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Hypothesis and Theory ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02250

The True Self. Critique, Nature, and Method

 Terje Sparby1*, Friedrich E. Edelhäuser1 and  Ulrich Weger1
  • 1Witten/Herdecke University, Germany

The history of philosophy gives us many different accounts of a true self, connecting it to the essence of what a person is, the notion of conscience, and an ideal human being. Some true self-proponents can also be found within psychology, but its existence is mostly rejected. However, many psychological studies have shown that people commonly believe in the existence of a true self. Hence, although folk psychology often includes a belief in a true self, its existence is disputed by psychological science. Here we consider the critique raised by Strohminger, Newman, and Knobe, stating that the true self is (1) radically subjective and (2) not observable, and hence cannot be studied scientifically (Strohminger, Knobe, & Newman, 2017). On closer investigation, the argument that the self is radically subjective is not convincing. Furthermore, rather than accepting that the true self cannot be studied scientifically, we ask: What would a science have to look like that would be able to study the true self? In order to answer this question, we outline the conceptual nature of the true self, which involves phenomenological and narrative aspects in addition to psychological dimensions, and suggest a method through which this concept can be investigated from the first-person perspective.

Keywords: the true self, the self, first-person methods, Consciousness, Phenomenology

Received: 13 May 2019; Accepted: 19 Sep 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Sparby, Edelhäuser and Weger. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Terje Sparby, Witten/Herdecke University, Witten, Germany,