Articles from 10/2011

22 October 2011

17 October 2011

Reading Fiction Improves Empathy

Burying your head in a novel isn't just a way to escape the world: psychologists are increasingly finding that reading can affect our personalities. A trip into the world of Stephenie Meyer, for example, actually makes us feel like vampires. Researchers from the University at Buffalo gave 140 undergraduates passages from either Meyer's Twilight or JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to read, with the vampire group delving into an extract in which Edward Cullen tells his teenage love interest Bella what it is like to be a vampire, and the wizardly readers getting…Read

Spinning Narratives, Spinning Selves

The ‘narrative self’ is now widely accepted by philosophers as an appropriate metaphor for the self. Philosophical interest in narrative as representative of human lives was strongly influenced by Hannah Arendt’s “The Human Condition.

In this book, Arendt, a political philosopher, proposes that the individual discloses his/her self to the world and to themselves through both action and speech: “Action and speech are so closely related because the primordial and specifically human act must at the same time contain the answer to the question asked…Read


Plato refers to stories and myths that serve as a point of departure and exemplification for his abstract teachings, a tradition that continues in philosophy even today. Underlying this practice is the idea that the function of narrative is to provide concrete examples in support of conceptual arguments. Hegel formulates the insight that philosophical concepts can themselves only be understood as the end result of their own story (Plotnitsky, Arkady (2005a). “Philosophy and Narrative.” D. Herman et al. (eds). The Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory. London: Routledge, 427–28.2005a).


Husserl’s disciple…Read

Narrative and Identity

Identity and narrative agree well from a broadly Heideggerian perspective which argues the constitution of being through language. We could in fact go as far back as the ancient Greek philosopher, Parmenides if we find that a more general identification of being and thought is relevant to the subject, but one can easily get lost within such broad ascriptions especially when their relevance to narrative and identity is only implicit. Consequently I will concentrate on a line of thought which is more congenial to me, and one which I think is a more immediately relevant classical locus to ground…Read

Ideology and the Self

JOSHUA KNOBE, a pioneer in the field of "experimental philosophy" at Yale University has contributed a fascinating piece to the New York Times' online philosophy forum on the intuitions of ordinary folk about what constitutes the "true self" So what has this to do with politics? A great deal, it seems. Mr Knobe and his colleagues, the psychologists George Newman and Paul Bloom, suspected that intuitions about the true self largely reflect prior ideological commitments. So they concocted scenarios designed to elicit different judgments from conservative and liberal subjects. Their "conservative items" describe a person changing in a way…Read

Don Quixote and the Narrative Self

Once upon a time a philosopher wrote an article called ‘Don Quixote and The Narrative Self’. He commenced by saying: In this essay, I will discuss the question of whether our selves are constituted by narratives, ie stories. Are we like Don Quixote, whose self was created by his reading of medieval romances: are we Homo quixotienses, the narrative self?

Or are we rather like the protagonist of Sartre’s novel Nausea, Antonin Roquentin, whose life did not form any narrative unity? Are we in other words rather Homo roquentinenses?

The idea…Read

To Thine Own Self Be True

But what did Shakespeare mean he wrote these words? He seems to imply that we have a permanent self, something to which we should always be faithful. In a recent article in the Economist, Will Wilkinson commented that he believed that “the sense of the self is an evolutionary construction with a certain social function.” he enlarged upon this by then saying, “ so we build a sense of self upon the shared moral ideology of our local culture.” Is this a true interpretation of Shakespeare’s words. We decided to ask some…Read

Editorial: What’s Your Story?

“All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players.” -Shakespeare

I wonder if anyone else is haunted by the thought that if their life was made into a movie, it would get bad reviews. People often complain that their lives are dull, boring or just plain ordinary. Some decide to fight against this fate by making every moment count, embarking on adventures like base jumping, big wave surfing, risky entrepreneurship or war.

But perhaps movies and books are just an escape, and they must by necessity…Read