What Is the Conscious Self?

1. James’s Self-as-Knower: The conscious self was an important topic dealt with by William James, among others. What is the nature of the conscious self, as James described it?

2. Freud’s Concept of the Ego: Freud proposed the existence of three agencies that described personality—the id, ego, and superego. Of these, the ego is examined in some detail here. How is the ego similar, and how is it different, from James’s concept of the conscious self, particularly in terms of how much is conscious?

3. The Dialogical Self: The dialogical self is a view of the conscious self in which consciousness moves from enlivening not only one’s own self, but also representations of other internal characters. This is said to occur as a person holds imaginary conversations with others. How is the dialogical self different from the conscious self, and what does the notion of the dialogical self add to the conscious self?


What Does It Mean for the Self to Be Conscious?

4. Consciousness Defined: How has consciousness been defined? What are some central attributes of consciousness?

5. Scientific Accounting for the Feeling of Consciousness: What is subjective realism? How does it distinguish between consciousness as an objective quality and as a subjective quality?

6. Is Consciousness of Recent Origin: Julian Jaynes suggested a radical hypothesis: That consciousness has recently evolved. To when does he date the appearance of consciousness? How were people different before consciousness evolved?

7. The Brain and Consciousness: Has consciousness been localized in the brain? If so, which part of the brain contains consciousness? If not, what explanations have been offered for how consciousness emerges?


Does the Self Possess Free Will?

8. The Appearance of Will: The will is a power that we exert over ourselves to try to control or ensure that we behave in a particular way. What sorts of decisions did William James say most reflected the exercise of will?

9. The Free Will–Determinism Debate: Is there a free will? Those who believe there isn’t are called determinists. Religious determinism can be found in some religions; Calvinism is an example in the Protestant tradition. Such determinism can also be found in psychology. Both Sigmund Freud and B. F. Skinner were determinists. What does free will mean?

10. Freedom from the Free Will–Determinism Debate: How is the discussion about voluntary versus automatic behavior different from free will versus determinism?

11. Voluntary Cause and Control: A number of experimental studies suggest that people believe they are exercising free will when, in fact, they are not. Can you describe such a study? Does that prove the determinist position?


Are There Alternatives to the Conscious Self?

12. Agencies: Consciousness itself is sometimes described as an agency. Although some agencies are conscious, others are unconscious. What are some qualities of agencies?

13. Agencies are Semi-Autonomous: Agencies are part of personality that are semi-autonomous from the other parts either in that they are self-regulating or that they otherwise are the origin of some influence over the rest of personality. What do self-regulating and semi-autonomous mean?

14. Alters: Multiple personalities present a fascinating instance of the agency at the extreme. Here are actual full-blown personalities alternating within a single individual. Each personality is doing its own thing: One may even trick another personality or hijack the body someplace another inner personality doesn’t want to be. What are the alternative personalities called, and why are they considered agencies?

15. The Unconscious, Id, and Superego: Early in his career, Freud divided the mind into the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious. Later in his career, Freud divided the mind into the id, ego, and superego. Are the ego, id, and superego unconscious agencies? What characteristics of them did you use to decide the issue?


How Is the Conscious Self Expressed?

16. The Stream of Consciousness: The various ideas and associations a person has over a day together form the individual’s stream of consciousness. What does the stream of consciousness contain?

17. Levels of Consciousness: What is meant by levels of consciousness? What levels of consciousness have been proposed?

18. The Structure of Consciousness and Flow: Flow experience results from an interaction between a person’s skills and the challenges provided by a task at hand. The flow experience has a number of characteristics associated with it, including a quicker passage of time and an intense involvement. What other characteristics are there? What is it about the skills and tasks that bring flow about?