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Author Topic: Indentity of the Self as Problematic  (Read 688 times)

Posts: 2

« on: 26/02/10 @ 19:21 »

Hello Everyone

I am currently writing a Philosophy piece which requires me to find some context in which the idea of the self is problematic and describe the nature of this difficulty. I have been asked to take an example close to the material we have been discussing in class; e.g. an example where the recognition of identity (or difference) is problematic within a community and with it discuss the problematic nature of the self. We have so far discussed Judith Butler and her book 'Giving an Account of Oneself' as well as Levinas referring to his ‘Transcendence and Height’, & ‘Philosophy and the Idea of Infinity'. We have also touched briefly on Giorgio Agamben, from The Coming Community. Basically I am being tested to see whether I have understood the way in which the identity of the self can be regarded as problematic. My issue is that much of this particular study has proved ungraspable for me and I am not confident that I can suitably provide an appropriate answer.

If anyone can in any way help shed some light on this, I would be most grateful.

Thank you in advance.
Gareth Southwell
Full Member

Posts: 231

« Reply #1 on: 27/02/10 @ 13:22 »

Hi there,

These are not philosophers I know a great deal about, but I would be happy to discuss any ideas you have if you post them. I know a little of Levinas, and the notion of 'the Other' seems to be central (as it is for the existentialists). Basically, our notion of morality springs from a sense of everything that is 'not me' (the Other). This Other pre-dates my existence, and in fact is the basis of the formation of my self. It is therefore important to acquire a correct conception of the self - one which respects the Other, and does not treat it as an object over which we can exert power.

An application of this is the sort of totalitarianism that underlies Nazism. The authoritarian self seeks 'totality' - 'I am everything' - and thus wants to dominate or eradicate everything that it is not. In doing so, it ceases to respect the Otherness of other human beings.

Some problems with this view:

(1) It is passive: my self forms in relation to the Other - but what of situations where I might want to respond actively? Such as when I am myself the victim of someone's dominance.

(2) As an ethical system, this is slightly vague. Respecting the Other is somewhat subjective - how do I know I am doing it correctly?

Anyway, just some ideas. I'll try to read up on some of the other philosophers you mention and maybe we can discuss things further.

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