Rethinking the Western Understanding of the Self

Rethinking the Western Understanding of the Self

by Ulrich Steinvorth


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Rethinking the Western Understanding of the Self by Ulrich Steinvorth

In this book, Ulrich Steinvorth offers a fresh analysis of rationality as the core part of Western thinking. Western rationality includes a critique of tradition and collectivism and a defence of human rights and individualism, but is impregnated in all its elements by a conception of the self that was formed by Locke and utilitarianism. This conception is compatible with classical physics, but is no help in understanding the facts of human psychology and history. Steinvorth argues that Descartes' conception of the self offers an alternative. When freed from the dualism in which Descartes conceived it, it achieves what the Lockean conception does not. In particular, it allows understanding the human craving for extraordinariness and the achievements of the West in science and art as well as its political disasters in the twentieth century. Moreover, it enables us to understand why individualism - a hallmark of modernity - became an ideal that implies universal rights; how individualism could peak in the ideal of equal liberty; and why it is now in decline. Most importantly, the Cartesian concept of the self is shown to offer a way of protecting modernity against the dangers that it now encounters.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780521757072
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 06/22/2009
Pages: 232
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Ulrich Steinvorth is professor of philosophy at Bilkent University in Ankara. He has taught at Hamburg and other German universities and as a guest professor at French and American universities. He is editor of Rechtsphilosophische Hefte, is on the Advisory Board of Wittgenstein Studies, and has published a dozen books on topics in political philosophy, ethics, and metaphysics.

Table of Contents

Part I. Introduction: 1. The West and the self; Part II. Basics of Philosophical Psychology: 2. Heideggerian and Cartesian self; 3. Free will; 4. Cartesian, Lockean and Kantian self; 5. Extraordinariness and the two stages of rationality; Part III. The Cartesian Self in History: 6. The cause and content of modernity; 7. The second-stage rationality in history; 8. Economic rationality; 9. The Cartesian self in the 20th century; Part IV. Value Spheres: 10. A diagnosis and therapy for modernity; 11. Value spheres defined and the state; 12. The serving spheres; 13. Technology; 14. Utilitarian or Cartesian approach; 15. The media and other professions; 16. Science; 17. Art and religion; 18. Sport; 19. Latin and absolute love; Part V. A Self-Understanding Not Only for the West: 20. Liberty and equality; 21. Harnessing extraordinariness; 22. Cartesian modernity; 23. The undivided universally developed individual; 24. The end of history?

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