Self and Subjectivity

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Kim Atkins
Wiley, Feb 4, 2005 - Philosophy - 330 pages
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Self and Subjectivity is a collection of seminal essays with commentary that traces the development of conceptions of 'self' and 'subjectivity' in European and Anglo-American philosophical traditions, including feminist scholarship, from Descartes to the present.

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"Self and subjectivity” is an edited book by Kim Atkins. It has been published by in 2005 by Blackwell Publishing Ltd. The editor has collected, compiled and edited the major works on the idea of self starting from Descarte to Mackenzie. The editor has given a brief commentary on each of the thinker which facilitates reader to have a birds’ view of each thinker. In its wholistic manner, it is an attempt to show how the idea of self and subjectivity have been thematized and articulated in the western intellectual traditions. The book comprises of six major sections which have been developed in line with the major philosophical trends in a chronological order.
The first section of the book describes the conceptualisation of idea of self in the ‘Early Modern Philosophy’ with special reference to Descarte, Lock & Hume. The second section deals with the idea of self in the ‘Later Modern Philosophy’ by focusing Kant, Hegal and Nietzsche. In the third section the complex idea of self starts melting down in the paradigm of ‘Phenomenology and Existentialism’. In this section ides of Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and Martin Heidegger have been propounded. The fourth section deals with the idea of self in the tradition of ‘Analytic Philosophy’ with focus on writings of P. F. Strawson, Harry Frankfurt, Sydney Shoemaker, Bernard Williams and Derek Parfit. The fifth section of the book investigates the idea of self in the paradigm of ‘Post-Structuralism’. Sigmund Freud, Michel Foucault and Paul Ricoeur have been chosen as leading representatives from this tradition. The last section deals with the issue at hand in the paradigm of ‘Feminist Philosophy’ with focus on Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler, Luce Irigaray and Catriona Mackenzie.
The book deals with the concept of self and subjectivity with a philosophical attitude. The common theme among the above mentioned sections in terms of their inquiry into the idea of self or subjectivity is the grounding of the reflective activity in the ideas of God, Spirit, Society, the Body, the Brain or the combination of these. Each thinker deals with the issue at hand with certain preferences to some of the above mentioned groundings. Descarte tried to ground subjectivity in God. Kant intellectual exhaustion with the idea of self seems paving way for two antagonistic pathways focusing on objective and subjective understanding of the self which may be seen in the tradition of analytic philosophy of language & mind and in the tradition of phenomenology. The responses of Hegel, Heidegger, Ricoeur, Nietzsche and Foucault may be placed in the broader category of continental philosophy which "tend to include the wider range of metaphysical outlooks from theologically informed accounts to emphatically atheistic & romantically influenced" (Atkin) views on the idea of self.
Overall the book provides a good description of the idea of self. Nevertheless the content of the book is dense enough and sometimes make the reader confused and even frustrated. It may not be much useful in the beginning of a big philosophical exercise rather it may be lucrative for an advanced understanding of the self with a pretty mature grounding in philosophy. Among all thinkers mentioned in the book, Foucault and Ricoeur are intellectually inspiring but and at the same time most challenging.
Nazim Aman Hunzai
 

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About the author (2005)

Kim Atkins is a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Tasmania, Australia. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Applied Philosophy, Philosophy Today, and The International Journal of Philosophical Studies.

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