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Volume 36, 2019

Senses of Self: Approaches to Pre-Reflective Consciousness

Manfred Frank
Pages 36-78

From “Fichte’s Original Insight” to a Moderate Defence of Self-Representationalism

Fifty years ago, Dieter Henrich wrote an influential little text on ‘Fichte’s Origi­nal Insight’. Seldom so much food for thought has been put in a nutshell. The essay, bearing such an unremarkable title, delivers a diagnosis of why two hundred years of penetrating thought about the internal structure of subjectivity have ended up so fruitless. Henrich’s point was: Self-consciousness cannot be explained as the result of a higher-order act, bending back upon a first-order one, given that “what reflection finds, must already have been there before” (Novalis). Whereas Henrich’s discovery had some influence in German speaking countries (and was dubbed the ‘Heidelberg School’), it remained nearly unnoticed in the anglophone (and now dominant) philosophical world. This is starting to change, now that a recent view on (self-) consciousness, called ‘self-representationalism’, is beginning to develop and to discover its Heidelbergian roots.