Structural realist account of the self


SYNTHESE, vol.193, no.12, pp.3727-3740, 2016 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 193 Issue: 12
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s11229-016-1098-9
  • Journal Name: SYNTHESE
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.3727-3740
  • Keywords: Structural realism, Pattern theory, Self, Information processing, Generic computation, BRAIN, MODEL
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: No


In this paper, inspired by the late twentieth century developments in philosophy of science (ontic structural realism), I propose an ontological scheme to accommodate the scientifically-informed anti-substantivalist views of the self. I call the position structural realist theory of the self (SRS for short). More specifically, I argue that SRS provides a middle ground for bringing a metaphysical reconciliation between the two recurring, and apparently competing forms of such anti-substantivalist views, i.e., eliminativism and pluralism. The notion of the structural self, as the underpinning pattern that is the subject of the ontological commitments in SRS, is not as cumbersome as the orthodox substantivalist notion, and yet accounts for the relation of the different aspects and elements of the self by integrating them structurally into a central unifying pattern of selfhood. I use the experimental studies of Northoff et al. (Neuroimage 31:440-457, 2006) about the processing of the self-related stimuli in the cortical midline structure of the brain, to argue that the underlying pattern of the selfhood could be sought at the level of information processing (in the sense of generic computation). I also add a programmatic suggestion about how the different situated, experiential and extended aspects of the selfhood could be structurally incorporated into this underlying pattern.