This work is motivated by the global quest for freedom and self expression both at the individual and the national levels. Such quests that have resulted in much tension, agitation, terrorism and outright wars in diverse places are products of the great increase in human self consciousness in recent times. People and nations want to be themselves without undue interference from any quarter. Ordinarily people are always advised, “be yourself”. What is it to be a self? And what does it mean to be a particular self? It is obvious that in everything we do we adopt some conception of our identity, both as persons and as an individual, whether we are called upon to articulate it or not.1 But what features are essential to being the person you are, and what features distinguish you from other persons?
Whatever our attempts to answer the questions of self identity are, they begin with a single ‘fact’, our own consciousness. But the question of consciousness remains a mystery of ‘general metaphysics’.2 It may be the most outstanding obstacle in the quest for a complete scientific understanding of the universe, inspite all the much progress already recorded. What is the nature of consciousness?
Another motivating factor for this research is the rising interest in the cognitivist theories, the cognitive science, artificial intelligence, etc which has provoked a renewed interest in the works of Gilbert Ryle especially The Concept of Mind. For instance, Daniel Dennet,3 a former student of Ryle has provided a systematic forward to the AD.2000 edition of The Concept of Mind. Ryle, therefore, remains a significant defender of the possibility of lucid and meaningful interpretation of higher – level human activities without recourse to an abstract soul, or self consciousness.
However, it seems that some intellectuals are still challenged about why there should be “some thing it is like” to be in a certain mental state or to be a certain kind of being. Such intellectuals like Gilbert Ryle outrightly deny this fact, because it seems utterly mysterious that human behaviours should be accompanied by a subjective consciousness or inner life experiences. It is against this background that this study undertakes a critical evaluation of Gilbert Ryle’s Concept of Mind with a view to demonstrate that self-consciousness is the distinctive feature of human beings.