As a logical concept, identity refers to one and the same thing. So why, Vincent Descombes asks, do we routinely use "identity" to describe the feelings associated with membership in a number of different communities, as when we speak of our ethnic identity and religious identity? And how can we ascribe the same "identity" to more than one individual in a group? In Puzzling Identities, one of the leading figures in French philosophy seeks to bridge the abyss between the logical meaning of identity and the psychological sense of "being oneself."
Bringing together an analytic conception of identity derived from Gottlob Frege with a psychosocial understanding stemming from Erik Erikson, Descombes contrasts a rigorously philosophical notion of identity with ideas of collective identity that have become crucial in contemporary cultural and political discourse. He returns to an argument of ancient Greek philosophy about the impossibility of change for a material individual. Distinguishing between reflexive and expressive views of "being oneself," he shows the connections between subjective identity and one's life and achievements. We form profound attachments to the particular communities by which we define ourselves. At the same time, becoming oneself as a modern individual requires a process of disembedding oneself from one's social milieu. This is how undergoing a crisis of identity while coming of age has become for us a normal stage in human life.
Puzzling Identities demonstrates why a person has more than one answer to the essential question "Who am I?"
|Series:||Institute for Human Sciences Vienna Lecture Series , #4|
|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Vincent Descombes is Professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris.
Stephen Adam Schwartz is a Senior Lecturer in French at University College Dublin.
Table of Contents
Part I "Identity Can be a Complicated Matter"
1 Learning the Language of Identity 3
Identity Questions: A Lexical Puzzle 3
Declaring One's Identity 7
An American Concept 13
The Idea of an Identity Crisis 15
Identity according to Erikson: An Anthropological Notion 20
Identity after Erikson 22
A Question of Language 26
Plural Identity 29
2 Of What Use Is the Concept of Identity? 39
Is There Such a Thing as Identity in This World? 39
The Comedy of Identity 43
The Principle of Individuation 47
The Logic of Proper Names 51
Identity Criteria 55
Is Identity Relative? 58
Part II "Who Am I?"
3 Identity in the Subjective Sense 65
"Who Am I?" 65
An Identity at Once Objective and Subjective 68
How Can Identity Be Subjectified? 71
To Be the Same in One's Own Eyes 74
The Prince and the Cobbler 81
Recovering One's Own Self 84
4 The Disembedded Individual 88
The Right of Subjectivity 88
To Be or Not to Be Oneself? 92
The "Apprenticeship Years" 100
Modern Identity 104
Exercises in Self-Definition 108
Becoming a Modern Individual 113
The Future of Individualism 121
Experssive Identity 129
Part III "Who Are We?"
5 Collective Identities 135
"Who Are We?" 135
A Linguistic Difficulty 136
The Analogy between a Person and a People 143
The Logic of Collective Bodies 146
The Moral Person as Fictive Person 153
The Historical Identity of a City 159
A Sociological Definition of the Nation 162
The Enigma of Collective Individuality 167
6 The "We" as Instituting Power 174
The Individuation of a "We" 174
The Composition of a "We" 181
The Instituting Power 191
Works Cited 201