Narrativity Types

philosophybites.jpgI ordered a book on Hegel’s dialectic and yesterday I read some philosophy online. That’s a bad sign. I am probably getting depressed. But the news of the world drives me nuts, and I can’t read fiction anymore. So it’s best to concentrate on something utterly irrelevant, like philosophy. Though I do have trouble concentrating, or maybe that’s the point. If you are going to read philosophy at all you have to concentrate because it is so damn irrelevant.

In any case—I don’t know how–but I ran across an article by Galen Strawson called “Against Narrativity.”

He argues there are roughly two types of self experience as follows:

The basic form of Diachronic self-experience is that [D] one naturally figures oneself, considered as a self, as something that was there in the (further) past and will be there in the (further) future – something that has relatively long-term diachronic continuity, something that persists over a long stretch of time, perhaps for life. I take it that many people are naturally Diachronic, and that many who are Diachronic are also Narrative in their outlook on life.

If one is Episodic, by contrast, [E] one does not figure oneself, considered as a self, as something that was there in the (further) past and will be there in the (further) future.

Strawson suggests that the second form of self-experience has come to be overlooked with the recent fashionable emphasis upon self experience as narrative, and further that some have come to feel the experience of self as narrative is morally superior to that of the episodic. Or: one ought to be Diachronic and seeking to weave a narrative from one’s experience. The episodic type, with little sense of self as related to either past or future, appears, how to say, ethically immoral.

Interestingly, he describes this type as “happy go lucky” and goes further to suggest being “happy go lucky” does not indicate a moral deficit but is probably the expression of genetics and early childhood experience.

Strawson says he experiences himself as more like the episodic. And this poses a problem for me. I just don’t think of philosophers as particularly happy go lucky. Though it’s not impossible I suppose to be a happy go lucky philosopher.

I found reading Strawson a bit irritating. As a teacher, I have long subscribed to the notion of the bildun, of the development of self through time, and to have that I think one must feel that one existed in the past and will in the future (at least for a while). And I would suggest that having an episodic sense of self-experience does not necessarily make one happy to lucky. One can be damned depressed and have no sense of future or past selves.

In the course of kicking around Strawson, I came across a nice site called “Philosophy Bites” that features pod casts of living “philosophers” on their areas of specialization. If one wishes one can hear Strawson giving the basic outlines of his argument.

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