"Might this be a dream?" In this book, distinguished philosopher
J. J. Valberg approaches the familiar question about dream and
reality by seeking to identify its subject matter: what is it that
would be the dream if "this" were a dream? It turns out to be a
subject matter that contains the whole of the world, space, and
time but which, like consciousness for Sartre, is nothing "in
itself." This subject matter, the "personal horizon," lies at the
heart of the main topics--the first person, the self, and the self
in time--explored at length in the book.
The personal horizon is, Valberg contends, the subject matter
whose center each of us occupies, and which for each of us ceases
with death. This ceasing to be presents itself solipsistically not
just as the end of everything "for me" but as the end of everything
absolutely. Yet since it is the same for everyone, this cannot be.
Death thus confronts us with an impossible fact: something that
cannot be but will be.
The puzzle about death is one of several extraphilosophical
puzzles about the self that Valberg discusses, puzzles that can
trouble everyday consciousness without any contribution from
philosophy. Nor can philosophy resolve the puzzles. Its task is to
get to the bottom of them, and in this respect to understand
ourselves--a task philosophy has always set itself.
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