What is a self? Does it exist in reality or is it a mere social construct or is it perhaps a neurologically induced illusion? The legitimacy of the concept of the self has been questioned by both neuroscientists and philosophers in recent years. Countering this, in Subjectivity and Selfhood, Dan Zahavi argues that the notion of self is crucial for a proper understanding of consciousness. He investigates the interrelationships of experience, self awareness, and selfhood, proposing that none of these three notions can be understood in isolation. Any investigation of the self, Zahavi argues, must take the first person perspective seriously and focus on the experiential givenness of the self. Subjectivity and Selfhood explores a number of phenomenological analyses pertaining to the nature of consciousness, self, and self experience in light of contemporary discussions in consciousness research.
Philosophical phenomenology as developed by Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau Ponty, and others not only addresses crucial issues often absent from current debates over consciousness but also provides a conceptual framework for understanding subjectivity. Zahavi fills the need given the recent upsurge in theoretical and empirical interest in subjectivity for an account of the subjective or phenomenal dimension of consciousness that is accessible to researchers and students from a variety of disciplines. His aim is to use phenomenological analyses to clarify issues of central importance to philosophy of mind, cognitive science, developmental psychology, and psychiatry. By engaging in a dialogue with other philosophical and empirical positions, says Zahavi, phenomenology can demonstrate its vitality and contemporary relevance.