Although it is sometimes said that Martin Heidegger’s later philosophy no longer concerned itself with the theme of authenticity so crucial to Being and Time (1927), this book argues that his interest in authenticity was always strong.
After leaving the seminary to become a philosophy student, Heidegger began to “de–mythologize” religious themes for his own philosophical purposes. Like the Christian notion of faith, Heidegger’s notion of authenticity involves relinquishing the egotistical self–understanding which blocks our openness for possibilities. Yet authenticity as “resoluteness” includes an element of voluntarism foreign to the idea of faith. Heidegger’s brief engagement with National Socialism (1933–1934) helped him to re–think the Nietzschean concept of will which had influenced his early views on authenticity. Although part of the meaning of resoluteness is to allow things to be revealed, it also suggests that an individual can somehow will to be authentic. After about 1936, Heidegger emphasized that an individual can only be released from egoism (inauthenticity) by a power which transcends him. The abiding theological issue concerning the efficacy of works as against the saving power of grace finds expression in the distinction between resoluteness and releasement.
In Essential Vulnerabilities, Deborah Achtenberg contests Emmanuel Levinas’s idea that Plato is a philosopher of freedom for whom thought is a return to the self. To the contrary, she agrees, Plato, like Levinas, is a philosopher of the other. While they share the view that human beings are essentially vulnerable and in relation to others, they conceive human vulnerability and responsiveness differently.
For Plato, when ones see beauty in others, one is overwhelmed by the beauty of what is, by the vision of eternal form. For Levinas, on the other hand, we are disrupted by the newness, foreignness, or singularity of the other. For him, the other is not eternal, but new or foreign. The other is an unknowable singularity. By bringing into focus these similarities and differences, Achtenberg resituates Plato in relation to Levinas and opens up two contrasting ways that self is essentially in relation to others.
Much recent critical theory has dismissed or failed to take seriously the question of the self. French theorists—such as Derrida, Barthes, Benveniste, Foucault, Lacan, and Lévi-Strauss—have in various ways proclaimed the death of the subject, often turning to German intellectual tradition to authorize their views. Stanley Corngold’s heralded book, The Fate of the Self, published for the first time in paperback with a spirited new preface, appears at a time when the relationship between the self and literature is a matter of renewed concern. Originally published in 1986 (Columbia University Press), the book examines the poetic self of German intellectual tradition in light of recent French and American critical theory. Focusing on seven major German writers—Hölderlin, Dilthey, Nietzsche, Mann, Kafka, Freud, and Heidegger—Corngold shows that their work does not support the desire to discredit the self as an origin of meaning and value but reconstructs the allegedly fragmented poetic self through effects of position and style. Offering new and subtle models of selfhood, The Fate of the Self is a source of rich insight into the work of these authors, refracted through poststructuralist critical perspectives.
The First Person Singular
Alphonso Lingis Northwestern University Press, 2007 Library of Congress BD450.L5193 2007 | Dewey Decimal 126
Alphonso Lingis’s singular works of philosophy are not so much written as performed, and in The First Person Singular the performance is characteristically brilliant, a consummate act of philosophical reckoning. Lingis’s subject here, aptly enough, is the subject itself, understood not as consciousness but as embodied, impassioned, active being. His book is, at the same time, an elegant cultural analysis of how subjectivity is differently and collectively understood, invested, and situated.
The subject Lingis elaborates in detail is the passionate subject of fantasy, of obsessive commitment, of noble actions, the subject enacting itself through an engagement with others, including animals and natural forces. This is not the linguistic or literary subject posited by structuralism and post-structuralism, nor the rational consciousness posited by post-Enlightenment philosophy. It is rather a being embodied in both a passionate, intensifying activity and a cultural collective made up of embodied others as well as the social rituals and practices that comprise this first person singular.
