Notions of the Self


We have a 'sense of self', but what sort of thing is the self? Some philosophers suggest that the elusive 'I' to which we seem to refer is a piece of philosopher’s nonsense: a delusion, a fiction. Others try to reduce all facts about first-person experiences to empirically researchable data about bodies and brains. Yet that seems to leave something out. It goes against how we experience ourselves – namely, as a single persisting thing not exhausted by its physicality, and as a moral subject with its own thoughts and responsible for its own actions. It feels like something to take on the first-person point of view of a self.

A sense of self is amongst the most immediate and basic conceptions of who we are, and it sits below the level of plausible cultural variation.

On this course we set out together to explore a number of influential philosophical and psychological theories which attempt to explain what’s behind this most fundamental aspect of human experience.

Programme details

Courses starts: 19 Apr 2024

Week 0: Course orientation

Week 1: Selfhood--A Global First Look

Week 2: Self and Consciousness 

Week 3: Self as Primitive Concept 

Week 4: Bundles, Streams, and Pearls

Week 5: Liberation from Selfhood--Reductivism

Week 6: Unconscious Mentality and Psychopathologies of the Self 

Week 7: Moral Selves

Week 8: Self and Narrativity

Week 9: Selves, Souls and Science 

Week 10: Collective Selves and Social Reality 

Digital Certification

To complete the course and receive a certificate, you will be required to attend and participate in at least 80% of the live sessions on the course and pass your final assignment. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so.


Description Costs
Course Fee £257.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Julia Weckend

Julia joined Oxford University's Department for Continuing Education in 2014. Her teaching and research interests include the history of philosophy with an emphasis on metaphysical issues, the philosophies of mind, perception and emotion, and the study of human nature and selfhood.

Course aims

To gain an understanding of the key themes in the study of selfhood, and related problems and concerns. 

Course Objectives:

  • To become familiar with the central issues that preoccupy the philosophy of personal identity, agency, and selfhood.
  • To examine and evaluate substantial theories of selfhood.
  • To read and discuss the relevant literature on the nature of selfhood and agency.

Teaching methods

Pre-recorded lectures will be provided for students to watch ahead of the weekly meeting to be held on MSTeams. I will be making the powerpoint slides and a handout available to students each week. Students will also be asked to read a relevant paper or chapter from a book each week in preparation of the seminar discussions.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • have a good grasp of many of the key conceptions on self and selfhood;
  • express and evaluate respective views and philosophical arguments on the possibility of selfhood;
  • be able to support with arguments one's own view on whether it is reasonable to think that there is such a thing as the self.

Assessment methods

Option A. Assessment will be by means of three mini essays of 500 words each


Option B. Assessment will be by means of a single project equating to an essay of 1500 words. It is recommended to submit a plan, set of notes, or first draft of the assignment before the end of the course.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


We will close for enrolments 7 days prior to the start date to allow us to complete the course set up. We will email you at that time (7 days before the course begins) with further information and joining instructions. As always, students will want to check spam and junk folders during this period to ensure that these emails are received.

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an enrolment form (Word) or enrolment form (Pdf).

Level and demands

No prior knowledge or previous experience in philosophy are required or assumed, though it will enable students to engage more fully in class discussion. The course will appeal in particular to those who enjoy wrestling with problems in analytical philosophy.

Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)