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Ryerson University
PHL 201
David Rondel

Monday March 26 , 2012 I have your tests to return before break  which will be a little earlier this time (9:50) Rough class average: 15.5/25 Some Issues about the Self: The “self” has a metaphysical dimension, but also, as we’ll see, a political one: - It is easy to speak and think of one’s “self” but many philosophers have raised puzzles about this: Hume’s idea “we are nothing but a bundle of perceptions”  there is no stable “self” that we can recognize over and above that. - Sometimes called “bundle theory” "we are never intimately conscious of anything but a particular perception; man is a bundle or collection of different perceptions which succeed one another with an inconceivable rapidity and are in perpetual flux and movement". On Hume's view, these perceptions do not belong to anything. They don’t have a fixed “self” as their subject. Hume’s position is very similar to Indian Buddhists’ conception of the self. 1 Derek Parfit: At time 1, there is a person. At a later time 2, there is a person. These people seem to be the same person. Indeed, these people share memories and personality traits. But there are no further facts in the world that make them the same person. It’s a good question to ask? Are you (here today) “the same person” as you were (say, 6 years and 100 days ago)? What’s the basis for saying that you are? John Locke had a thought experiment about a prince and a cobbler: “For should the soul of a prince, carrying with it the consciousness of the prince's past life, enter and inform the body of a cobbler…every one sees he would be the same person with the prince, accountable only for the prince's actions: but who would say it was the same man?” (Locke) With this thought experiment, Locke is suggesting that "persons" are independent of "bodies" and what makes a person a person  and the same person  is consciousness: Awareness of one's thoughts and actions: "Nothing but consciousness can unite remote existences into the same person". 2 Charles Taylor and the “Politics of Recognition” How to answer the question of “self”, “identity”  Who are you? Taylor argues that this question is unintelligible without “horizons of meaning” and “strong evaluations” -What’s significant, worthwhile? - Where do you stand? - What do you believe in? - What are you willing to fight (or die) for? Who are the “we-groups” with which you are in solidarity? There will be great diversity among individual selves; there is no “one-size-fits-all” conception of selfhood because each of us will imbue certain kinds of things with value that others will not. “Your individuality makes certain things a significant part of the measure of your life’s success and failure, even though they would not be elements of the measure of success in every life.” (Appiah) But “having a self” at all requires access to a buffet of goods, a range of possibilities, a set of options out of which a “self” can be fashioned. -We don’t just magically appear in the world with a pre-social self already in hand! To form a “self” for ourselves, we need access to the appropriate materials for selfhood. These materials  commitments, beliefs, stances, passions, etc…  are necessarily social/cultural. 3 No one can become a “self” all by themselves! Taylor’s example, from The Malaise of Modernity I couldn’t just decide that wiggling my toes in warm mud was the most significant action for me. What would someone mean who claimed this? And how could it be taken seriously? Similarly, you couldn’t just decide that the number of hairs on your head was the most important fact about you! Without some kind of qualifying explanation, Taylor thinks, this claim is unintelligible; something we can’t make sense of. If we are authors of ourselves, it is state and society that provide us with the tools and the contexts of our authorship; we may shape our selves, but others shape our shaping. The basic complaint: [O]ur identity is partly shaped by recognition or its absence, often by the misrecognition of others, and so a person or group of people can suffer real damage, real distortion, if the people or society around them mirror back to them a confining or demeaning or contemptible picture of themselves. Nonrecognition or misrecognition can inflict harm, can be a form of oppression, imprisoning someone in a false, distorted, and reduced mode of being…Due recognition is not just a courtesy we owe people. It is a vital human need. (Taylor) 4 The vital human need to which Taylor refers gets its purchase from the Romantic ideal of self-realization (or “authenticity” in Taylor’s terminology). The argument seems to run as follows: (1) Each of us has a life to make, and our success in its making is ineluctably interwoven with how we see ourselves. (2) How we see ourselves cannot but depend on the ways that others see us. Our ability to see ourselves in certain ways is only made intelligible by others’ recognition of those ways. (e.g) It is unintelligible for me to think of myself as a noteworthy scholar  or to have the ambition to be one  without a whole network of universities, scholarly journals, academic conferences, publishing houses, colleagues, peers, other scholars, and the recognition (tacitly) by the public at large that there are various kinds of expertise, areas of scholarship, etc… Failure to grasp this point can lead to delusion! Think of the artist, say, who thinks his work genuinely excellent art, despite no one else recognizing this! (3) Due recognition, therefore, is integral to a person’s ability to achieve self- realization — to “become the author of one’s life”. If we are serious about ensuring that people have the requisite capacities for self-realization, then we have a corresponding moral duty to ensure that they are recognized appropriately. 5 Is it true that nonrecognition or misrecognition can inflict acute harm upon people? Some of Taylor’s examples: When a patriarchal society induces women to “adopt a depreciatory image of themselves,” giving them an “internalized picture of their own inferiority” (Taylor 1994, 25) When black males of any age are addressed as “boy”, thus mirroring back to them a contemptible picture of themselves according to which they are misrecognized as intellectually childlike. Note: Words and names matter a lot here for theorists of recognition; that sort of thing is not “mere political correctness” How does this translate into politics? Whereas standard liberalism insists on “one law for all”  impartiality, “blindness to difference” etc… Theorists of recognition or “multiculturalists” believe we need to 6 be sensitive to difference, and allow for what is sometimes called “reasonable accommodation”. “With the politics of liberalism what is established is meant to be universally the same, an identical basket of rights and immunities; with the politics of difference, what we are asked to recognize is the unique identity of this individual or group, their distinctiveness from everyone else. The idea is that it is precisely this distinctness that has been ignored, glossed over, assimilated to a dominant or majority identity. And this assimilation is the cardinal sin against the ideal of authenticity.” Remember: “the ideal of authenticity” for Taylor refers to the idea that each person has their own distinct way of being human  their own incommensurable mode of self-realization. It is the ideal of “being true to oneself and one’s own particular way of being”. Some “hot-button” issues in a Canadian context: - Should Sikh police officers have to take off their turbans so as to wear the standard police-issue motorcycle helmets? 7 - Should Sikhs be permitted to carry a Kirpan, a small dagger the carrying of which is required of followers of Khalsa Sikhism? - Should we permit (or tolerate) polygamy? - The case of orthodox Judaism and the gym in “Outrement” Montreal… - Should we permit Sharia law to have limited jurisdiction within Muslim communities (where it is desired)? This was a big issue in Ontario a few years ago. - Should there be a publicly funded school for African Canadian students that emphasizes different (“afro-centric”) curricula? - John
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