Subjectivity in Philosophy, Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience

Neuro-ecological Self and Its Point of View

Authored by: Georg Northoff

The Routledge International Handbook of Psychoanalysis and Philosophy

Print publication date:  November  2022
Online publication date:  November  2022

Print ISBN: 9780367276454
eBook ISBN: 9780429297076
Adobe ISBN:


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The search for the subjective nature of our self has a long tradition in philosophy, psychoanalysis, and more recently, also in neuroscience. However, despite all progress, the exact characterization of the subjective nature of self and how it, at the same time, is part of and fits into the seemingly objective world has remained elusive so far. I here pursue a non-reductive neurophilosophical approach by converging recent empirical data on self in neuroscience and with philosophical-conceptual analysis of the notion of the point of view. Drawing on recent empirical data, I show how scale-free activity in world and brain – that is, activity extending across different time scales that exhibit temporal nestedness and long-range temporal correlation (LRTC) – are key in constituting the self. That is complemented by converging the scale-free and neuro-ecological nature of self and its basis in world-brain relation with the conceptual notion of the point of view (PV). I postulate an ecological depth layer of PV that situates, constitutes, and emplaces the self within the world in an ontological way through scale-free activity featured by temporal nestedness and LRTC. Together, I suppose that the basic subjectivity of self, as key feature of the basis model of self-specificity (BMSS; Northoff 2016), is scale-free, neuro-ecological, pre-phenomenal, and ontological. This distinguishes our notion of subjectivity from the more traditional and current views where it is determined as scale-variant, neuro-cognitive, objective, mental (or phenomenal), and epistemological. I conclude that the convergence of the three key notions – world-brain relation, neuro-ecological self, and point of view – allow for a novel determination of the subjectivity of self as long searched for in philosophy, psychoanalysis, and neuroscience.

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