What is consciousness? By Eugenio Trías

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What is your take on consciousness or self-awareness?

This is the great subject of the subject’s identity and the way it perceives itself. Itself and the world. Of the interaction between itself and world. It’s one of philosophy’s great subjects: consciousness, self-consciousness. In modern philosophy the discussion has been radicalized, and in the currents closer to us the concept of a subject is being questioned. But I should make a precision here: putting it in question in a radical way is different than just questioning it. For example, the questioning of the subject, understood as a destruction. There is no subjectivity. These are the theories of structuralism and post-structuralism. I contributed to them in my first books (Filosofía y carnaval, La filosofía y su sumbra). The idea of a questioned subject, a subject which is not substantial like Descartes thought, or like German idealism -Hegel, Fichte or Schelling- ended up thinking, but a subject with a fracture which marks it from the root. And it’s there where the world of significance, of meaning and also of linguistic habit, resides. These theories are important and it’s important to assume them, but without extrapolating them, which happens often. And, instead of talking about questioning the subject, people talk about eliminating it. And then it turns out that the same people who give up the notion of subject have to use paraphrases in order to find some term to substitute it. I have recently discovered Gilles Deleuze, and I greatly admire him. In some of his works he lightly decided that he needed to destroy subjectivity but, at the time of truth, in his book about cinema -which is really good- you can see the need to recover it. Since he cannot call it “subject” he speaks in its place of “indeterminacy”, a paraphrases to avoid a concept that, I think, cannot be substituted. What is important is how it’s understood, how it’s clarified.

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