About this topic
Summary For some, the problem of personal identity is a practical, not a metaphysical, problem.  Most generally, it is viewed as a problem of agency: what unifies our actions and experiences--both at a time and across time--as our own, and so what unifies us as the agents that we are? What most theorists have pursued is an answer that makes reference to narrative identity, according to which we are unified via the stories we tell about ourselves.  But there are other features of us independent of our self-construals that provide constraints on our movements in the world, namely, those features taken to be of societal importance, including race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and so on.  These are the features of our social identity.
Key works Many have found seeds of talk of attribution and practical identity in Frankfurt 1971.  Later works on practical identity include MacIntyre 2007, Korsgaard 1989, Taylor 1989, Schechtman 1996, and Paul Ricoeur, "Narrative Identity," in D. Wood, On Paul Ricoeur: Narrative and Interpretation (London: Routledge, 1991) .  For important discussions on social identity, see Appiah 1990, and Amy Gutmann, ed., Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994).  For an important critique of narrative identity, see Strawson 2004.
Introductions Encyclopedia entries discussing narrative identity include Dauenhauer 2008 and Shoemaker 2008.  Encyclopedia entries discussing aspects of social identity include Heyes 2008 and Mikkola 2008. An introductory collection of essays on practical identity and narrative agency is Atkins & Mackenzie 2008.
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Narrative Identity
  1. Stephanie Adair (2010). Narrative Identity and Moral Identity. Teaching Philosophy 33 (3):309-312.
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  2. Roman Altshuler (2013). Peter Goldie , The Mess Inside: Narrative, Emotion, and the Mind . Reviewed By. [REVIEW] Philosophy in Review 33 (3):189–192.
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  3. Kim Atkins (2008). Narrative Identity and Moral Identity: A Practical Perspective. Routledge.
    This book is part of the growing field of practical approaches to philosophical questions relating to identity, agency and ethics, working across continental and analytical traditions. Kim Atkins explains and justifies the basis of the practical approach through an explication of the structures of human embodiment and an account of how those structures necessitate a narrative model of selfhood, understanding and ethics. She highlights how recent work on agency and autonomy implicitly draws upon conceptions of embodiment and intersubjectivity that underpin (...)
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  4. Kim Atkins (2008). Narrative Identity and Embodied Continuity. In Catriona Mackenzie & Kim Atkins (eds.), Practical Identity and Narrative Agency. Routledge. 78.
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  5. Kim Atkins (2004). Narrative Identity, Practical Identity and Ethical Subjectivity. Continental Philosophy Review 37 (3):341-366.
    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, (...)
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  6. Kim Atkins & Catriona Mackenzie (eds.) (2008). Practical Identity and Narrative Agency. Routledge.
    The essays collected in this volume address a range of issues that arise when the focus of philosophical reflection on identity is shifted from metaphysical to practical and evaluative concerns. They also explore the usefulness of the notion of narrative for articulating and responding to these issues. The chapters, written by an outstanding roster of international scholars, address a range of complex philosophical issues concerning the relationship between practical and metaphysical identity, the embodied dimensions of the first-personal perspective, the kind (...)
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  7. Françoise Baylis (2013). “I Am Who I Am”: On the Perceived Threats to Personal Identity From Deep Brain Stimulation. [REVIEW] Neuroethics 6 (3):513-526.
    This article explores the notion of the dislocated self following deep brain stimulation (DBS) and concludes that when personal identity is understood in dynamic, narrative, and relational terms, the claim that DBS is a threat to personal identity is deeply problematic. While DBS may result in profound changes in behaviour, mood and cognition (characteristics closely linked to personality), it is not helpful to characterize DBS as threatening to personal identity insofar as this claim is either false, misdirected or trivially true. (...)
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  8. Françoise Baylis (2003). Black as Me: Narrative Identity. Developing World Bioethics 3 (2):142–150.
