My second book, The Importance of How We See Ourselves: Self-Identity and Responsible Agency, addressed the practical dimensions of selfhood and self-identity. I offered a hybrid view of the self as the object of self-consciousness as well as the subject and owner of events that count as actions brought about by means of its agency. I argue that a veridical sense of self grounds responsible agency by enabling persons to be aware of what they do and to understand their motives. Certain pathologies upset the unity of a person’s identity, while others impair the lucidity of a person’s sense of self, and still others disturb general features of responsible agency such as the capacity to act purposively and realize one’s will through intentional behavior. The book explains what it means to be oneself, and what departures from this state signify for a person’s ability to navigate life and make sense of herself in the process.
This area is relatively new to me, in terms of research. It demands a far greater acquaintance with (and level of comfort with) the literature in philosophy of mind, philosophical psychology, and philosophy of action than I possess. But it is fascinating, and I have not been able to resist taking a stab at some of the ideas this very rich area. In addition to the book, here are some of the things I written on the topic:
- “Being in Absentia,” in Florida Philosophical Review: The Journal of the Florida Philosophical Association, Volume X, No. 1 (Summer 2010), 1-7.
- “Moral Taint,” Metaphilosophy, special issue on Genocide’s Aftermath: Responsibility and Repair, vol. 37, nos. 3/4, July 2006. Reprinted in Genocide’s Aftermath (Oxford, U.K.: Blackwell, 2007).
- “Autonomy and Self-Identity,” in Autonomy and the Challenges to Liberalism: New Essays, co-edited by John Christman and Joel Anderson, Cambridge University Press, 2005.