The Self after Postmodernity

Calvin O. Schrag

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February 8, 1999
176 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
ISBN: 9780300078763
Paper

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Sketching a new portrait of the human self in this thought-provoking book, leading American philosopher Calvin O. Schrag challenges bleak deconstructionist and postmodernist views of the self as something ceaselessly changing, without origin or purpose. Discussing the self in new vocabulary, he depicts an action-oriented self defined by the ways in which it communicates. The self, says Schrag, is open to understanding through its discourse, its actions, its being with other selves, and its experience of transcendence.

In his discussion, Schrag responds critically to both modernists and postmodernists, avoiding what he calls the modernists' overdetermination of unity and identity and the postmodernists' self-enervating pluralism. He agrees with postmodernist attacks on both the classical theory of the self as a metaphysical substance and the modern epistemological construal of the self as transparent mind, yet he maintains that jettisoning the self as understood in these terms does not mean jettisoning it altogether. The self as subject is not dead, nor are the constitutive features of self-formation and self-understanding. In addressing the role of culture in the dynamics of self-formation, the author offers a critique of Max Weber's and Jürgen Habermas's view of modernity as a radical differentiation of three cultural spheres: science, morality, and art; he adds religion as a legitimate fourth cultural sphere. The overview of Schrag's philosophy that The Self after Postmodernity provides will appeal to readers with an interest in literary criticism and religion as well as philosophy.

Calvin O. Schrag is George Ade Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Purdue University. His previous books include Existence and Freedom, Experience and Being, Radical Reflection and the Origin of the Human Sciences, Communicative Praxis and the Space of Subjectivity, The Resources of Rationality, and Philosophical Papers.

"Schrag takes up the issues defining the philosophical agenda for continental thought at century's end and offers a comprehensive outlook capable of responding to them. His book engaged me right from the start."—M. C. Dillon

"Readers familiar with Schrag's impressive Communicative Praxis and the Space of Subjectivity will welcome this overview of his thought, first given as the 1995 Gilbert Ryle Lectures at Trent University. In these lectures, Schrag agrees with postmodern jettisonings of the self as either a classical metaphysical substance or the modern epistemological self. . . . Strongly recommended."—Choice

"I cannot recommend The Self after Postmodernity highly enough. It is an enlightening book, eminently suited for teaching both upper level undergraduates and graduates. For undergraduates it clarifies, without a lifeless rehearsing, the stakes at issue in debates over mind/body dualism, the nature of intentionality, unified versus plural conceptions of self, the kind of rationality requisite to moral capacity, and the difference between existential and metaphysical notions of transcendence. For graduates, this work displays the strengths of phenomenology while seriously engaging cutting-edge debates about identity and difference. It could readily be supplemented with chapters from Schrag's previous books detailing additional aspects of the theoretical commitments supporting his profile of the self. The ideas conveyed here are as intellectually stimulating as the prose is beautiful."—Patricia Huntington, Human Studies

"Schrag’s text . . . enlivens the key conceptual debates defining twentieth-century through by advancing a timely, distinguished, and challenging profile of the self."—Patricia Huntington, Human Studies

"[A] thoughtful and unsurpassable contribution . . . to philosophy and phenomenology as a philosophical movement."—Hwa Yol Jung, Philosophy & Social Criticism

"Schrag’s great learning and long philosophical experience are evident here, and he speaks in a calm and measured voice. His efforts at conciliation, his determination to take the postmodern challenge seriously, his search for non- or post metaphysical sources of unity, are convincing and laudable."—David Carr, Continental Philosophy Review

"Refreshing as it is ambitious, Schrag's retrenching of selfhood shows none of the ominous prophecy that attends postmodern analyses of selfhood."—Jonathan Kim-Reuter, Philosophy in Review

"Anyone interested in the debates about postmodernism in any number of disciplines will find something intriguing and useful in this thought-provoking work."—Robert S. Gall, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

"Mindful of the important debates and skillfully weaving together the thought of a variety of thinkers, Schrag is often persuasive in his refashioning of the self after postmodernity. Anyone interested in the debates about postmodernism in any number of disciplines will find something intriguing and useful in this thought-provoking work."—Robert S. Gall, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

"Refreshing as it is ambitious, Schrag's retrenching of selfhood shows none of the ominous prophecy that attends postmodern analyses of selfhood."—Jonathan Kim-Reuter, Philosophy in Review

"A well-formed book that makes a distinct and need argument with clarity and grace."—Ernest Keen, Journal of Phenomenological Psychology

"The Self After Post-modernity offers a powerful critique of modern conceptions of self and self-identity based on the father of modern philosophy’s metaphysical notions of body, mind and sovereign subject."—Dmitry A. Olshansky, The Philosopher