According to the free energy principle all living systems aim to minimise free energy in their sensory exchanges with the environment. Processes of free energy minimisation are thus ubiquitous in the biological world. Indeed it has been argued that even plants engage in free energy minimisation. Not all living things however feel alive. How then did the feeling of being alive get started? In line with the arguments of the phenomenologists, I will claim that every feeling must be felt by someone. It must have mineness built into it if it is to feel a particular way. The question I take up in this paper asks how mineness might have arisen out of processes of free energy minimisation, given that many systems that keep themselves alive lack mineness. The hypothesis I develop in this paper is that the life of an organism can be seen as an inferential process. Every living system embodies a probability distribution conditioned on a model of the sensory, physiological, and morphological states that are highly probably given the life it leads and the niche it inhabits. I argue for an ecological and enactive interpretation of free energy. I show how once the life of an organism reaches a certain level of complexity mineness emerges as an intrinsic part of the process of life itself.
Ratcliffe M. (2017) Selfhood, schizophrenia, and the interpersonal regulation of experience. In: Durt C., Fuchs T. & Tewes C. (eds.) Embodiment, enaction, and culture: Investigating the constitution of the shared world. MIT Press, Cambridge MA: 149–171. https://cepa.info/5083
Excerpt: This paper addresses the view, currently and historically popular in phenomenological psychopathology, that schizophrenia involves disturbance of a person’s most basic sense of self, the minimal self. The concept of “minimal self” is to be understood in wholly phenomenological terms. Zahavi (2014) offers what is perhaps the most detailed characterization to date. All our experiences, he maintains, have a “first-personal character”; their structure incorporates a sense of mineness, of their originating in a singular locus of experience. So the minimal self is neither an object of experience/thought nor an experience of subjectivity that is separate from one’s various experiences. Rather, it pertains to “the distinct manner, or how, of experiencing” (Zahavi 2014, 22). Those who subscribe to this view do not insist that minimal self is the only kind of self. As Zahavi acknowledges, “self” may legitimately refer to a range of different phenomena, all of which need to be carefully distinguished from one another. But the minimal self is the most fundamental of these, a condition for the integrity of experience that all other kinds of self-experience presuppose.
Zahavi D. (2009) Is the self a social construct? Inquiry 52(6): 551–573. https://cepa.info/7360
There is a long tradition in philosophy for claiming that selfhood is socially constructed and self-experience intersubjectively mediated. On many accounts, we consequently have to distinguish between being conscious or sentient and being a self. The requirements that must be met in order to qualify for the latter are higher. My aim in the following is to challenge this form of social constructivism by arguing that an account of self which disregards the fundamental structures and features of our experiential life is a non-starter, and that a correct description and account of the experiential dimension must do justice to the first-person perspective and to the primitive form of self-referentiality, mineness or for-me-ness that it entails. I then consider and discuss various objections to this account, in particular the view that an endorsement of such a minimal notion of self commits one to an outdated form of Cartesianism. In the final part of the paper, I argue that the self is so multifaceted a phenomenon that various complementary accounts must be integrated if we are to do justice to its complexity.