Personal Identity edited by Raymond Martin, John Barresi (Blackwell Readings in Philosophy) Personal Identity brings together the most important readings on personal identity theory in a collection ideal for students, philosophers, and all other interested readers. The volume begins with a detailed introductory historical essay by the editors, which traces the evolution of personal identity theory in the West from classical Greece to the twentieth century. It also describes how, in the early 1970s, philosophers shifted their attention from the "internal relations" view of personal identity to an "external relations" view that explores, among other considerations, what matters in survival.
The essays that follow are delineated by this twentieth-century philosophical shift. The first section features seminal papers by such luminaries as Bernard Williams, Derek Parfit, Robert Nozick, and David Lewis. These are the very scholars that were involved in initiating the revolution in personal identity theory. The second section features papers by Christine Korsgaard, Peter Unger, Ernest Sosa, Raymond Martin, Marya Schechtman, Mark Johnston, and Derek Parfit that focus primarily on the new question of survival. Finally, a recent paper on animalism by Eric Olson and one on the self by Galen Strawson indicate new directions in which further discussion might continue.
Each of us assumes that we remain who we are, through various changes, from moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day, and so on. We persist until we cease, perhaps at bodily death. Each of us also assumes that one of our most fundamental egoistic desires is to persist. As we say, we want to live. But what accounts for the fact, if it is a fact, that we remain the same persons over time and through various changes? That question is the philosophical problem of personal identity. And when, in ordinary circumstances, we want to persist, what is it that we really want - that is, that each of us wants most fundamentally? That question is the philosophical problem of what matters primarily in survival. It is commonly assumed that when people want to persist, what they really want is simply to persist - that is, that their desire to persist cannot be derived from any more fundamental desire. That answer is the thesis that identity is primarily what matters in survival.
All of the readings in the present anthology are devoted either to answering the philosophical problem of personal identity or to testing the claim that identity is primarily what matters in survival, or both. Inserted into the introductory essay are some classic readings by Locke and Reid. Otherwise all of the readings included have been published since 1970, which is about the time that personal identity theory made a new beginning. The present anthology represents the issues that have emerged in the wake of this new beginning.
The introductory essay, "Personal Identity and What Matters in Survival: An Historical Overview," is a substantial development of material some of which has been previously published in Raymond Martin, "Personal Identity from Plato to Parfit," in D. Kolak and R. Martin, eds. The Experience of Philosophy, 4th edn (1999) and 5th edn. (2001), and some in Raymond Martin and John Barresi, Naturalization of the Soul: Self and Personal Identity in the Eighteenth Century (Routledge, 2000).
Yesterday's Self: Nostalgia and the Construction of Personal Identity by Andreea Deciu Ritivoi (Hardcover) (Rowman & Littlefield) "The state of being called nostalgia has a history fraught with ambiguity and poetical connotation. In the late 17th century, nostalgic reminiscences were thought to be the symptoms of a deadly disease that shook one's mind and body. Today, we view nostalgia not as a medical condition, but as a bittersweet recollection of one's past joys and sorrows--the memories and treasures of an earlier self. And yet, there remains a category of individuals for whom such recollection can be seriously problematic: immigrants. In Yesterday's Self, Andreea Ritivoi explores the philosophical and historical dimensions of nostalgia in the lives of immigrants, forging a connection between current trends in the philosophy of identity and intercultural studies. The book considers such questions as, Does attachment to one's native culture preclude or merely influence adaptation into a new culture? Do we fashion our identity in interdependence with others, or do we shape it in a non-contingent frame? Is it possible to assimilate in an unfamiliar world without risking self-alienation? Ritivoi's response: nostalgia is both the poison and the cure in such situations. Documenting the tribulations of sojourners and immigrants, Yesterday's Self illustrates how and why the cultural adjustment of immigrants can only happen when personal identity is understood as a quest for continuity in one's life story, even alongside the most radical cultural rupture. Ultimately, reflection on the nostalgic experience reveals insights into the nature of the self and its dynamic engagement with otherness and difference."
