Rationalism about Autobiography

Clark, Samuel John Allen (2019) Rationalism about Autobiography. In: Narrative and Self-Understanding :. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, pp. 53-73. ISBN 9783030282882

[thumbnail of Rationalism about Autobiography Author's final]
PDF (Rationalism about Autobiography Author's final)
Rationalism_about_Autobiography_Author_s_final.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial.

Download (214kB)


Autobiography is a distinctive and valuable kind of reasoning towards ethical knowledge. But how can autobiography be ethical reasoning? I distinguish four ways in which autobiography can be merely involved in reasoning: as clue to authorial intentions; as container for conventional reasoning; as historical data; and as thought experiment. I then show how autobiography can itself be reasoning by investigating its generic form. Autobiographies are particular, enabling vivid display of and education in value-suffused perception. They are diachronic, enabling critique by ironic contrast. And they are compositional, enabling sense-making by placing in a temporal structure. But these features don’t distinguish autobiographies from novels. Should we therefore accept a deflationary account of a fourth generic feature of autobiographies, that they are self-reflective? I instead pursue a more ambitious account of self-reflection and the distinctively autobiographical reasoning it enables, involving a realism constraint, a reflexive explanation constraint, and unique address to first-person problems of the self. I conclude with an interpretation of an example work of autobiographical reasoning, Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of George Sherston, against the idea that self-owning is necessary to the good human life.

Item Type:
Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? philosophy of autobiographyethicsreasoningsiegfried sassoonphilosophyliterature and literary theory ??
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
05 Sep 2017 12:58
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 04:42