“True self” Journal Club General Discussion
Join the discussion of Nina Strohminger, George Newman, and Joshua Knobe's article and of the commentaries by Simon Cullen, Ophelia Deroy, Victoria Fomina, Larry Hirschfeld, Gloria Origgi, Brent Strickland, and Radu Umbres. To post a comment,
Nina Strohminger’s response: A friendly desultory philippic
Hello, everyone, and thank you for tuning in. I would like to start by saying the opinions expressed below are purely my own. Josh Knobe and George Newman may or may not be on board with anything I’m about to say, though I do try to give a fair representation of what we, as a team, argue for in our paper.
Anthropological doubts about the moral “true self”
Do people everywhere believe there is a true self – a moral true self, what is more? This is a question of obvious anthropological relevance. Most anthropologists, however, would question the basic assumptions of the hypothesis , not to mention its validity for many of the societies they have studied. After Marcel Mauss’s famous 1938 essay “A category of the human mind: the notion of person; the notion of self” that made this a standard anthropological issue, the universality of the category of self or personhood has been contested.
Is there really no such thing as the true self?
In “The True Self: A psychological concept distinct from the self,” Strohminger, Knobe, and Newman (henceforth “SKN”) outline a fascinating and compelling body of research on people’s naïve intuitions regarding the “true self.” The evidence suggests that there is a cross-culturally robust notion of the true self, which people conceive of as an intrinsically moral part of the self which causes positive personal changes and importantly contributes to establishing personal identity.
The “true self,” more complex, more social
“I have entered upon a performance which is without example, whose accomplishment will have no imitator. I mean to present my fellow-mortals with a man in all the integrity of nature; and this man shall be myself.” Thus wrote Jean-Jacques Rousseau as the incipit of his Confessions, a narrative elaboration of his authentic, “true self” as opposed to a hypocritical social identity. Rousseau confessed many weaknesses and failings but the message was clear: his true self, while rich and complex, was better than some of his objectionable actions.