SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Theories of the Self

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/23
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2

This course on theories of the self discusses contemporay naturalistic explanations of existing accounts of experiences or doctrines of the phenomenal self and a sense of personal identity. Its is based on the historical evidence of reflection on individuality, soul and self across cultures. Though focussing on modern philosophical and scientific theories, the method of course is comparative. As such it serves both as an introduction to the comparative philosophy of mind and to the sociology of knowledge. The main question the course addresses is how can we think of ourselves after the discreditation of received conceptions of soul components, mind-body dualisms, neural networks and flows of consciousness?

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Appreciate the interdisciplinary, cross-cultural character of comparative philosophy
  • Understand the distinctive contributions of different philosophical and religious traditions to major issues and debates.
  • Identify the similarities and differences between these philosophical approaches.
  • Articulate concisely and rigorously a reasoned position on a range of ethical issues in oral and written form;
  • Demonstrate high level of critical thinking skills including the ability to evaluate opposing moral arguments, as well as selectivity, synthesis, and analysis.



Two hours Lectures ; one hour Tutorial

Method of assessment

One 3,500 words essay (50%); one two hours exam (worth 50%).

Suggested reading

  • Chalmers, David J. (1996/1997). The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Connolly, Tim (2015). Doing Philosophy Comparatively. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Damasio, Antonio (1999/2000). The Feeling of What Happens: Body, Emotion and the Making of Conscousness. London: Vinaga Books.
  • Lowe, E.J. (2000). An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Metzinger, Thomas (2003/2004). Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity. Cambridge/M.: MIT Press.
  • Metzinger, Thomas (2009/2010). The Ego-Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self. New York: Basic Books.
  • Varela, Francisco J., Evan Thompson & Eleanor Rosch (1991). The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science in Human Experience. Cambridge/M.: MIT Press.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules