PPIG: Philosophy, Psychology, and Informatics Group

Speaker: Anna Ciaunica (University of Porto)

Title: The Broken Window Transparency and Loss of Self in Depersonalisation and Meditation

Abstract: In recent years, the study of altered forms of self-consciousness such as the experience of “losing” one’s sense of self as being a distinct individual from the rest of the world has attracted significant attention from philosophers and scientists alike. In this talk I contrast the experiences of losing the sense of self in Depersonalisation Disorder (DPD) and in meditative states, with particular focus on the property of the “transparency” of subjective conscious experiences. Transparency is an interesting and peculiar property of our minds and can be metaphorically understood as looking through a window onto the self/world, instead of looking at the window itself. I argue that in meditative states, the underlying transparency of basic, embodied pre-reflective forms of self-consciousness is revealed and enhanced. By contrast, this transparency is disrupted in DPD states, leading to increased use of mentalistic hyper-reflective forms of self-consciousness. Hyperreflexivity triggers self-opacity which leads in turn to distressing feelings of being “cut off” from one’s self, body and world by a pane of glass, fog or veil. I suggest that the phenomenon of “losing” one’s sense of self in meditation and depersonalisation seems to point towards the idea that (at least some) forms of self-consciousness have the property of transparency which can be “expanded” or “broken”, i.e. transformed, but not “lost”. Using the window metaphor: the same way opening or breaking a window doesn’t make the window disappear; “expanding” or “disrupting” its transparency doesn’t make self-consciousness and the sense of self disappear, but rather makes them reappear under a different form.

Bio: Anna Ciaunica is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Philosophy at the University of Porto and a research associate at the Institute of Cognitive Neurosciences at University College London. Her research focuses on atypical forms of bodily selfconsciousness in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Depersonalization Disorder (DPD).

Contact for this event:

Dave Ward

Further information

We are a group of researchers from diverse backgrounds in the above-mentioned groups (and beyond) who aim to gain an interdisciplinary yet deep understanding of the threads that bind the human mind and the world. In particular, this seminar series focuses on the nature of cognition, metacognition and social cognition. We’ll be tackling questions such as, what does it mean to think? What does it mean to think about thinking? And, what does it mean to think about one’s own thinking versus thinking about the thinking of other people? Please come along!

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Contact details

Dr Alistair Isaac

Jun 12 2019 -

PPIG: Philosophy, Psychology, and Informatics Group

2019-06-12: The Broken Window Transparency and Loss of Self in Depersonalisation and Meditation

Room 1.20, Dugald Stewart Building, 3 Charles Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AD