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  more diversity of selves
gary e. davis
September 5, 2022
  Though each chapter of Gallagher’s “handbook of the self” will be discussed, Gallagher offers a useful synopsis of each chapter, which occasions this follow-up to “thinking of ‘a diversity of selves’.”

1 | The neuroscientific focus of Gallagher’s own chapter 4, “Self in the Brain,” corroborates my notion of Selfality distinct from awareness of one’s self: “[T]here is no specialized or common area [of the brain] responsible for self-related representations…the self is both everywhere and nowhere” (4).

2 | And so, too, is the center of gravity about “the” self, exemplified by Gallagher’s discussion of “immunity to error through misidentification,” i.e., situations in which one cannot mis-identify the selfal reliability of experience which causes one’s understanding of experience. Gallagher’s synoptic discussion shows how the notion crosses chapters (various perspectives on that notion) and crosses kinds of issues (conundrums of reference, conceptuality about selfness, mode of experience, and sense of interpretation). So, his focus on “IEM” (5-6) can be useful for showing how the canonical IEM miasma is misconceived (in my view)—to be shown relative to others’ chapters, from which Gallagher is extrapolating.

3 | Why do various authors have the IEM problem that possesses them? Because they inherited the self-possession from mid-20th century neo-positivism, prior to the era of phenomenology and cognitive science which is integral to Gallagher’s motives for his textual convening? Does history define conceptual credibility; or may conceptual evolution outstrip its genealogy (like mature adulthood outstrips its adolescence), turning traditional issues into Rylean category mistakes?

4 | As Gallagher overviews the chapters, he continues to capsulate conceptual issues across chapters which begin to seem like a landscape of incommensurable frames of interpretation or inherited conceptual paradigms that can’t cohere the challenge of singularly being a life. That is, the focus on selfality seems to fade into a miasma about paradigms of understanding, which suggests an axial importance of debates, from recent decades, about concepts as such, conceptualization as such, conceptuality as such, and especially (to my mind) issues of value which are integral for actual lives. The authors are so worried about “metaphysics” and biologism vs. psychologism, etc. which inquiry into “self” occasions, that interest in selfality seems to become a proxy for supervenient conundrums of conceptual form. So, I heartily endorse Gallagher’s note that “the person, as agent, tends to disappear in many of the standard…accounts…[I]t is…[an] overarching conception of caring about how one’s life goes that brings the dimension of personhood back into play” (18). I’ll return to that theme near the end here.

5 | Gallagher highlights a point that’s especially interesting for a literary mind: Overviewing the essay on “the [?] narrative self,” he notes Daniel Dennett’s view that “the self is…the narrated more than the narrator, and the latter role Dennett assigns to the brain” (15). But personifying the brain as separately intending narrator is no less than regarding it as Self distinct from self, like Derridean writing as speech. (I enjoy recalling that Derrida was married to a psychoanalyst.)

6 | Anyway, an appeal of appreciating complex psychality is not an appeal of “multiple selves” in a clinical sense, hallmarked by dissociative personality disorder (which Gallagher labels “dissociative identity disorder (DID)” (20). “Discussions of DID” associate to “questions about our normative conceptions of self-unity.” I would say self unity (without the recursive hyphen), but celebrate “that we are not as unified as we sometimes think,” because the cohering of self-efficacy (hyphen apt) is not homeostatic.

7 | A well-integrated life has authentic integrity of its generative project-ivity, not unity—more than “the sometimes contradictory and…confusing agentive roles that we play [as] a valuable part of human nature” (20). That’s a derived mode of the generative value of differential appreciation, free associative problem solving, creativity, and individuation of flexible perspectivity.

8 | Though “[c]learly some relatively strong degree of self-unity is expressed in the normative perferences of most societies” (20), that value of social integration for sustainability is also commonly an inhibitor of innovative venturing which is necessary for humanistic progress. Thus, s/[inter]personal differentiation is vital for evolving social life.

9 | Several essays in the latter parts of the Handbook take a “social construc-tionist” view of the self, but that’s misconceived inasmuch as (by Gallagher’s account) selfidentity is absorbed into its “externalist” interactions, as if there is no intrinsic curiosity and self-enhancive interest which motivates individuation in the first place, thereby individualizing interpersonal (“social”) relations already by early childhood.

10 | However, the Handbook’s externalism strongly corroborates an s/p-differential mode of S/s/p-differentiated SelfWorldliness:
“[T]he self is not organized around one center or core, but distributed over social relations….The self fluctuates across…different positions which are...collected together as a set of differences. These differences are given voice as different characters…that reflect and are reflected in the [interpersonal!] self-structure…What defines me as a…worker does not define me as a sexual partner or as a parent” (24).
My conception carries that kind of differentiation further in terms of degrees of closeness (or “near-and-dear”ness, which an ethics of care hallmarks), because each of our living interpersonal relationships has its own character (possibly very flexibly): from “thin” civility, through less-thin solidarities, variably rich friendship (casual to deep), rich family-like kinship (close to extended), or flexibility of intimacy. Specific relationships have their own mix of interrelational freedom and proper boundaries. For example a friendship has its supplemental solidarities (but not needing mere civility) and maybe often a feeling of extended-familial kinship; but has boundaries on intimacy that one doesn’t have with one’s marital partner. Likewise with a professional colleague that one doesn’t spend time with outside of the office, but can have its own kind of familial bond between specialists.

11 | But how do some persons easily scale up their sense of near-and-dear appreciation as humanitarian care about distant others (and have low risk of compassion fatigue), while other persons need tribe-like boundaries for their sense of humanity (and easily lose interest in others’ need)?

12 | Such concern of the “extended” self is absent from Gallagher’s overview, presumably because that’s lacking in all of the chapters overviewed. The scale of ethical life is apparently assimilated into “moral” thinking (just one topic among so many aspects of the conundrums), but the latter is assimilated into social constructionism: no focus on the motivated ethical life that may scale up its humanistic interest in like-me humanity of the stranger.

13 | That is disappointing because desire and capability for scaling one’s own sense —one’s feeling—for humanity as of Our shared humanity is vital, aggregately (democratically), for the future of our children; and should, can, be integral to the appeal of working to exemplify being well, broadly and highly.

How may better being of oneSelf be best conceived for contributing importantly
to better humanity?



  Be fair. © 2022, gary e. davis