Rethinking the Western Understanding of the Self

Rethinking the Western Understanding of the Self

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Ulrich Steinvorth offers a fresh analysis and critique of rationality as a defining element in Western thinking. Steinvorth argues that Descartes' understanding of the self offers a more plausible and realistic alternative to the prevailing understanding of the self formed by the Lockean conception and utilitarianism. When freed from Cartesian dualism, such a conceptualization enables us to distinguish between self and subject. Moreover, it enables us to understand why individualism - one of the hallmarks of modernity in the West - became a universal ideal to be granted to every member of society; how acceptance of this notion could peak in the seventeenth century; and why it is now in decline, though not irreversibly so. Most importantly, the Cartesian concept of the self presents a way of saving modernity from the dangers that it now encounters.
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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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About Ulrich Steinvorth

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.
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