In his renowned courses at the Collège de France from 1982 to 1984, Michel Foucault devoted his lectures to meticulous readings and interpretations of the works of Plato, Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius, among others. In this his aim was not, Edward F. McGushin contends, to develop a new knowledge of the history of philosophy; rather, it was to let himself be transformed by the very activity of thinking. Thus, this work shows us Foucault in the last phase of his life in the act of becoming a philosopher. Here we see how his encounter with ancient philosophy allowed him to experience the practice of philosophy as, to paraphrase Nietzsche, a way of becoming who one is: the work of self-formation that the Greeks called askesis.
Through a detailed study of Foucault's last courses, McGushin demonstrates that this new way of practicing philosophical askesis evokes Foucault's ethical resistance to modern relations of power and knowledge. In order to understand Foucault's later project, then, it is necessary to see it within the context of his earlier work. If his earlier projects represented an attempt to bring to light the relations of power and knowledge that narrowed and limited freedom, then this last project represents his effort to take back that freedom by redefining it in terms of care of the self. Foucault always stressed that modern power functions by producing individual subjects. This book shows how his excavation of ancient philosophical practices gave him the tools to counter this function-with a practice of self-formation, an askesis.
A. A. Long’s study of Greek notions of mind and human selfhood is anchored in questions of universal interest. What happens to us when we die? How is the mind or soul related to the body? Are we responsible for our own happiness? Can we achieve autonomy? Long shows that Greek thinkers’ modeling of the mind gave us metaphors that we still live by.
The Minor Gesture
Erin Manning Duke University Press, 2016 Library of Congress B828.45.M366 2016
In this wide-ranging and probing book Erin Manning extends her previous inquiries into the politics of movement to the concept of the minor gesture. The minor gesture, although it may pass almost unperceived, transforms the field of relations. More than a chance variation, less than a volition, it requires rethinking common assumptions about human agency and political action. To embrace the minor gesture's power to fashion relations, its capacity to open new modes of experience and manners of expression, is to challenge the ways in which the neurotypical image of the human devalues alternative ways of being moved by and moving through the world—in particular what Manning terms "autistic perception." Drawing on Deleuze and Guattari's schizoanalysis and Whitehead's speculative pragmatism, Manning's far-reaching analyses range from fashion to depression to the writings of autistics, in each case affirming the neurodiversity of the minor and the alternative politics it gestures toward.
What might result from hearing a particular song, wearing used clothing, or witnessing an accident? Ethnographic accounts of the Navajo refer repeatedly to the influences of events on health and well-being, yet until now no attempt has been made to clarify the Navajo system of rules governing association and effect. This book focuses on the complex interweaving of the cosmological, social, and bodily realms that Navajo people navigate in an effort alternately to control, contain, or harness the power manifested in various effects. Following the Navajo life-course from conception to puberty, Maureen Trudelle Schwarz explores the complex rules defining who or what can affect what or whom in specific circumstances as a means of determining what these effects tell us about the cultural construction of the human body and personhood for the Navajo. Schwarz shows how oral history informs Navajo conceptions of the body and personhood, showing how these conceptions are central to an ongoing Navajo identity. She treats the vivid narratives of emergence life-origins as compressed metaphorical accounts, rather than as myth, and is thus able to derive from what individual Navajos say about the past their understandings of personhood in a worldview that is actually a viable philosophical system. Working with Navajo religious practitioners, elders, and professional scholars. Schwarz has gained from her informants an unusually firm grasp of the Navajo highlighted by the foregrounding of Navajo voices through excerpts of interviews. These passages enliven the book and present Schwarz and her Navajo consultants as real, multifaceted human beings within the ethnographic context.
Steven Z. Levine provides a new understanding of the life and work of Claude Monet and the myth of the modern artist. Levine analyzes the extensive critical reception of Monet and the artist's own prolific writings in the context of the story of Narcissus, popular in late nineteenth-century France. Through a careful blending of psychoanalytical theory and historical study, Levine identifies narcissism and obsession as driving forces in Monet's art and demonstrates how we derive meaning from the accumulated verbal responses to an artist's work.
