Good lives:autobiography, self-knowledge, narrative, and self-realization

Clark, Sam (2021) Good lives:autobiography, self-knowledge, narrative, and self-realization. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 9780198865384

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Reasoning with autobiography is a way to self-knowledge. We can learn about ourselves, as human beings and as individuals, by reading, thinking through, and arguing about this distinctive kind of text. Reasoning with Edmund Gosse’s Father and Son is a way of learning about the nature of the good life and the roles that pleasure and self-expression can play in it. Reasoning with Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs is a way of learning about transformative experience, self-alienation, and therefore the nature of the self. Good Lives develops and defends this claim, by answering a series of questions. What is an autobiography? How can we learn about ourselves from reading one? On what subjects does autobiography teach? What should we learn about them? In particular, given that autobiographies are narratives, should we learn something about the importance of narrative in human life? Could our storytelling about our own lives make sense of them as wholes, unify them over time, or make them good for us? Could storytelling make the self? The overall aim of the book is a critique of narrative and a defence of a self-realization account of the self and its good. As it pursues that, the book investigates the wide range of extant accounts of the self and of the good life, and defends pluralist realism about self-knowledge by reading and reasoning with autobiographies of self-discovery, martial life, and solitude. It concludes: autobiography can be reasoning in pursuit of self-knowledge; each of us is an unchosen, initially opaque, seedlike self; our good is the development and expression of our latent capacities, which is our individual self-realization; self-narration plays much less role in our lives than some thinkers have supposed, and the development and expression of potential much more.

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26 Feb 2021 09:59
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12 Sep 2023 03:51