Subjectivity and the limits of narrative

Journal of Consciousness Studies 15 (2):51-66 (2008)
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Abstract

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 of view, too. I call this approach the narrative self-subject model. I argue that the narrative model does not apply to subjectivity, and that the narrative self should be distinguished from the 'I' of the first- person perspective. Roughly, this is because first-person narratives employ the first-person pronoun 'I' to identify some person, but the distinctive features of subjectivity are marked by a different, non-identifying use of the pronoun 'I'.

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Joseph Neisser
Grinnell College

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