Excerpt: In the 1980s, about eight million immigrants from all over the world entered the United States; in the 1990s, the number grew to nine million, and it is expected to continue to increase in the future. In 1992, the National Research Council organized a workshop to assess the data needs and future trends in the research on immigration to the United States.' One of the recommendations issued by the council addressed the problem of adjustment to the new culture, emphasizing its crucial importance for establishing immigration policies. Broadly conceived as the ability to carry out daily tasks in the new environment by understanding and familiarizing oneself with it, "immigrant adjustment includes changes in individual behavior, such as cultural patterns (English-language use and ability, religion, food preferences), social and economic achievements (labor-force participation, job skills, education, income), family status (number of children, intermarriage), health and social well-being, cultural and political values, and participation in social and political organizations." This definition appears to be predicated on a twofold assumption: that the immersion into a new culture, of the kind involved by immigration, does not happen unproblematically, but rather by triggering pervasive and profound change at the level of the individual in question. While such an assumption probably seems commonsensical enough to go unnoticed, it is connected to two more general assumptions that are often the subject of intense debate in various disciplinary contexts, from philosophy and psychology to medicine and genetics: that the environment shapes self-identity, to the point that a person is largely a product of the world in which she lives, and that people can change, sometime even radically, without necessarily compromising their sense of who they are. In this book, I deal explicitly with the connection between these two sets of assumptions, by proposing a way of thematizing the link between personal change and change in the environment.
Traditionally, immigrant adjustment has been the concern of social psychologists, policy analysts, communication scholars, and sometime, psychiatrists, and the preferred format of investigation is often the survey or longitudinal study. Without a doubt, the existing research has produced notable results. For example, we have learnt from such studies that adjustment affects the immigrants' mental health because it can be such a traumatic process. My primary interest in this book lies in presenting an account that focuses on individual immigrants. Keeping in mind the Council's observation-that variations in immigrants' experiences defy systematizationI submit that such recalcitrant variation requires that we also concentrate on the individual immigrant. Obviously, each of the millions of immigrants who come to the United States (and others who go to European countries) is an individual, but there is no guarantee that each individual's experience could be successfully inferred from what we know about groups. Moreover, a sharp focus on the individual can offer insight into the experiences of immigrants in such detail that we will be able to learn much about immigration in general. I mean by this that an exploration of the individual experience can identify some of the processes that give rise to the patterns investigated by social scientists by shedding light on the questions of how and why people adjust or fail to adjust.
In the Western tradition, the concept of individuality has had a long and tortuous history, a comprehensive review of which is well beyond the scope of my work here. Suffice it to say that currently the term individual is used to identify a human being as an autonomous entity, different from all other human beings. But it is not necessary to posit a constitutive contrast between "individual" and "society" to preserve the meaning of either one as distinct from the other. My focus on the individual is not as a way of searching for the idiosyncrasies of a person, those features that could never be found in another person. Rather, I am interested in individual responses to situations that apply to the human experience in general: teaming a new language, making a new home, dealing with separation from friends and family, entering interracial and intercultural relationships, and so on.
In this book, I am interested in how immigrants deal with the transition from their culture of origin to the culture of adoption. The key element of this transition is adjustment; but before connecting it to a variety of changes
involving the individual, I propose that we first go to the root of these changes, by looking at adjustment through the lens of homesickness. After all, there would not really be a need for adjustment if immigrants could be "born anew" in their country of adoption, released from their memories and from a sense of loyalty and attachment to their past, their native language, and the place where they were born. Although each individual experience has its own defining characteristics, immigration inevitably involves a kind of separation that is often perceived in more dramatic terms as loss-of one's first home, one's first language, one's familiar environment. Once such a loss has occurred, it is by no means clear that a concrete restoration in the form of returning to a specific country, town, or house would offer proper compensation or consolation. Nor is it entirely clear how or whether a person can "move on," and hence, whether adjustment is conceivably possible. Such a radical separation from everything one knows-people, language, surroundings, and habits-leaves the very significance of "home" problematic. Even more important, it raises crucial questions about the very notion of self-identity. If we can start fresh elsewhere-and there are numerous indications that many of us can-is it reasonable to believe that we belong someplace? And if we don't belong anywhere in particular, is homesickness a fleeting emotion, like so many others we manage to overcome in a lifetime? Is "home" a conventional notion? Is personal identity shaped by a specific community or can it be transplanted to other communities as well?
