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The Self and Transcendence of Emotion

Gough, A.Martin (2008) The Self and Transcendence of Emotion. In: European Society for Research on the Education of Adults Life History and Biographical Research Network Conference “Researching and theorising the emotional dimensions of learning and researching lives: a neglected species?”, 6-9 March 2008, Canterbury Christ Church University. (Unpublished) (KAR id:25277)

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I explore issues surrounding the identity of persons arising out of a certain education-related biographical research programme (of the Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning). Particular research projects of the programme include in-depth biographical interviews with probing for how the interviewee would describe themselves and would describe their identity, allowing them to make their own links in the context of their whole life and the learning experiences within it. The interviews enquire about different points in the "lifecourse" of the interviewee and it is interesting to see how much they want to identify themselves with their life story (or parts of it) how much with personality traits and how much with social groupings, such as gender, ethnic or national affiliation. This Parfitian sense of identification (or non-identification) tends to rest upon emotional and ethical significance. I use results from this qualitative empirical research to inform the philosophical conclusions about core and peripheral concepts of Self.

Persons have an identity, or a collection of identities, composed of a dichotomy of social and individual aspects but such a claim, whilst true, needs elaboration if it is to be informative. A fundamental philosophical question is whether such descriptors, both individual identifiers and social categories, suffice in constituting selfhood, as would be the case in post-structuralist linguistic ontology, such as cruder versions of social constructionism. I suggest that theories of narrative identity offer much more towards explaining our concept of Self, through its power to transcend and integrate, through applying emotional and ethical significance, different facets which make up a person’s identity.

It is a further philosophical question whether this is necessary or sufficient in order to have a core sense of Self. I dispute that the development of self-concept required for narrative identity is so necessary in order to have a core sense of Self, and so I take issue with Ricoeur and others to some extent. I maintain that the immediacy of self-consciousness provides a core sense of Self. This synchronic intuition underpins the transcendence of the Self, in Sartre’s terminology. Using a Sartrean metaphor, the diachronic Self of your past, of the autobiographical narrative, goes around with you as you would wear your cloak, which you may in turn take off. The Sartrean view of emotion is that it effects a “magical transformation of the world”, which explains in a narrative both the centrality of episodes of emotional significance and at the same time a self-distancing by the narrating self, a transcending of the emotion.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC5201 Education extension. Adult education. Continuing education
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BD Speculative Philosophy
Divisions: Divisions > Directorate of Education > Centre for the Study of Higher Education
Funders: University of Kent (
Depositing User: Martin Gough
Date Deposited: 14 Aug 2010 14:21 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2022 10:40 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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Gough, A.Martin.

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