Self: Ancient and Modern Insights about Individuality, Life, and Death

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9780226768267: Self: Ancient and Modern Insights about Individuality, Life, and Death

Drawing on classical antiquity and Western and Eastern philosophy, Richard Sorabji tackles in Self the question of whether there is such a thing as the individual self or only a stream of consciousness. According to Sorabji, the self is not an undetectable soul or ego, but an embodied individual whose existence is plain to see. Unlike a mere stream of consciousness, it is something that owns not only a consciousness but also a body.
       Sorabji traces historically the retreat from a positive idea of self and draws out the implications of these ideas of self on the concepts of life and death, asking: Should we fear death? How should our individuality affect the way we live? Through an astute reading of a huge array of traditions, he helps us come to terms with our uneasiness about the subject of self in an account that will be at the forefront of philosophical debates for years to come. “There has never been a book remotely like this one in its profusion of ancient references on ideas about human identity and selfhood . . . . Readers unfamiliar with the subject also need to know that Sorabji breaks new ground in giving special attention to philosophers such as Epictetus and other Stoics, Plotinus and later Neoplatonists, and the ancient commentators on Aristotle (on the last of whom he is the world's leading authority).”—Anthony A. Long, Times Literary Supplement

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Over the centuries, the idea of the self has both fascinated and confounded philosophers. From the ancient Greeks, who problematized issues of identity and self-awareness, to Locke and Hume, who popularized minimalist views of the self, to the efforts of postmodernists in our time to decenter the human subject altogether, the idea that there is something called a self has always been in steady decline. But for Richard Sorabji, this negation of the self is dispiriting. In Self, he sets out to recover the rich variety of positive accounts of the self from Antiquity right up to the present, while offering his own inspiring view of what precisely the self might be.

Drawing on Eastern religion, classical Antiquity, and Western philosophy, Sorabji proceeds to tackle a number of thematic debates that have preoccupied philosophers over the ages, including the concept of the self, its sameness and mutability, the idea of the resurrection of the body and spirit, and the fear of death. According to Sorabji, the self is not an undetectable soul or ego, but an embodied individual whose existence is plain to see. It is also neither a linguistic creation nor a psychological fiction, but something that owns both a consciousness and a body.

            Ultimately, Sorabji argues, the demise of a positive idea of the self stems from much older and more pervasive problems of identity than we realize. Through an astute reading of this tradition, he helps us come to terms with our uneasiness about the subject in an account that will be at the forefront of philosophical debates for years to come.

About the Author:

Richard Sorabji is emeritus professor of ancient philosophy at King’s College London and a fellow of Wolfson College, University of Oxford. Besides coediting The Ethics of War: Shared Problems in Different Traditions, and editing seventy volumes so far of The Ancient Commentators on Aristotle, he is the author of Matter, Space and Motion; Animal Minds and Human Morals; Emotion and Peace of Mind; Aristotle on Memory; Necessity, Cause and Blame; and Time, Creation and the Continuum, the last three of which are also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Book Description University of Chicago Press, 2009. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Drawing on classical antiquity and Western and Eastern philosophy, Richard Sorabji tackles in Self the question of whether there is such a thing as the individual self or only a stream of consciousness. According to Sorabji, the self is not an undetectable soul or ego, but an embodied individual whose existence is plain to see. Unlike a mere stream of consciousness, it is something that owns not only a consciousness but also a body. Sorabji traces historically the retreat from a positive idea of self and draws out the implications of these ideas of self on the concepts of life and death, asking: Should we fear death? How should our individuality affect the way we live? Through an astute reading of a huge array of traditions, he helps us come to terms with our uneasiness about the subject of self in an account that will be at the forefront of philosophical debates for years to come. There has never been a book remotely like this one in its profusion of ancient references on ideas about human identity and selfhood . . . . Readers unfamiliar with the subject also need to know that Sorabji breaks new ground in giving special attention to philosophers such as Epictetus and other Stoics, Plotinus and later Neoplatonists, and the ancient commentators on Aristotle (on the last of whom he is the world s leading authority). -Anthony A. Long, Times Literary Supplement. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9780226768267

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