October 18, 2008

Toward a Cultural Phenomenology of Personal Identity

book chapter, personal identity, self-awareness — alice @ 1:20 am Print This Post  AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Excerpt from Tafarodi, R. W. (2008). Toward a cultural phenomenology of personal identity. In F. Sani (Ed.), Self-continuity: Individual and collective perspectives (pp. 27-40). New York: Psychology Press.   

How does our inherited world of meaning relate to our fundamental experience of ourselves as persons? Is there a core of self-consciousness that is sequestered from the constitutive reach of culture and language? Can we speak of an unmediated basis for personal identity? These are the questions I will explore in this chapter. My method will be analytic, not comparative or ethnographic. Psychological anthropology and cross-cultural psychology have produced rich literatures showcasing the diversity of conceptions of the person in terms of its physical, mental, and spiritual properties (Csordas, 1994; Fogelson, 1982; Heelas & Lock, 1981; Marsella, DeVos, & Hsu, 1985; Morris, 1994). I will not review these ample literatures here. Rather, my purpose is to provide a warrant and direction for considering self-consciousness as a thoroughly cultured form of experience. My argument will involve reviewing and questioning the commitment to a phenomenological universalism, exemplified by Kant’s transcendental account of the I. From there, I will proceed to a sociocultural discussion of the temporality of subjectivity, as it manifests in both the synchronic and diachronic unity of personal identity. By taking subjective time as my focus, I will demonstrate how cultural forms are implicated in even the most immanent and fundamental aspects of self-consciousness.

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