  9. Simon Beck (2008). Going Narrative: Schechtman and the Russians. South African Journal of Philosophy 27 (2):69-79.
    Marya Schechtman's The Constitution of Selves presented an impressive attempt to persuade those working on personal identity to give up mainstream positions and take on a narrative view instead. More recently, she has presented new arguments with a closely related aim. She attempts to convince us to give up the view of identity as a matter of psychological continuity, using Derek Parfit's story of the “Nineteenth Century Russian” as a central example in making the case against Parfit's own view, and (...)
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  10. Simon Beck (2006). Fiction and Fictions: On Ricoeur on the Route to the Self. South African Journal of Philosophy 25 (4):329-335.
    In reaching his narrative view of the self in Oneself as Another, Paul Ricoeur argues that, while literature offers revealing insights into the nature of the self, the sort of fictions involving brain transplants, fission, and so on, that philosophers often take seriously do not (and cannot). My paper is a response to Ricoeur's charge, contending that the arguments Ricoeur rejects are not flawed in the way he suggests, and that his own arguments are sometimes guilty of the very charges (...)
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  11. Kathy Behrendt (2010). Scraping Down the Past: Memory and Amnesia in W. G. Sebald's Anti-Narrative. Philosophy and Literature 34 (2):394-408.
    Vanguard anti-narrativist Galen Strawson declares personal memory unimportant for self-constitution. But what if lapses of personal memory are sustained by a morally reprehensible amnesia about historical events, as happens in the work of W.G. Sebald? The importance of memory cannot be downplayed in such cases. Nevertheless, contrary to expectations, a concern for memory needn’t ally one with the narrativist position. Recovery of historical and personal memory results in self-dissolution and not self-unity or understanding in Sebald’s characters. In the end, Sebald (...)
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  12. Kathy Behrendt (2007). Reasons to Be Fearful: Strawson, Death and Narrative. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 82 (60):133-.
    I compare and assess two significant and opposing approaches to the self with respect to what they have to say about death: the anti-narrativist, as articulated by Galen Strawson, and the narrativist, as pieced together from a variety of accounts. Neither party fares particularly well on the matter of death. Both are unable to point towards a view of death that is clearly consistent with their views on the self. In the narrativist’s case this inconsistency is perhaps not as explicit (...)
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  13. J. Bell (2008). Propranolol, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Narrative Identity. Journal of Medical Ethics 34 (11):e23-e23.
    Funding: Research funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research, NNF 80045, States of Mind: Emerging Issues in Neuroethics. While there are those who object to the prospective use of propranolol to prevent or treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), most obstreperous among them the President’s Council on Bioethics, the use of propranolol can be justified for patients with severe PTSD. Propranolol, if effective, will alter the quality of certain memories in the brain. But this is not a serious threat to the (...)
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  14. Jeffrey Blustein (1999). Choosing for Others as Continuing a Life Story: The Problem of Personal Identity Revisited. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 27 (1):20-31.
  15. Jan Bransen (2008). Personal Identity Management. In Catriona Mackenzie & Kim Atkins (eds.), Practical Identity and Narrative Agency. Routledge.
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  16. Robyn F. Brothers (1997). Cyborg Identities and the Relational Web: Recasting 'Narrative Identity' in Moral and Political Theory. Metaphilosophy 28 (3):249-258.
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  17. Sue Campbell (1997). Women, "False" Memory, and Personal Identity. Hypatia 12 (2):51 - 82.
    We contest each other's memory claims all the time. I am concerned with how the contesting of memory claims and narratives may be an integral part of many abusive situations. I use the writings of Otto Weininger and the False Memory Syndrome Foundation to explore a particular strategy of discrediting women as rememberers, making them more vulnerable to sexual harm. This strategy relies on the presentation of women as unable to maintain a stable enough sense of self or identity to (...)
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  18. John P. Christman (2004). Narrative Unity as a Condition of Personhood. Metaphilosophy 35 (5):695-713.
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  19. Christopher Cordner (2008). Remorse and Moral Identity. In Catriona Mackenzie & Kim Atkins (eds.), Practical Identity and Narrative Agency. Routledge.