These are the kinds of questions I raise in this book, and my overarching claim is that an understanding of immigrant adjustment is contingent upon the way in which such questions are addressed. If adjustment involves change, then it is the individual him- or herself who must first realize that he or she is confronted with the question of change. Such a confrontation requires that a person take into account issues of personal identity to set up the parameters of change. How much to "yield" to fit in the new environment? How much to preserve to maintain a certain sense of personal integrity and individuality? In finding answers to these questions, homesickness plays a crucial role, by creating and stimulating an awareness of personal history, identity patterns, alternatives, and necessities. In homesickness an individual takes stock of her life.
But I also recognize that "homesickness," familiar as the word sounds, is not a theoretical concept. To thematic "homesickness," to discuss its meaning, its multifarious manifestations and consequences, I prefer to use another term: nostalgia. This move is not arbitrary, nor is it motivated solely by stylistic or lexical preferences. In spite of appearances, nostalgia is a more precise term for describing the immigrant experience, because its conceptual history is more amenable to a`rigorous investigation. Although nowadays heavily laden with poetical connotations and only very loosely defined, nostalgia began as a term of art: It defined a medical condition developed by people who were away from home and yearned to return but were somehow unable to do so. In a detailed analysis of the experiences documented by two writers, who emigrated from Eastern Europe to the United States after World War II, I consider their adjustment strategies by studying the impact of nostalgia on their self-identity. My reading of their memoirs shows how nostalgia can both facilitate and hamper the transition to a new environment, depending on how it can be integrated with a specific view of personal identity.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the vast literature on the psychological effects of cross-cultural contact-mostly surveys and a few case studies-was largely theoretical and relied on "samples of convenience." During the next two decades, partly due to the advent of the new field of intercultural communication, the research became more theoretically informed, but its focus on assimilation and integration often meant that cases of resistance to adjustment were rather brushed over. In a study focused on the individual level of adaptation, Young Yun Kim identifies culture shock as one of the relevant issues in explaining the psychological reaction of immigrants and/or sojourners to the culture of adoption. Directly connected to physical symptoms that resemble those of nostalgia-fatigue, loss of appetite, unresponsiveness to the immediate environment-culture shock is the "anxiety that results from losing all familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse." Kim discusses two of the more popular approaches to adaptation, the cumulative-progressive and the pluralistic-typological. The first approach claims that adaptation to a new culture takes place only as long as the individuals are "functionally dependent on, and continue to communicate with, the host environment." 7 In contrast, the pluralistic approach emphasizes the existence of several models of adjustment, each suitable for different individuals. The pluralistic view is concerned with the preservation of the immigrant's original identity and goes so far as to suggest that communication with the culture of origin can play a significant role in allowing a person to function well in the host culture.
Each of these approaches is particularly concerned with the fact that immigration involves a transition from one cultural environment to another. The inevitable disjunction between the "host culture" and the "culture of origin" makes it tempting to pose the question of adjustment in correspondingly dichotomous terms-either you are assimilated in the new culture (even if it's a "melting pot"), or you remain a misfit. But the approach I choose in this book avoids such dichotomies, suggesting instead that adjustment can be defined as reconciliation, requiring that the immigrant find a bridge between cultures and the potential identities that are acceptable and necessary in each culture.