No Morality, No Self
James Doyle Harvard University Press, 2017 Library of Congress B1618.A574D69 2017 | Dewey Decimal 126
Elizabeth Anscombe’s “Modern Moral Philosophy” and “The First Person” have become touchstones of analytic philosophy but their significance remains controversial or misunderstood. James Doyle offers a fresh interpretation of Anscombe’s theses about ethical reasoning and individual identity that reconciles seemingly incompatible points of view.
Oneself as Another
Paul Ricoeur University of Chicago Press, 1992 Library of Congress B2430.R553S6513 1992 | Dewey Decimal 126
Paul Ricoeur has been hailed as one of the most important thinkers of the century. Oneself as Another, the clearest account of his "philosophical ethics," substantiates this position and lays the groundwork for a metaphysics of morals.
Focusing on the concept of personal identity, Ricoeur develops a hermeneutics of the self that charts its epistemological path and ontological status.
Our Divine Double
Charles M. Stang Harvard University Press, 2016 Library of Congress B526.S73 2016 | Dewey Decimal 126
What if you were to discover that you were only one half of a whole—that you had a divine double? In the second and third centuries CE, Charles Stang shows, this idea gripped the religious imagination of the Eastern Mediterranean, offering a distinctive understanding of the self that has survived in various forms down to the present.
The Practices of the Self
Charles Larmore University of Chicago Press, 2010 Library of Congress BD438.5.L3713 2010 | Dewey Decimal 126
What is the nature of the fundamental relation we have to ourselves that makes each of us a self? To answer this question, Charles Larmore develops a systematic theory of the self, challenging the widespread view that the self’s defining relation to itself is to have an immediate knowledge of its own thoughts. On the contrary, Larmore maintains, our essential relation to ourselves is practical, as is clear when we consider the nature of belief and desire. For to believe or desire something consists in committing ourselves to thinking and acting in accord with the presumed truth of our belief or the presumed value of what we desire.
Larmore develops this conception with frequent reference to such classic authors as Montaigne, Stendhal, and Proust and by comparing it to other views of the self in contemporary philosophy. He also discusses the important ethical consequences of his theory of the self, arguing that it allows us to better grasp what it means to be ourselves and why self-understanding often involves self-creation.
Winner of the Académie Française’s Grand Prix de Philosophie, The Practices of the Self is that rare kind of lucid yet rigorous work that transcends disciplinary boundaries.
Drawing on classical antiquity and Western and Eastern philosophy, Richard Sorabji tackles in Self the question of whether there is such a thing as the individual self or only a stream of consciousness. According to Sorabji, the self is not an undetectable soul or ego, but an embodied individual whose existence is plain to see. Unlike a mere stream of consciousness, it is something that owns not only a consciousness but also a body.
Sorabji traces historically the retreat from a positive idea of self and draws out the implications of these ideas of self on the concepts of life and death, asking: Should we fear death? How should our individuality affect the way we live? Through an astute reading of a huge array of traditions, he helps us come to terms with our uneasiness about the subject of self in an account that will be at the forefront of philosophical debates for years to come.
“There has never been a book remotely like this one in its profusion of ancient references on ideas about human identity and selfhood . . . . Readers unfamiliar with the subject also need to know that Sorabji breaks new ground in giving special attention to philosophers such as Epictetus and other Stoics, Plotinus and later Neoplatonists, and the ancient commentators on Aristotle (on the last of whom he is the world's leading authority).”—Anthony A. Long, Times Literary Supplement
An ARTery Best Book of the Year
An Art of Manliness Best Book of the Year
In a culture that has become progressively more skeptical and materialistic, the desires of the individual self stand supreme, Mark Edmundson says. We spare little thought for the great ideals that once gave life meaning and worth. Self and Soul is an impassioned effort to defend the values of the Soul.
“An impassioned critique of Western society, a relentless assault on contemporary complacency, shallowness, competitiveness and self-regard…Throughout Self and Soul, Edmundson writes with a Thoreau-like incisiveness and fervor…[A] powerful, heartfelt book.”
—Michael Dirda, Washington Post
“[Edmundson’s] bold and ambitious new book is partly a demonstration of what a ‘real education’ in the humanities, inspired by the goal of ‘human transformation’ and devoted to taking writers seriously, might look like…[It] quietly sets out to challenge many educational pieties, most of the assumptions of recent literary studies—and his own chosen lifestyle.”
