Philosophical autobiography

Inquiry 45 (3):295 – 312 (2002)
An examination of the genre of philosophical autobiography sheds light on the role of personal judgment alongside objective rationality in philosophy. Building on Monk's conception of philosophical biography, philosophical autobiography can be seen as any autobiography that reveals some interplay between life and thought. It is argued that almost all autobiographies by philosophers are philosophical because the recounting of one's own life is almost invariably a form of extended speech act of self-revelation. When a philosopher is the autobiographer, this self-revelation illuminates the interplay between thought, life, and personality. Understanding how this works allows us to address three problems of biography raised by Honderich: how to give an account of something as large and complex as a human life; how a life-story is also a judgment; and how we can justify identifying one part of a causal circumstance as 'the cause'. There is also a new ethical problem raised about the autobiographer's right to make public details of a shared private life
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