The method I employ to analyze the relation between nostalgia and adjustment is informed by the basic principles of hermeneutics. Although primarily dealing with texts, hermeneutics can also be seen as a more general methodology defined by coherence and justifiability and useful for explaining a variety of problems pertaining to the human experience by tracing them to a common set of assumptions and observations. Hans Georg Gadamer's hermeneutics is a broad theory of the subject, which emphasizes its historical situatedness and cultural belongingness. In addition, Gadamer offers what I take to be a set of heuristics for structuring an interpretative approach. Understanding something involves, in Gadamer's view, specific expectations defined as "conscious assimilation of one's fore-meanings." To the encounter with a novel, or unexplained phenomenon-be it a text, a person, a question-we bring our experiences (our historical life), which cannot be bracketed in the process of interpretation and understanding. But that does not mean that we should allow false judgments or indefensible assumptions to bias our understanding; hermeneutics mediates between fresh observation and comprehensive reflection.
From a hermeneutical perspective, to explain an individual experience, observations and analyses must be grounded in historical investigation. What I want to understand in this book is how individuals define the task of adjustment and how they set out to accomplish it. I form my observations about nostalgia and adjustment based on my reading of the memoirs of the two eastern European writers I mentioned earlier, Vera Calin and Eva Hoffman, who came to the United States as adults during the Cold War. Reading the texts very closely-which is one level of my approach-I find that their views on nostalgia and adjustment are quite different from one another. Vera Calin does not adapt to the new culture and views her life in the United States as incompatible with what she is used to, unfulfilling, and even meaningless. Describing her experience in bitter terms, as a failure, Calin does not, however, lament the lack of adjustment; nor does she charge it entirely to the hostility or unfamiliarity of the new environment. Rather, what seems to be at stake in her experience is the following question: To what extent can a person change, when situations demand it, without compromising her sense of who she is?
Eva Hoffman struggles with a similar dilemma: Should she continue to subscribe to a sense of identity as it had begun to unfold in Poland, or is a substantial change in order? Hoffman's identity develops in the context of two initially divergent narratives: One records the actual events in her
Canadian and then American existence, whereas the other is a series of hypotheses constituting a scenario of her potential life in Poland (the career she could have had as a pianist if she had not left the country, the man she would have married, and so on). She, too, is nostalgic for her past and for her native country; yet while, for Calin, nostalgia becomes a way of maintaining her status quo, the sense of identity that she had developed before the emigration, for Hoffman, it is a way of realigning the past with the present. According to Calin, to adjust involves a self-repudiation. For Hoffman, on the other hand, the change required by adjustment is intertwined with a process of self-fashioning largely structured around her nostalgic reveries about Poland and the life she could have lived there. Committed to a preservationist agenda, Calin also agrees to a life lived in solitude and grief: She is constantly and painfully aware of loss, which ultimately becomes almost a funereal discourse for a self that has been definitely left in the past. Hoffman, however, dedicates herself to the present, and thus becomes functional in the new culture without betraying her loyalty to her homeland.
Such observations pointed me to a connection between nostalgia and personal identity, vis-à-vis their involvement with change. It is a connection that can work, oddly enough, in both ways, undermining or supporting adjustment, as well as a person's identity. To make sense of this seeming paradox, I seek to anchor my comments in an intellectual and historical investigation of nostalgia and of personal identity. That is, at a different level of my approach, I resort to intellectual history, exploring the way .in which nostalgia, adjustment, and self-identity can be tied together. I review the history of nostalgia by following it in various disciplinary discourses, from early medical studies to contemporary sociological and philosophical accounts. I concentrate on the significant shifts, from an understanding of nostalgia as a fatal disease to a view of nostalgia as an instance of self-reflection, trying to discern how these shifts also involved philosophical assumptions about the nature of personal identity. To define pathological phenomena also requires an understanding of what counts as "normal." The medical view on nostalgia as a pathological phenomenon was never fully articulate-and eventually abandoned-because the doctors who espoused it failed to see, and reflect upon, the implications for a conception of the "normal" person. I take up the task of understanding this concept of the "normal" person in a critical account of personal identity in the Western philosophical tradition. From a methodological standpoint, my concern in this critical review of various theories is to generate defensible assumptions that will allow me to proceed with an analysis that is convincing and theoretically sound. My contribution lies in showing how existing views of personal identity can be amended and functionally integrated in a narrative model that allows me to define the self in dynamic terms, as a process, rather than a core or a feature.
