What is the Self? A Philosophy of Psychology

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The studies presented here have a central point of departure: it is remarkable that we, as biological organisms in a social world, configure our lives in terms of selves. This work succeeds in bringing together different but related disciplines concerned with people and the histories and conditions of their lives.


“One need not wear the moniker of ‘post’, regardless of which stripe, to recognise the importance that ‘the self’ has taken in contemporary fields of inquiry that span the human sciences. Indeed, for many of those working in the wake of post-modernism (post-structuralism, post-positivism, among others) the very notion of anything that smacks of a substantial ‘self’ is anathema. Yet it is precisely on the question of the self that our deepest concerns about human nature turn; including the means of investigating that nature and the question of what moral powers constitute the being that has such a nature ... Dr. Craig is right to take us at once through the labyrinth of the neurosciences as well as considerations of the body (raising the question of whether it is possible to even speak of the body). Her inquiry moves beyond these fascinating but inconclusive considerations to the more interesting problem of what gives the self an enduring, as well as stable and unifying, characteristic in our lives. Eschewing the fashionable response (‘the self is an illusion’) she works out what it might mean to be a ‘biographical self’ ... This book brings us back to such fundamental questions; we can only hope psychologists take note.” – (from the Preface) Professor Hendrikus J. Stam, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

“It is life affirming to be able to read a work such as this one by Dr. Anita Craig while living in an era in which the field of psychology has succumbed to the despairing minimalism of our times. How rare and wonderful to read a treatise that attempts to define human beings as other than empty intersections of S’s and R’s ... This is a volume to be read, reread and savored for its ideas, its brilliant use of language, and its implications for all of the human sciences that it is capable of creating and influencing. It is mandatory reading for all professionals in the social sciences that include psychology, sociology, anthropology, and political science. It is necessary reading for all of us who struggle to shape a field that is a modern science using empirical methods to seek truths about ourselves as human beings while recognizing that human beings are best understood and describes as story tellers by story tellers ...” – Laurence Simon, Professor Emeritus, The City University of New York

“It is clear that there is a steadily mounting understanding that human cognition cannot be adequately grasped by locating it inside the head of an idealised Cartesian subject and that tying mind to body and reason to emotion while locating an evolved subject in the world not only offers a suite of empirical opportunities for cognitive scientists but must lead to a reconfiguration of the way we understand our selves, a prospect of some significance for the discipline of psychology as a whole ... This study draws together a diverse array of materials, from the recent and relatively accessible popular end of the literature on evolution to classical technical philosophical texts. In doing so, Dr. Craig not only indicates the depth and extent of her understanding, but also the reach that is necessary if one is to create a properly ground psychology of the self ...” – Professor Peter Henzi, University of Central Lancashire

" ... provides a fresh and innovative analysis of the concept of the self as the book articulates the diverse conceptions of the self in a detailed and comprehensible manner ... an extremely useful framework for philosophers, cognitive scientists, psychologists and neural scientists who are interested in doing future work on the subject ..." - Metapsychology Online Reviews, October 2006

“I find Dr. A.P. Craig’s ideas so compelling and logically drawn that if I had the power I would see to it that no one would be permitted to graduate with a degree in psychology of psychiatry without demonstrating genuine familiarity with this book . . . Dr. Craig is able to overcome the false separations and dichotomies that have bedeviled and still bedevil the field of psychology: nature versus nurture, self versus object, individual versus culture. She is able to rid us of the Cartesian “ghost in the machine” as well as the notion that the self is somehow separate from the culture and merely wrapped up in it . . . I recommend this volume to all those who love a rich stew of ideas that can help clarify so many of the implicit assumptions that create scientific and conceptual problems for the field of psychology. I urge anyone struggling with the inanities, extreme reductionisms, and dangerous texts that sustain psychiatry, and anyone who hopes to see psychology free itself from its ties to psychiatry, to read, reread, and enjoy this book.” – Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry: An International Journal of Critical Inquiry

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Certainties and Doubts
3. Oedipus to Cyborg
4. Bodies as Selves
5. Meaningful Things

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