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  thinking of “a diversity of selves”
gary e. davis
September 3, 2022 /
September 11, 2022
“A Diversity of Selves” is the subtitle of Shaun Gallagher’s “Introduction” to The Oxford Handbook of the Self, 2011 (which he edited), whose chapters I’ll discuss up the road, as they say. (I’m numbering my paragraphs in anticipation of later reference.)

1 | The “self” is the focus, by the many authors, expressing a diversity of perspectives, relative to a correlate diversity of interests or modes of framing the notion. So, the 735 page, multidisciplinary tome, is of such a diversity.

2 | One could validly say that “the” self there is a multi-authorial discursive formation. But how the protean character of that discursive narrative altogether is singular (the proteany of interest) has a mysterious relation to any living person who presumably doesn’t embody the manifold expressed by the discursive formation, though Gallagher could be read to represent the manifold as the singular discursive circumspection that his “Introduction” is.

3 | Seven years later, Gallagher has edited a fascinating anthology, The Oxford Handbook of 4E Cognition, 2018, about cognition being “embodied, embedded, enactive, and extended,” which happens to be what we can say about any person’s life: being in the world of one’s life (embedded), the life of one’s world (extended), which expresses a future-oriented purposiveness (embodied), which actualizes that (enactive). That fully applies to oneself, one Self: a SelfWorldliness, say.

4 | So, 4E-ness isn’t basically about cognition—which, by the way, is no synonym for ‘mind’: A psyche, a psychality. Yet, SelfWorldly psychality is also a fourfold in a very different sense: affective (valuing), conative (intentional, which is not the same as enacting given purpose!, i.e., actualizing one’s embodied intentionality); relational (largely non-conscious embeddedness of belonging with what’s interesting, mirroring oneself as preferring); and cognitive (interpretively framing). In other words, a mind—a SelfWorldliness— values, purposes, bonds, and contextualizes.

5 | Relative to “the” “self,” a person is one self (to itself) in a self-defining worldliness which is Selfal (or SelfWorldly) beyond any awareness of oneself as a “self” (or selfidentity)—and beyond, by the way, the self-excluded sense of Selfality which is unconscious (less than what’s nonconscious SelfWorldliness: articulable capabilities, deeply developmental dispositions, etc.; and non-articulable mental facilities or epigenetic capacities that may, through experience, shape capabilities).

6 | So, a distinction between life-scaled temporal worldliness of Selfality (oneSelf) and selfness of easily-represented selfidentity (s) is identifiable. I symbolize that as the S/s difference.

7 | That’s distinct from the difference between being oneself relative to established interpersonal relationships (which is what notions of valid communicative action relate with): familial personality, professional personality, friendships, which I generally symbolize as the s/p difference—which is commonly nebulous: the [S/s] / p difference, depending on how well-articulated one’s sense of S/s difference is (e.g., being very differentiable for well-adapted creativity and for psychothera-pists). “My” s/p difference is normally called “psychosocial,” but the latter difference seems not well understood as a differnece between, say, interest in self actualization (idealized) and normative efficacy (“realistic,” in a pragmatic sense); or as a difference between lifespan-oriented individuation of purposes and communicative relationships of varying length and importance in that life.

8 | So, I open Gallagher’s tome with a sense of “self” in mind which is, in principle, very differentiated and should be understood in at least such a differentiated sense because that’s more felicitous for a flourishing life than a homogenous conception. The better-oriented action, the better lives, show a flexible perspectivity which may be really protean in at least the sense of manifold self-efficacy relative to an S/s/p-differentiated sense of SelfWlorldliness.

9 | Gallagher notes researcher interest in thinking beyond “mind-body dualism and conceptions of the self that remain too Cartesian” (p. 1).  Yet, on the one hand, self reflection may be quite post-metaphysicalist (post-Cartesian), but still think egoistically (i.e., having a more-or-less homogenous and individualist sense of self).

10 | On the other hand, a post-egoistic sense of Self/self difference may be what the trope of mind-body difference was unwittingly intuiting: manifold SelfWorldliness (primordiality of being), differentiable from pragmatically cohering selfidentity (proximality of being), which I extend to interpersonal integrities (s/p differentiality) which one’s sense of selfidentity singularly coheres (as singular “I”) across commitments of and in one’s life.

11 | I bet that “recent interest in Buddhist conceptions of no-self” (1) are about intuitions of S/s differentiality.

12 | Clearly to me, one doesn’t have to suspect that “the self might be an illusion” (1) in order to understand a phenomenality of Selfness which is conceptual, post-metaphysically. (Not “too Cartesian”? How about: not Cartesian at all.)

13 | “Finally,” Gallagher’s first paragraph of his “Introduction” notes “an increase of interest in narrative” relative to “how we understand ourselves in social and cultural contexts,” which is what my s/p difference is about—partially: Interpersonal relations tend to have an interpersonal character relative to the participants, which includes cultural and social content.

14 | Yet, narrativity tends to be storial (implicating a theater of one’s life, maybe further implicating one’s SelfWorldliness), not just pertaining to notions of self-referential narration.

15 | A literary mind is called into play. There is writing in speech, Derrida emphasized decades ago, because (I would argue) an S/s difference is oftentimes really implied in communicative (interpersonal) relations.

16 | Indeed, Gallagher’s discursive formation—that manifold diversity of selves convened as Gallagher’s convention—is a literally textual landscape. Yet, that tropes the lived reality of “the” Self, which is authorial in terms of authorships
(S/s differentiality) of integral relationships (s/p differentiality) which are often literally textual; or, in any event, text-like (in principle, as potential for disclosure and discovery) for self-reflection, as well as for “reading” another’s literal presence; thus for reconstructive inquiry into comprehension of another person or oneSelf.

  next—> more diversity of selves


  Be fair. © 2022, gary e. davis