I am interested in the question of whether thinking must be an activity of a subject. Is it true that thinking has no reality without being a mode of the subject? Could it be possible that there is some theory of thinking according to which thinking does not require a subject?I do not expect a full answer to these questions here but I would really appreciate it if someone could give me some directions (e.g. what books/journal articles/encyclopaedias should I read?). I tried the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy but did not find a relevant entry on this topic. Perhaps someone could tell me what the correct entry/keyword for searching is. Thanks very much.

It might help if I add the following context to the question:

The question originates from the Lichtenbergian objection against Descartes' Cogito Argument as Lichtenberg claims that a conscious thinking can at best imply that there is thinking going on but there might not be a thinking subject associated.

  • Yes, thinking is activity of a mind, which is a subject. Unless you think that not all minds are subjects, such as if you believe some minds are p-zombies.
    – causative
    Dec 25, 2020 at 8:17
  • It depends on your concept of a subject. Is subject another word for ego? Is subject a reflection to the self or to the process of thinking? Does subject needs object? etc.
    – ttnphns
    Dec 25, 2020 at 8:27
  • @ttnphns I have edited the question. Dec 25, 2020 at 8:42
  • That objection has been the mainstream for a the last century. Thinking does not need a subject (an internal "homunkulus") doing it. The question remains whether thinking is still private, own, or is totally nonpersonal.
    – ttnphns
    Dec 25, 2020 at 14:15
  • It's a strawman to say a subject is an internal homunculus. A mind does not need a homunculus pulling wires inside it in order to operate and be a subject. The mind is the result of the whole brain. It's a challenging question to say exactly what the mind is, or what the conscious subject is, but we can say fairly certainly that it's not a homunculus without denying that it is something else.
    – causative
    Dec 25, 2020 at 21:42

1 Answer 1

  • Subject traditionally means 2 things (1) subjectum praedicationis ( subject of predication) and ( 2) subjectum inhaesionis ( substratum in which modes, properties, acts inhere).

  • Descartes argues that subject (1) = subject (2) = the thinking substance

  • Locke accepts subject (1) , rejects subject (2) as substance but accepts it as "person" ( or Self, having an " identity of consciousnes" - or, so to say, a " for oneself" identity -not a substantial identity) . See Essay, II, 27.

  • Kant clearly rejects any possible knowledge of (2) as immaterial substance but does not deny a reference to (1) : the originary synthetic unity of aperception or the " transcendental I"

  • Nietzsche rejects altogether (1) and (2) in Beyond Good and Evil : the Egois nothing more than a superstition of logicians ( that is, a superstition caused by grammar and language).

  • Sartre in Being and Nothingness distinguishes the subject as Self and the subject as Ego. The Self is nothing else but consciousness as self-conscious ( any intentional consciousness being, at the same time, conscious of itself as directed toward an object, no Ego being posited thereby). The Ego is an effect of reflection, when the self directs an intentional gaze to oneself, and take itself as an object in the world. ( See ; Paul Vincent Spade's notes on Sartre and B&N).

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