Beyond the Subjectivity Trap challenges the paradigm of the hard problem of consciousness by contesting the relevance and primacy of human thought. By tracing the evolved egocentricity of the ‘I’ as an entrapping limitation on our thinking the book argues that once the Subjectivity Trap is understood and escaped we can appreciate the non-existence of the mind–body divide, the pure functionality of the brain, and the limitlessness of our potential.
Contemporary understanding of human subjectivity has come a long way since the Cartesian ‘thinking thing’ or Freud’s view of the self struggling with its unconscious. We no longer think of ourselves as stable and indivisible units or combinations thereof – instead, we see the self as constantly reinvented and reorganised in interaction with others and with its social and cultural environments. But the world in which we live today is one of uncertainty where nothing can be taken for granted. Coping with change is a challenge but it also presents new opportunities.
Uncertainty can be both liberating and oppressive. How does an individual understand her or his position in the world? Are we as human beings determined by our genetic heritage, social circumstances and cultural preferences, or are we free in our choices? How does selfhood emerge? Does it follow the same pattern of development in all people, all cultures, all ages? Or is it a socio-cultural construction that cannot be understood outside its historical context? Are the patterns of selfhood fundamentally changing in the present world? Does new technology allow us more autonomy or does it tempt us to give up the freedoms we have?
These are the questions that Zygmunt Bauman and Rein Raud explore in their engaging and wide-ranging dialogue, combining their competences in sociology, philosophy and cultural theory to look at how selfhood is produced in social practice, through language, efforts of self-presentation and self-realisation as well as interaction with others. An indispensable text for understanding the complexities of selfhood in our contemporary liquid-modern world.
Conversation between Zygmunt Bauman and Rein Raud (on modernity):
What makes for a good life, or a beautiful one, or, perhaps most important, a meaningful one? Throughout history most of us have looked to our faith, our relationships, or our deeds for the answer. But in A Significant Life, philosopher Todd May offers an exhilarating new way of thinking about these questions, one deeply attuned to life as it actually is: a work in progress, a journey—and often a narrative. Offering moving accounts of his own life and memories alongside rich engagements with philosophers from Aristotle to Heidegger, he shows us where to find the significance of our lives: in the way we live them.
May starts by looking at the fundamental fact that life unfolds over time, and as it does so, it begins to develop certain qualities, certain themes. Our lives can be marked by intensity, curiosity, perseverance, or many other qualities that become guiding narrative values. These values lend meanings to our lives that are distinct from—but also interact with—the universal values we are taught to cultivate, such as goodness or happiness. Offering a fascinating examination of a broad range of figures—from music icon Jimi Hendrix to civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, from cyclist Lance Armstrong to The Portrait of a Lady’s Ralph Touchett to Claus von Stauffenberg, a German officer who tried to assassinate Hitler—May shows that narrative values offer a rich variety of criteria by which to assess a life, specific to each of us and yet widely available. They offer us a way of reading ourselves, who we are, and who we might like to be.
Clearly and eloquently written, A Significant Life is a recognition and a comfort, a celebration of the deeply human narrative impulse by which we make—even if we don’t realize it—meaning for ourselves. It offers a refreshing way to think of an age-old question, of quite simply, what makes a life worth living.
A groundbreaking new book from the bestselling author of Shop Class as Soulcraft
In his bestselling book Shop Class as Soulcraft, Matthew B. Crawford explored the ethical and practical importance of manual competence, as expressed through mastery of our physical environment. In his brilliant follow-up, The World Beyond Your Head, Crawford investigates the challenge of mastering one’s own mind.
We often complain about our fractured mental lives and feel beset by outside forces that destroy our focus and disrupt our peace of mind. Any defense against this, Crawford argues, requires that we reckon with the way attention sculpts the self.
Crawford investigates the intense focus of ice hockey players and short-order chefs, the quasi-autistic behavior of gambling addicts, the familiar hassles of daily life, and the deep, slow craft of building pipe organs. He shows that our current crisis of attention is only superficially the result of digital technology, and becomes more comprehensible when understood as the coming to fruition of certain assumptions at the root of Western culture that are profoundly at odds with human nature.
The World Beyond Your Head makes sense of an astonishing array of common experience, from the frustrations of airport security to the rise of the hipster. With implications for the way we raise our children, the design of public spaces, and democracy itself, this is a book of urgent relevance to contemporary life.
Can you be a self on your own or only together with others? Is selfhood a built-in feature of experience or rather socially constructed? How do we at all come to understand others? Does empathy amount to and allow for a distinct experiential acquaintance with others, and if so, what does that tell us about the nature of selfhood and social cognition? Does a strong emphasis on the first-personal character of consciousness prohibit a satisfactory account of intersubjectivity or is the former rather a necessary requirement for the latter?
Engaging with debates and findings in classical phenomenology, in philosophy of mind and in various empirical disciplines, Dan Zahavi’s new book Self and Other offers answers to these questions. Discussing such diverse topics as self-consciousness, phenomenal externalism, mindless coping, mirror self-recognition, autism, theory of mind, embodied simulation, joint attention, shame, time-consciousness, embodiment, narrativity, self-disorders, expressivity and Buddhist no-self accounts, Zahavi argues that any theory of consciousness that wishes to take the subjective dimension of our experiential life serious must endorse a minimalist notion of self. At the same time, however, he also contends that an adequate account of the self has to recognize its multifaceted character, and that various complementary accounts must be integrated, if we are to do justice to its complexity. Thus, while arguing that the most fundamental level of selfhood is not socially constructed and not constitutively dependent upon others, Zahavi also acknowledges that there are dimensions of the self and types of self-experience that are other-mediated. The final part of the book exemplifies this claim through a close analysis of shame.