This book traces the development of theories of the self and
personal identity from the ancient Greeks to the present day. From
Plato and Aristotle to Freud and Foucault, Raymond Martin and John
Barresi explore the works of a wide range of thinkers and reveal
the larger intellectual trends, controversies, and ideas that have
revolutionized the way we think about ourselves.
The authors open with ancient Greece, where the ideas of Plato,
Aristotle, and the materialistic atomists laid the groundwork for
future theories. They then discuss the ideas of the church fathers
and medieval and Renaissance philosophers, including St. Paul,
Philo, Augustine, Aquinas, and Montaigne. In their coverage of the
emergence of a new mechanistic conception of nature in the
seventeenth century, Martin and Barresi note a shift away from
religious and purely philosophical notions of self and personal
identity to more scientific and social conceptions, a trend that
has continued to the present day. They explore modern philosophy
and psychology, including the origins of different traditions
within each discipline, and explain both the theoretical relevance
of feminism and gender and ethnic studies and also the ways that
Derrida and other recent thinkers have challenged the very idea
that a unified self or personal identity even exists.
Martin and Barresi cover a number of issues broached by
philosophers and psychologists, such as the existence of a fixed
and unchanging self and whether the concept of the soul has a use
outside of religious contexts. They address the question of whether
notions of the soul and the self are still viable in today's world.
Together, they reveal the fascinating ways in which great thinkers
have grappled with these and other questions and the astounding
impact their ideas have had on the development of
self-understanding in the west.
Subjects: Philosophy, Psychology
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