds.), Lawrence Erlbaum.

Optional Readings:
Flanagan, O. 1994. Multiple identity, character transformation, and self-reclamation. In G. Graham & L. Stephens (Eds.), Philosophical psychopathology (pp. 135–62). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Schechtman, Marya. 2011. The narrative self. In Shaun Gallagher (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Self. Oxford University Press, 394-418.

Strawson, Galen. 2004. Against narrativity. Ratio 17 (4):428-452.


Lecture 3: What is the Self? Scientific Approaches
In lecture 3, we will discuss various philosophical issues concerning the scientific approaches to individuating the self especially in cognitive science and neuroscience.

Required Readings:
Tekin, S. 2017. Looking for the Self in Psychiatry: Perils and Promises of Phenomenology–Neuroscience Partnership in Schizophrenia Research. In Extraordinary Science and Psychiatry: Responses to the Crisis in Mental Health Research (Poland, J. and Tekin, S. eds.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Thagard, Paul. 2012. The self as a system of multilevel interacting mechanisms. Philosophical Psychology (2):1-19.

Optional Readings:
Neisser, Ulric. 1988. Five kinds of self-knowledge. Philosophical Psychology 1 (1):35 – 59.

Panksepp, Jaak & Northoff, Georg. 2009. The trans-species core SELF: the emergence of active cultural and neuro-ecological agents through self-related processing within subcortical-cortical midline networks. Consciousness and Cognition 18 (1):193-215.

Legrand, D.; Ruby, P. 2009. What is self-specific? Theoretical investigation and critical review of neuroimaging results. Psychological Review 116 (1):252-282.


Lecture 4: Self- Pathologies: Addiction
In lecture 4, we will examine various philosophical questions that emerge from the pathologies of the self. Our specific focus will be addiction.

Required Readings:
Tekin, Ş. 2018. Brain Mechanisms and the Disease Model of Addiction: Is it Really the Whole Story of the Addicted Self? A philosophical-skeptical perspective. In The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy and Science of Addiction, Pickard, H. and Ahmed, S. eds. Routledge University Press, 401-410.

Tekin, Ş. 2017. The Missing Self in Psychiatry. Synthese

Optional Readings:
Pickard, H. The Puzzle of Addiction. 2018. In The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy and Science of Addiction, Pickard, H. and Ahmed, S. eds. Routledge University Press, 9-22.

Tekin, Şerife; Flanagan, Owen & Graham, George 2017. Against the Drug Cure Model: Addiction, Identity, and Pharmaceuticals. In Dien Ho (ed.), Philosophical Issues in Pharmaceutics: Development, Dispensing, and Use. Springer.


Lecture 5: Methodologies for Investigating the Self
In lecture 5, we will examine the strengths and limitations of the various empirical approaches to the investigation of the self.

Required Readings:
Flanagan, O. 2013. Identity and addiction: what alcoholic memoirs teach. In K. W. M. Fulford (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry. Oxford University Press. pp. 865.

Optional Readings:
Gendler, Tamar Szabó. 1998. Exceptional persons: On the limits of imaginary cases. Journal of Consciousness Studies 5 (5-6):592-610.

Bechtel, W. 2008. “Against Mechanisms Critics: Accounting for Freedom and Dignity via Mental Mechanisms”. In Mental Mechanisms: Philosophical Perspectives on Cognitive Neuroscience. London: Routledge, 239-268.

Radden, J.; Varga, S. 2013. The epistemological value of depression memoirs: a meta-analysis. In K. W. M. Fulford (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry. Oxford University Press. 99-118.











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