“The Problem of Self: Can the “Minimal Self” Get Lost?”
A self is a fundamental explanatory principle to understand consciousness, to account for that essential feature that characterizes experience: its subjectivity (for-me-ness), its first person character. I would like to point out what has been called the minimal self, in an effort to come to the essential core of this principle, especially within the scope of pathologies in which precisely the self may be disrupted.
The minimal sense of self includes a sense of self-ownership and a sense of self-agency for actions. According to some authors, in cases of involuntary movements, unbidden thoughts, and schizophrenic experiences such as thought insertion, it becomes possible to distinguish between them, then here the sense of agency should be lacking but the sense of ownership should be retained in some form. Some other analysis have challenged the sharp distinction between these two modalities, showing that they are rather intimately related and even modulate each other.
The detailed phenomenology of these experiences that show rather the intentionality –that is, a relational character– as the constituent of the agentic nature, of the minimal sense of self, lead us to inquire if it is then possible to assert that the minimal self never gets lost. Furthermore, such a claim could provide elements to account for –among other things– the subjective activity of patients in a coma and in a vegetative state, since, although they do not show perceptible organic agency, their subjective activity, their agency in its intentional aspect could have been recognized after recovery.