Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 251–286

Toward an explanatory framework for mental ownership



Philosophical and scientific investigations of the proprietary aspects of self—mineness or mental ownership—often presuppose that searching for unique constituents is a productive strategy. But there seem not to be any unique constituents. Here, it is argued that the “self-specificity” paradigm, which emphasizes subjective perspective, fails. Previously, it was argued that mode of access also fails to explain mineness. Fortunately, these failures, when leavened by other findings (those that exhibit varieties and vagaries of mineness), intimate an approach better suited to searching for an explanation. Having an alternative in hand, one that shows promise of achieving explanatory adequacy, provides an additional reason to suspend the search for unique constituents. In short, a negative and a positive thesis are developed: we should cease looking for unique constituents and should seek to explain mineness in accord with the model developed here. This model rejects attempts to explain the phenomenon in terms of either a narrative or a minimal sense of self; it seeks to explain at a “molecular” level, one that appeals to multiple, interacting dimensions. The molecular-level model allows for the possibility that subjective perspective is distinct from a stark perspective (one that does not imply mineness). It proposes that the confounding of tacit expectations plays an important role in explaining mental ownership and its complement, disownership. But the confounding of tacit expectations is not sufficient. Because we are able to be aware of the existence of mental states that do not belong to self, we require a mechanism for determining degree of self-relatedness. One such mechanism is proposed here, and it is shown how this mechanism can be integrated into a general model of mental ownership. In the spirit of suggesting how this model might be able to help resolve outstanding problems, the question as to whether inserted thoughts belong to the patient who reports them is also considered.


Mineness Mental ownership Self-specificity Self-relatedness Principle of confounded expectations Levels of explanation Minimal self Disownership 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Neuroscience and Research Center for Mind, Brain, and LearningNational Chengchi UniversityTaipei CityTaiwan, Republic of China

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