Authors
Arto Laitinen
Tampere University
Abstract
What is the relationship of “strong evaluation” and self-identity? What exactly is personal identity? Does identity consist of interpretations or facts? Do strong evaluations have a constitutive role in identity-formation? If there is no given individual essence or true self waiting to be found, but identity is dialogically construed in self-interpretation, then can identities be criticized at all, when there is no pre-given true self, which would serve as the basis of criticism? I follow Charles Taylor in defending an interpretational and evaluational conception of self-identity, but I hope to be more precise in distinguishing several meanings of “identity” and correspondingly several different roles that strong evaluation has for identity in different senses. Further, I try to show that identities are criticizable despite the lack of pre-given essences. I will first differentiate between various meanings of identity: idem-identity, ipse-identity, collective identity and species identity (4.1). Then I take a closer look at ipse-identity in four different meanings: practical identity, biographical identity, qualitative identity and “singularity” (4.2). This survey tries to capture the most important meanings of the concept, but the concept of identity is used in philosophy, social psychology and human sciences in so many different ways that a comprehensive survey is probably impossible. However, this survey may help to sort out what sense of identity is relevant for strong evaluation, or for what “identities” strong evaluations are crucial. Having distinguished these several meanings, I turn to the formation of identity in self-interpretations. Charles Taylor has been (wrongly) accused of presupposing a pre-political identity that persons or groups are supposed to have, and for which they want recognition. That would overlook the way in which identities are constituted dialogically, and in interpretations. I will defend the view that personal identity is a matter of self-interpretation, and collective identity is a matter of collective selfinterpretations. While dialogues and recognition by others plays a crucial role in the formation of one’s identity, the views of others are not directly constitutive of a person’s identity, unless the contents are known or accepted by the person herself. Being a person or a self is an active business. Having a self in a fullfledged sense means having a conception of oneself, and having conceptions is an active business. People don’t have beliefs like things have properties. As Sellars (1963) has stressed, the relation of two mental episodes has to be normative if it is to count as knowledge; it cannot be merely causal. And as the “transcendental tradition” from Kant onwards has stressed, being a subject is not merely a matter of having mental contents (which could possibly be caused by the world) but being aware of the reality, taking the mental contents to be about the world.144 In addition to normativity and intentionality, the activity of self-defining is one aspect of the spontaneous activity of the subject. One’s self-identity does not rest simply on having features, but on one’s activity, on identification with some actual or possible features. In this sense, everyone’s identity is self-made. The point in saying this is not to overlook the cultural and social mediations that are intertwined in this self-definition, but to stress the fact that one’s identity is not a matter of natural features. Self-identity is a tentative result of an ongoing process of self-interpretation. Depending on the precise meaning of self-identity, strong evaluation has a more or less central role (4.3). In the last section I ask whether identities can be criticized, or whether (in the absence of pre-given true selves) self-interpretations are the ultimate “court of appeal” not only in the sense of what constitutes identity, but also in questions about their ethical and existential worth, or coherence, or authenticity or epistemic adequacy. I hope to show that self-interpretations stand open for criticism in these respects, even though self-interpretations are directly constitutive of one’s identity (4.4).
Keywords Charles Taylor  Strong Evaluation  Identity  Paul Ricoeur  Personal identity  Narrative identity  Practical identity  selfhood  self-interpretation
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DOI 10.1515/9783110211900.130
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