My argument for a narrative model of identity is inspired by Paul Ricoeur's remarks in Oneself as Another. Ricoeur posits that the "selfhood of oneself implies otherness to such an intimate degree that one cannot be thought without the other, that instead, one passes into the other." 10 Prima facie, this statement amounts to a contradiction: Individuals exist in the singular; hence, to be oneself is to not be another. But Ricoeur employs the binary "self-other" in the context of distinguishing between a strong and a soft interpretation of identity. In the strong interpretation, rooted in the Latin etymon idem, personal identity requires immutability, thus lending itself well to a strong realist approach. In the soft interpretation, rooted in another Latin etymon, ipse, which means "self," the concept is inextricably tied up in a cultural context that propounds a view of personal identity with no claims to permanence, open to variation, degrees, and transformation. The soft interpretation is more sympathetic to a relativist approach. Considering these rival etymologies, Ricoeur also implies that they support antithetic views of personal identity. I, on the other hand, argue against an antithesis. To define identity as idem clearly poses major problems for adjustment to change. Vera Calin cannot adjust because she resists changes that would alter her idem, the identity with whom she came to America. But that is not to say that Eva Hoffman, who does change and adjust, ignores the idem and is open to any kind of change. To define identity strictly as ipse risks oversimplification. I argue that adjustment needs to be considered in connection to a view of identity that operates both as idem and ipse. By examining the constitution of selves in the cross-cultural experiences of immigration with an eye to strategies of both survival-which involves the maintenance of an already-existing identity configuration-and change, of self-reinforcement and self-repudiation, I also plead for a reconciliation of seemingly rival views of personal identity.
Regarding the question of personal identity, the diversity of positions and answers can be rather intimidating and difficult to synthesize. Using a distinction that seems to polarize contemporary intellectual life, I will say that personal identity is a topic that gets pulled back and forth between realists and constructivists. Realists hold that the identity of a person exists outside a symbolic system, and often try to define it in accordance with an immutable trait. From a realist standpoint, the meaning or existence of the self is not constructed, but given. Constructivists (or antifoundationalists, or relativists, or postmodernists-the nomenclature varies), on the other hand, point out that the identity of a person is embedded in social or cultural contexts, and that it has no hard core, independent of an interpretive process focused on the respective contexts. I strive to avoid the pitfalls of realism, refusing to pin down the self by associating it with a specific trait or feature, but I also try not to be put back by the "elusive" nature of personal identity. To back up my own assumptions, I draw from the rich analytical tradition that began in the Enlightenment (particularly with the philosophy of John Locke and David Hume) and was reshaped and enriched in the twentieth century by David Lewis, Derek Parfit, John Perry, Daniel Dennett, and Harry Frankfurt. Although I group them into a camp labeled "analytical," I am aware of the subtler differences that distinguish these philosophers, and, in response, I focus on controversial issues and distinct solutions to them.
To complete the intellectual and historical investigation, I also probe some "received ideas" about nostalgia and life in a new environment. Without implying that such ideas are necessarily to be found only in "great books," I turn to the Western literary canon as a source of rich cultural representations and as a fertile ground (among other kinds of grounds) for sound generalizations. People "read for life," as Martha Nussbaum has argued, and literature is a repository of crystallized and empathic responses to individual experiences." The appeal to literature also goes hand in hand with an emphasis on history, as literary works are products of a specific zeitgeist, and they offer "descriptive material of prime importance."" The two canonical works I am using in this book are Homer's Odyssey and Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.
In my interpretation of the story of Robinson Crusoe, pitted against a modem adaptation by French novelist Michel Toumier, adjustment cannot be predicated upon an elimination of the idem-that is, on a view of identity with no recourse to sameness. Defoe's story is habitually received as an illustration of man's taking control of the wilderness while at the same time taking control over himself. Toumier, however, rewrites the story as an apparent refutation of this well-known myth of confirmed sameness and permanence: After grappling with solitude in the heart of otherness, his Robinson refuses to return to civilization. This refusal seems justified, for as long as man can recreate his habitat by projecting on the outside world his inner self, why should return still remain a desideratum? I concentrate on this important question to reflect upon the outcomes for adjustment of perceiving identity as sameness, as idem.
