Selves in Doubt

7.5 credits

Syllabus, Master's level, 5FT197

Education cycle
Second cycle
Main field(s) of study and in-depth level
Theoretical Philosophy A1N
Grading system
Fail (U), Pass (G), Pass with distinction (VG)
Finalised by
The Department Board, 29 February 2024
Responsible department
Department of Philosophy

Entry requirements

120 credits, including 60 credits in philosophy, aesthetics, musicology, literature or art history. Proficiency in English

equivalent to the Swedish upper secondary course English 6.

Learning outcomes

After completing the course, the students are expected to:

  • have good knowledge of a number of important positions and arguments in the philosophical discussion of the first-person perspective and the concept expressed by "I", and of skepticism regarding the existence of other selves
  • have good knowledge and understanding of the philosophical tools used to assess these positions and arguments
  • be able to independently apply philosophical tools to develop and assess positions and arguments regarding the issues brought up.


The aim of the course is to introduce a number of issues regarding the first-person perspective and the concept expressed by "I", and some related issues. The main text is the forthcoming book Selves in Doubt by Eli Hirsch. In conjunction with reading this text we will read some shorter texts on issues related to those that Hirsch brings up. Among questions brought up will be: In what ways is a thinker limited by not having the concept expressed by "I"? How do first-person judgments relate to the unity of the self? In what ways, if any, would we be worse off by speaking a language that carves up and conceptualizes matters related to the self differently? And in general, what makes languages better or worse in ways relevant to philosophy? Hirsch also brings up our relations to others. He claims that a necessary condition for being "sane" is that one is proud or ashamed of some of one's behavior, and a necessary condition for this in turn is that one compares one's behavior to that of other selves. But this, he says, requires certainty that other selves exist. So sanity requires certainty that other selves exist. Hirsch's arguments for this surprising claim will be scrutinized. These arguments in turn relate to whether we can know that other selves exist. Skepticism about that is another topic. Moreover, the previous issues will be connected to the question of death: Hirsch sees a connection between facing skepticism and facing death.


The instruction is in the form of lectures. The lectures are intended to be interactive to a significant extent.


Students will be assessed through three shorter take-home writing assignments (around 600 words each) and a longer take-home examination (an essay of around 3500 words).

The shorter assignments will be graded Fail/Pass. The longer take-home examination will be graded Fail/Pass/Pass with distinction. In order to get a passing grade for the whole course one needs a passing grade on all the assignments. To receive the grade Pass with distinction on the whole course one must in addition have received the grade Pass with distinction on the essay.

If there are special reasons for doing so, an examiner may make an exception from the method of assessment indicated and allow a student to be assessed by another method. An example of special reasons might be a certificate regarding special pedagogical support from the University's disability coordinator.

No reading list found.