Some notes on identity, culture, and freedom (idfreedm.doc - February 23, 1998; idfreedm.htm revised 9/24/02, 10/2/08, 10/14/09, 2/16/12, 2/10/17)
Discuss self-naming the 1st person restriction and Anthem.
(& essay option in context of either)
Philosophy and "what
is __" questions.
The question with a twist:
Who are you?
Who are you, really?
The question of what it is to be someone and not somebody (or something) else is a philosophical problem:
The problem of personal identity.
[there is a more general metaphysical problem: identity and individuation]
--explain ontology: what there is.
Review the problem of change in terms of the question, "What is it that changed from this to that?"
if x=y, then if x is an F, then y is an F.
Descartes and the Mind -Body problem (psuchia, soul).
"What is it to be the same person?"
memories of individual. and others. approx. = "history"
note relation of this to attempts to separate groups from their identities
Brain and Body: DNA, physical
props and extended conscousness (see Andy
Clark's Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human
Note the relevance of Gary Marcus's book, Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind (2008), Oliver Sacks's Musicophilia (2008), and V. S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee's Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind (1998).
How do we know who someone else is? What makes them them?
Lead in to lecture on freedom, character and culture.
K. Vonnegut, Jr,: "You are who you pretend to be." See Mother Night and "Who am I this time" (from Welcome to the Monkey House). Relate this to William James's chapter on "Habit" in The Principles of Psychology.
Lead in to section on freedom, character and culture.
What if you accept what your culture defines you to be [Ursula K. Leguin/Simone de Beauvoir/Martin Buber/Erving Goffman/ William James/George H. Mead]? Are you free to do so?
(Discuss questions "Are you free?/Are you really free?")
What counts as freedom; digress into problem of free will and determinism. Discuss a determinist, an existential, a Kantian, a Jamesian, and a Buberian response.
Social definitions, public and private selves, fragmented selves, many selves, the self as task, the self as illusion. Buber's self as partner in dialogue.
Michael Kagan, Le Moyne College
(Last edited September 23, 2011; some additions February 10, 2017)