Carolyn Dicey Jennings: From Attention to Self
A popular view of the self is that it exists inside the head. Movies sometimes present the self as a tiny person living inside of our skulls, seeing the world through our eyes. However, this concept of a “homunculus,” or little human, is not popular in contemporary philosophy of mind and cognitive science. It has a serious problem: It is used to explain how it is that we see, hear, and engage with the world by introducing a new being that sees, hears, and engages with the world.
If this worked then we would need homunculi “all the way down” to account for the seeing, hearing, and engagement of each. Philosophers and cognitive scientists seem to fear that any brain-based account of the self will have this problem. Within these fields, you will find discussions of the narrative self, the illusory self, the constructed self, the imaginary self, the self-concept, and self as center of narrative gravity. These are not really theories of self, but of self-image.