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  20. John J. Davenport (2011). Narrative Identity, Autonomy, and Mortality: From Frankfurt and Macintyre to Kierkegaard. Routledge.
    In this book, Davenport defends the narrative approach to practical identity and autonomy in general, and to Kierkegaard's stages in particular.
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  21. John B. Davis, Identity and Individual Economic Agents: A Narrative Approach.
    This paper offers an account of how individuals act as agents when we employ a narrative approach to explaining their personal identities. It applies Korsgaard's idea of a "reflective structure of consciousness" to provide foundations for a richer account of the individual economic agent, and uses this to explain and distinguish the concepts of personal identity, individual identity, and social identity. The paper argues that individuals' personal identities may be in conflict with their socially constructed individual identities. Individuals' social identities (...)
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  22. David DeGrazia (2005). Human Identity and Bioethics. Cambridge University Press.
    When philosophers address personal identity, they usually explore numerical identity: what are the criteria for a person's continuing existence? When non-philosophers address personal identity, they often have in mind narrative identity: Which characteristics of a particular person are salient to her self-conception? This book develops accounts of both senses of identity, arguing that both are normatively important, and is unique in its exploration of a range of issues in bioethics through the lens of identity. Defending a biological view of our (...)
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  23. Igor Douven (1999). Marc Slors on Personal Identity. Philosophical Explorations 2 (2):143 – 149.
    Theories of personal identity purport to specify truth conditions for sentences of the form 'x-at-ti is the same person as y-at-tj. Most philosophers nowadays agree that such truth conditions are to be stated in terms of psychological continuity. However; opinions vary as to how the notion of psychological continuity is to be understood. In a recent contribution to this journal, Slors offers an account in which psychological continuity is spelled out in terms of narrative connectedness between mental states.The present paper (...)
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  24. Sandy Farquhar (2012). Narrative Identity and Early Childhood Education. Educational Philosophy and Theory 44 (3):289-301.
    An intensification of interest in early childhood by government, parents, and employers, focuses primarily on the provision of private early childhood education services outside of the home. With a focus on New Zealand, the paper argues that the form of early education now promoted is a particular form of care and education that moves children away from family and community narratives embedded in the historical, cultural and humanist intentions of the national curriculum Te Whāriki (Ministry of Education, 1996). It argues (...)
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  25. John Martin Fischer (2005). Free Will, Death, and Immortality: The Role of Narrative. Philosophical Papers 34 (3):379-403.
    In this paper I explore in a preliminary way the interconnections among narrative explanation, narrative value, free will, an immortality. I build on the fascinating an suggestive work of David Velleman. I offer the hypothesis that our acting freely is what gives our lives a distinctive kind of value - narrative value. Free Will, then, is connected to the capacity to lead a meaningful life in a quite specific way: it is the ingredient which, when aded to others, enows us (...)
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  26. Harry G. Frankfurt (1977). Identification and Externality. In Amelie Rorty (ed.), The Identities of Persons. University of California Press.
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  27. Roger Frie (2011). Identity, Narrative, and Lived Experience After Postmodernity: Between Multiplicity and Continuity. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology 42 (1):46-60.
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  28. Raimond Gaita (2003). Narrative, Identity and Moral Philosophy. Philosophical Papers 32 (3):261-277.
    I distinguish what I call ?minimal narrative? from narrative of the kind that might disclose a person's identity in biography or autobiography. The latter exists in what I call ?the realm of meaning?; a realm in which, in ways I try to make clear, form and content cannot be separated. The realm of meaning is also the realm in which we develop an understanding of what it means to lead a human life lucidly responsive to the defining facts of the (...)
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  29. Grant Gillett (2005). Schechtman's Narrative Account of Identity. Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 12 (1):23-24.
  30. Peter Goldie (2012). The Inner Mess. Oxford University Press.
    Peter Goldie explores the ways in which we think about our lives--our past, present, and future--in narrative terms. The notion of narrative is highly topical, and highly contentious, in a wide range of fields including philosophy, psychology and psychoanalysis, historical studies, and literature. The Mess Inside engages with all of these areas of discourse, and steers a path between the sceptics who are dismissive of the idea of narrative as having any worthwhile use at all, and those who argue that (...)
