The Situated Self

J. T. Ismael

Research output: Book/ReportBook

70 Scopus citations


Physics reveals a world composed of events arranged in a fixed configuration, like locations on a map. But where are we ourselves, the creatures who construct the map, to be found in the world it presents? Where, in this seamless fabric presented by physics do we find the fleeting, centered world of experience, rich in color, sound, and sentiment, that we know from the inside? The question of the relationship between the world of physics and the world as seen through human eyes is one of the deepest, and most difficult in philosophy. The difficulty has many aspects. The world of physics is fixed and eternal; the world of experience is transient and changing. The world of physics is structure described in mathematical terms; the world of experience is rich with qualitative properties that can't be captured in mathematical description. The world of physics has no built-in perspective; the world of experience is always experience to a particular someone, from a standpoint in space and time. The problem spans metaphysics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and ethics, and expresses itself in the wider culture in the perceived clash between humanist and scientific views of the self. This book displays in a new way the common structure of these different aspects of the problem. An account of the structure of self-locating knowledge serves as the keystone for a broad vision of the place of the self in the physical universe. The vision preserves the completeness and closure of physical description, while leaving room for features of ourselves and our subjective views of the world that are at once real and incommunicable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages260
ISBN (Electronic)9780199872121
ISBN (Print)0195174364, 9780195174366
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Experience
  • Humanist view
  • Mathematical description
  • Physical description
  • Qualitative properties
  • Scientific view
  • Space and time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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