Narrative identity, practical identity and ethical subjectivity

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Abstract

The narrative approach to identity has developed as a sophisticated philosophical response to the complexities and ambiguities of the human, lived situation, and is not – as has been naively suggested elsewhere – the imposition of a generic form of life or the attempt to imitate a fictional character. I argue that the narrative model of identity provides a more inclusive and exhaustive account of identity than the causal models employed by mainstream theorists of personal identity. Importantly for ethical subjectivity, the narrative model gives a central and irreducible role to the first-person perspective. I will draw the connection between narrative identity and ethical subjectivity by way of an exposition of work by Paul Ricoeur and Marya Schechtman, and a brief consideration of Korsgaard's work on practical identity and normative ethics. I argue that the first-person perspective – the reflective structure of human consciousness – arises from human embodiment, and therefore the model of identity required of embodied consciousness is more complex and irreducibly first-personal than that provided in a causal account. What is required is a self-constitution model of identity: a narrative model of identity.

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