—Mathew Reisz, Times Higher Education
“Edmundson delivers a welcome championing of humanistic ways of thinking and living.”
The Semiotic Self
Norbert Wiley University of Chicago Press, 1994 Library of Congress P99.W55 1994 | Dewey Decimal 302.2
In this book, Norbert Wiley offers a new interpretation of the nature of the self in society. Current theories of the self tend to either assimilate the self to a community or larger collective, or reduce the self to body. In distinct opposition to these theories, Wiley makes the case for an autonomous self, a human being who is a repository of rights, a free and equal agent in a democracy consisting of other selves.
Drawing on a fresh synthesis of the writings of Charles Sanders Peirce, George Herbert Mead, and others, Wiley argues that the self can be seen as an internal conversation, or a "trialogue" in which the present self ("I") talks to the future self ("you") about the past self ("me"). A distinctive feature of Wiley's view is that there is a mutually supportive relation between the self and democracy, and he traces this view through American history. In finding a way to decenter the self without eliminating it, Wiley supplies an alternative to current theories of postmodernism, a much-needed closure to classical pragmatism, and a new direction to neo-pragmatism.
The Subject and Other Subjects theorizes the differences among ethical, aesthetic, and political conceptions of identity. When a person is called beautiful, why does it strike us as an objectification? Is a person whom we consider to be an exemplary person still a person, and not an example? Can one person conceive what it means to have the perspective of a community? This study treats these thorny issues in the context of recent debates in cultural studies, feminism, literary criticism, narrative theory, and moral philosophy concerning the nature and directions of multiculturalism, post-modernity, and sexual politics.
Tobin Siebers raises a series of questions that "cross the wires" among ethical, aesthetic, and political definitions of the self, at once exposing our basic assumptions about these definitions and beginning the work of reconceiving them. The Subject and Other Subjects will broaden our ideas about the strange interplay between subjects and objects (and other subjects!) that characterizes modern identity, and so provoke lively debate among anthropologists, art historians, literary theorists, philosophers, and others concerned with how the question of the subject becomes entangled with ethics, aesthetics, and politics. As Siebers argues, the subject is in fact a tangled network of subjectivities, a matrix of identities inconceivable outside of symbols and stories.
Tobin Siebers is Professor of English at the University of Michigan, and author of Cold War Criticism and the Politics of Skepticism; Morals and Stories; The Ethics of Criticism; The Romantic Fantastic; and The Mirror of Medusa.
The peculiar dilemma of the self in our era has been noted by a wide range of writers, even as they have emphasized different aspects of that dilemma, such as the self’s alienation, disorientation, inflation, or fragmentation. In The Self: Beyond the Postmodern Crisis, Paul C. Vitz and Susan M. Felch bring together scholars from the disciplines of psychology, philosophy, theology, literature, biology, and physics to address the inadequacies of modern and postmodern selves and, ultimately, to suggest what an alternative, “transmodern” account of the self might look like. The transmodern self, the editors argue, acknowledges meaning and purpose transcending the individual. In other words, it reflects an understanding of the human person that is not only intimately connected with the Judeo-Christian tradition but also rejects the twin delusions of absolute autonomy and cosmic meaninglessness that mark the present age.
A tour de force by one of Hungary's most interesting contemporary philosophers The Wild Region in Life-History outlines a phenomenological approach to some of the main topics of theoretical philosophy, such as meaning, sense, temporality, unity of life, narrative history, self-identity, and intersubjectivity, as well as an ethics of alterity. In his investigations, László Tengelyi's point of departure is a critical examination of what is commonly referred to as "the narrative view of the self," which tends to equate life-history and personal identity. Challenging this view as too one-dimensional and reflective, Tengelyi reveals a hidden area of sense-formation in life-history--an area in which force and meaning do not merely blend but in many ways undermine each other. It is this hidden area that The Wild Region in Life-History describes.