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  31. Alan G. Gross (2010). Rhetoric, Narrative, and the Lifeworld: The Construction of Collective Identity. Philosophy and Rhetoric 43 (2):pp. 118-138.
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  32. Fran Hagstrom (2005). Creating Creative Identity. Inquiry 24 (4):19-28.
    The construction of creative identity from a Vygotskian perspective is explored in this paper. A theoretical link is made between Vygotsky’s (Smolucha, 1992) claims about the development of creativity and Penuet and Wertsch’s (1995) use of Vygotskian theory to address identity formation. Narrative is suggested as the link between culturally organized activities, mediated mental functioning, and the storied self. Data from semi-structured interviews about creativity conducted with a second grade child and his parents illustrate how discourses from home and school (...)
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  33. Edward Hinchman (forthcoming). Narrative and the Stability of Intention. European Journal of Philosophy.
    This paper addresses a problem concerning the rational stability of intention. When you form an intention to ϕ at some future time t, you thereby make it subjectively rational for you to follow through and ϕ at t, even if – hypothetically – you would abandon the intention were you to redeliberate at t. It is hard to understand how this is possible. Shouldn’t the perspective of your acting self be what determines what is then subjectively rational for you? I (...)
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  34. James A. Holstein & Jaber F. Gubrium (1999). The Self We Live By: Narrative Identity in a Postmodern World. OUP USA.
    The story of the self is big story. For at least a century, the concept of the empirical self has been an important, if not our most central, social structure. The early pragmatists William James, Charles Horton Cooley, and George Herbert Mead, among others, turned away from the transcendental self of philosophical reflection to formulate a concept that extended to every individual's consideration who and what they were. The democratized the self and set the stage for social psychological commentary for (...)
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  35. Leslie A. Howe (2005). Queer Revelations: Desire, Identity, and Self-Deceit. Philosophical Forum 36 (3):221–242.
    I argue that understanding the self in terms of narrative construction does not preclude the possibility of error concerning one’s own self. Identity is a projection of first and second-order desires and a product of choice in relation to desire. Self-deceit appears in this connection as a response to an identity that one has constructed through choice and/or desire but not acknowledged in one’s self-account, reflecting a conflict between desires or a motivated failure to account. This analysis is applied primarily (...)
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  36. Daniel D. Hutto (2007). Narrative and Understanding Persons. In Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements. 1-.
    The human world is replete with narratives – narratives of our making that are uniquely appreciated by us. Some thinkers have afforded special importance to our capacity to generate such narratives, seeing it as variously enabling us to: exercise our imaginations in unique ways; engender an understanding of actions performed for reasons; and provide a basis for the kind of reflection and evaluation that matters vitally to moral and self development. Perhaps most radically, some hold that narratives are essential for (...)
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  37. Mark G. Kuczewski (1999). Commentary: Narrative Views of Personal Identity and Substituted Judgment in Surrogate Decision Making. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 27 (1):32-36.
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  38. Arto Laitinen, Charles Taylor and Paul Ricoeur on Self-Interpretations and Narrative Identity.
    In this chapter I discuss Charles Taylor's and Paul Ricoeur's theories of narrative identity and narratives as a central form of self-interpretation.1 Both Taylor and Ricoeur think that self-identity is a matter of culturally and socially mediated self-definitions, which are practically relevant for one's orientation in life.2 First, I will go through various characterisations that Ricoeur gives of his theory, and try to show to what extent they also apply to Taylor's theory. Then, I will analyse more closely Charles Taylor's, (...)
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  39. David Lumsden (2013). Whole Life Narratives and the Self. Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 20 (1):1-10.
    Narrative theory provides an interesting contribution to the rich philosophical literature on the self and personal identity. This links with psychological and psychiatric themes concerning the self, because many cases of disorder involve some kind of loss or fragmentation of the self. What follows is a philosophical inquiry into these narrative theories, which should have some implications for how we should regard subjects with these disorders. My primary philosophical conclusion is that there is an interesting germ of truth in the (...)
