"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.
"In this long, meditative, worrying book Valberg explores and defends these thoughts about himself and searches for their sources and their implications for all of us. It is an intense, personal book, aspiring to the kind of philosophical reflections that brings to light something we all know about ourselves already, but for various reasons are unwilling or unable to acknowledge."--Barry Stroud, Times Literary Supplement
"Valberg's book is thoughtful, original, and challenging. He contends that the right sort of attention to the skeptical possibility that one might now be dreaming and to the fact that one will die reveals a common subject matter: that within which all one's experience unfolds, what he calls 'the personal horizon' and sometimes 'consciousness.' Valberg argues further that a proper understanding of central problems about self-reference, self-knowledge, embodiment, and personal identity demands attention to this same horizonal sense of self."--Randall Havas, author of Nietzsche's Genealogy
"In J. J. Valberg's extraordinary book, one finds a distinctive conception of philosophical problems, a highly original response to dream skepticism, a deep interpretation of the meaning of death, and a groundbreaking discussion of personal identity. Valberg's position is both striking and masterfully developed. The puzzles he discusses are of considerable philosophical importance."--Douglas G. Winblad, Vassar College
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