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The Author, Not the Tale: Memory, Narrative, and the Self

Rau, Philipp (2016) The Author, Not the Tale: Memory, Narrative, and the Self. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

There is a confusing diversity of conceptions of ‘the self’ in philosophical, psychological, psychiatric, and neuroscientific discourse. To remedy this, I propose and defend a naturalistic view of the self: the system view. The self is here conceived of as the complex and dynamic system of our higher-level self-monitoring functions, including our capacities for self-representation over time. These are grounded in more basic self-representational capacities that are widespread among different species. On the system view, the self is not to be confounded with the attributes of personhood, as it often has been in philosophical discourse. Nor is the self over time a product of memory, as philosophers in Locke’s tradition, and some popular intuitions, seem to take it to be. I discuss the complex nature of autobiographical memory and argue that, given that much of our autobiographical remembering is already a reconstructive process, the self is not produced by our memories, but is the system that produces them. The system view is also opposed to currently fashionable views of the self as ‘narrative’. Narrative constructionism about the self has an authorship problem: it does not account for the processes that enable and subserve narration about oneself in the first place. I argue that it is in these processes, rather than in their productions, that we should conceptually locate the self. Neither should we take narrative capacities to be essential for a self. To illustrate the advantages of the system view, I discuss autism spectrum conditions and other defects and disorders such as dementia, dissociative disorders, and schizophrenia. In these conditions, particular self-representational capacities are differently configured, impaired, or absent, but this does not entail a wholesale loss or lack of self. Instead, such conditions are better characterized as specific system malfunctions. I conclude by suggesting directions for future research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Philosophy (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Dr P Rau
Date Deposited: 02 Nov 2016 10:41
Last Modified: 02 Nov 2016 10:41
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/14336

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