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  40. Catriona Mackenzie (2009). Personal Identity, Narrative Integration, and Embodiment. In Sue Campbell, Letitia Meynell & Susan Sherwin (eds.), Embodiment and Agency. Pennsylvania State University Press. 100--125.
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  41. Catriona Mackenzie (2008). Imagination, Identity and Self-Transformation. In Catriona Mackenzie & Kim Atkins (eds.), Practical Identity and Narrative Agency. Routledge. 121--145.
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  42. Catriona Mackenzie (2008). Introduction: Practical Identity and Narrative Agency. In Catriona Mackenzie & Kim Atkins (eds.), Practical Identity and Narrative Agency. Routledge.
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  43. Catriona Mackenzie & Kim Atkins (eds.) (2008). Practical Identity and Narrative Agency. Routledge.
    The essays collected in this volume address a range of issues that arise when the focus of philosophical reflection on identity is shifted from metaphysical to ...
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  44. Jack Martin & Mark H. Bickhard (eds.) (2012). The Psychology of Personhood: Philosophical, Historical, Social-Developmental and Narrative Perspectives. Cambridge University Press.
    Machine generated contents note: 1. Introducing persons and the psychology of personhood Jack Martin and Mark H. Bickhard; Part I. Philosophical, Conceptual Perspectives: 2. The person concept and the ontology of persons Michael A. Tissaw; 3. Achieving personhood: the perspective of hermeneutic phenomenology Charles Guignon; Part II. Historical Perspectives: 4. Historical psychology of persons: categories and practice Kurt Danziger; 5. Persons and historical ontology Jeff Sugarman; 6. Critical personalism: on its tenets, its historical obscurity, and its future prospects James T. (...)
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  45. Malin Masterton, Mats G. Hansson & Anna T. Höglund (2010). In Search of the Missing Subject: Narrative Identity and Posthumous Wronging. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 41 (4):340-346.
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  46. Joan McCarthy (2007). Dennett and Ricoeur on the Narrative Self. Humanity Books.
    Why the narrative self? -- Contemporary interest in narrative theory -- Is the self real or illusory? -- Dennett's brand of naturalism -- The heterophenomenological method (HM) -- Consciousness and the self -- The naturalist narrative self -- Puzzle cases -- The HM and the narrative self -- The limitations of Dennett's account -- The limits of language -- Epistemological fragility -- Ontological fragility -- Naturalism and phenomenology -- Confronting naturalism -- Phenomenology and hermeneutics -- The detour of interpretation -- (...)
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  47. Mark S. Muldoon (1997). Ricoeur and Merleau-Ponty on Narrative Identity. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 71 (1):35-52.
  48. Phil Mullins (forthcoming). Narrative, Interpretation, and Persuasion: Polanyian Notes on Selfhood. The Personalist Forum.
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  49. Joseph Neisser (2008). Subjectivity and the Limits of Narrative. Journal of Consciousness Studies 15 (2):51-66.
    Traditionally, questions about consciousness and subjectivity are treated separately from questions about the self and identity. But sometimes 'the self' is spoken of as 'the subject,' which suggests that the first-person perspective may be constituted in the same way as the self. Narrative provides a powerful model of the self in contemporary psychology, philosophy of mind, and moral psychology. On some versions of narrative theory, narrative is held fundamental not only to self-understanding but to the phenomenology of the first-person point (...)
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  50. James Phillips (2013). On Narrative: Psychopathology Informing Philosophy. Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 20 (1):11-23.
    In “Whole Life Narratives and the Self” David Lumsden (2013) has provided us with a clear review of the debate over narrative and personal identity and has staked out his own position in that debate. Arguing against neo-Lockean views of an atomistic self, he defends a narrative component in personal identity. Specifically, he argues that personal identity or self involves “a bundle of narrative threads” (p. 1), but does not require the grand unity of a master narrative—a whole life narrative. (...)
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