Human beings are conscious not only of the world around them but also of themselves: their activities, their bodies, and their mental lives. They are, that is, self-conscious (or, equivalently, self-aware). Self-consciousness can be understood as an awareness of oneself. But a self-conscious subject is not just aware of something that merely happens to be themselves, as one is if one sees an old photograph without realising that it is of oneself. Rather a self-conscious subject is aware of themselves as themselves; it is manifest to them that they themselves are the object of awareness. Self-consciousness is a form of consciousness that is paradigmatically expressed in English by the words “I”, “me”, and “my”, terms that each of us uses to refer to ourselves as such.
A central topic throughout the history of philosophy—and increasingly so since the seventeenth century—the phenomena surrounding self-consciousness prompt a variety of fundamental philosophical and scientific questions, including its relation to consciousness; its semantic and epistemic features; its realisation in both conceptual and non-conceptual representation; and its connection to our conception of an objective world populated with others like ourselves.