Odysseus, on the other hand, is fundamentally the cured nostalgic, the one who returns to his home and family, after a long absence during which his longing and faithfulness survive difficult encounters and alienating temptations. A closer look at the Homeric poem, however, reveals that the
very ritual of acceptance into Ithaca and his recognition by his own people is contingent upon an adjustment that also demands change. On the first morning of his return to Ithaca, on the shore where the Phaeacian navigators have left him asleep, Odysseus wakes up and looks at his land without realizing it is Ithaca. How to explain this disheartening lack of recognition at the very moment of his reunion with the land he has so many times dreamt about? Furthermore, how to explain Penelope's inability to identify the stranger as the long-awaited Odysseus? Even to enter the palace, not to mention to reclaim his identity as king of Ithaca and husband of Penelope, Odysseus has to disguise himself as a stranger. Drawing on the cultural and mythological significance of the Odyssey, I claim that Odysseus must redefine himself to consider himself at home, and that he does so by conjoining the ipse he has inevitably acquired during his voyage to the idem invested in his land and family. Odysseus is a cured nostalgic not because he manages to return, but because he reconciles change with identity, discovering himself as another. Unlike Robinson Crusoe, who reinvents this familiar world on the island to make himself at home, thus reinstating his idem, Odysseus reinvents himself to make Ithaca his home again, and thus he aligns his idem with the ipse he has become.
Like a modem Robinson Crusoe, Calin remains the same in the very midst of difference. Hoffman is a modern replica of Odysseus, with the important difference that she does not need to return and live in her native Poland to feel at home again. Her identity develops in the context of two divergent narratives: One records the actual events in her Canadian and then American existence, whereas the other is a series of hypothesis constituting a scenario of her potential life in Poland (the career she would have had as a pianist, the man she would have married, and so on). Hoffman takes a dynamic approach to the self, in which her memories are connected to the present, and her sense of a Polish identity is combined with a sense of American identity. Together, these identities then lead to another self, a reflective instance capable of assimilating imaginary, recollected, and projected manifestations of who she is.
Judged by the theories, concepts, and method it employs, this study is intended for people who are interested in intercultural communication, discourse and identity studies, philosophy, and literature. But I also hope to reach a diverse audience across disciplines made of those who might use different methods to address the same issue that concerns me: the relation between self-identity and social, historical, and cultural change. I see nostalgia as a defense mechanism designed to maintain a stable identity by providing continuity among various stages in a person's life. But I don't intend this study as a recommendation that immigrant nostalgia must necessarily be treated and "cured," or explained away as the illusion that we never really change, that we remain "ourselves" underneath superficial changes and adaptations. I hope to draw the reader's attention to the specific questions an immigrant must address when confronted with the question of adjustment. In a way, the course of my argument, leading from Vera Calin's intentional maladjustment to the adaptive strategies of Eva Hoffman also reflects the shift from the pathological to the symbolic understanding of nostalgia. But I do not regard this as a positive transition. Nostalgia is an important concept precisely because it is twofold: It concerns and connotes different aspects of selfendorsement, idem and ipse. Ultimately, my view is that the experiences of immigrants prove, as a sort of limited-case, that the idem and the ipse are contiguous, not mutually exclusive. To value sameness or stability is not tantamount to rejecting difference or resisting adjustment. The concept of nostalgia I propose in this book mandates a constant search for the self, an effort to define and redefine identity by pondering its prior stages of manifestation, and by finding connections between the past and the present, as well as anticipating the future. Adult immigrants are not born anew and they do not begin a totally new life, not even when they must learn the basics of a new language, or pick a new trade, start a new family, and so on. We leave a lot of things behind, but we all bring along a sense of who we are. Adjustment can begin when the immigrants realize what is at stake-their self-and realize what is at stake when nostalgia focuses their attention on their life stories and themselves as the protagonists of these stories.
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