When Kierkegaard says that other animals don’t pretend, he is not making a point about make-believe. Rather, he is using “pretend” in the older sense of put oneself forward or make a claim. Think of the pretender to a throne: she is someone putting herself forward as the legitimate heir. Now in the most elemental sense, pretense goes to the heart of human agency. Even in our simplest acts, pretense is there, at least as a potentiality. You see me bent over and ask, “What are you doing?” and I say, “Tying my shoes.” Right there in that simple answer I am making a claim about what I am up to, in this case one in which I have nonobservational first-person authority.15 Hu- man self-consciousness is constituted by our capacity to pretend in this literal and nonpejorative sense: in general we can say what we are doing; and in do- ing that we are making a claim about what we are up to.
getting the proper psychology in view will require us to rethink what it is to be a unified self. The unity that is genuinely available to us is, I think, marked by disruption and division. This is not the well-known view that whatever psychic unity we achieve will always be vulnerable to disruption, but rather a view that whatever unity is genuinely available partially consists in certain forms of disruption. The aim of unity should not be to overcome these disruptions, but to find ways to live well with them. Ironically, the unity that is available to us is a peculiar form of disunity. In trying to work out the family of concepts that include rational will, action, and agency, philosophers have tended to rely on an idealized conception of unity that does not really fit the human soul