“Confessions, Excuses, and the Storytelling Self: Rereading Rousseau with Paul de Man” in Re-thinking European Politics and History, Vienna: IWM Junior Visiting Fellows' Conferences, Vol. 32 (2012). (Full text online)
Middling Readers: Heidegger, Everydayness, and the Narrative Self
Introduction: Who—Not What—Am I?
Chapter 1 Reading from the Middle: Thrown Projection
Chapter 2 “In Interpretation, Understanding Becomes Itself”: Narratability and Narration, Sideshadowing and Possibility
Chapter 3 Is Life a Text?, or “What Ontology in View?”: On the Metaphors of Narrativity
Chapter 4 “We Are Never More than the Co-Authors of Our Own Narratives”: Being-With Others
Chapter 5 Living in Received Possibilities: Das Man, Falling, and Bad Faith
Chapter 6 Stories Before Facts: Dasein's Disclosiveness as Primordial Telling
Conclusion The Ironist: Even a Man Without Qualities Has a Character
Committee: Charles Griswold, Daniel Dahlstrom, Allen Speight
Since work by Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor, and Paul Ricoeur, there has been sustained interest among philosophers in the view that narrative plays an essential role in how we understand our lives and selves or—more radically—in how we constitute ourselves as full persons. At one extreme, MacIntyre and Taylor argue that our desires and commitments are hierarchically organized, in the best case unifying our lives into narrative quests. At the other extreme, Galen Strawson has attacked narrativity as far from universal, as well as spurious when taken as an ideal. Thinkers such as Marya Schechtman, Peter Goldie, Daniel Dennett, and David Velleman defend conceptions between these extremes. After examining this background in detail, my dissertation offers an interpretation of Heidegger that supports a revised conception of narrative's role in self-understanding. Whereas existing theories are driven by master metaphors of the self as author, the self as a character, or of lives as stories, I argue that the relationship between the self and narrative is better understood through a notion of reading.
Heidegger scholars disagree as to whether the notions of authenticity and historicality put forward in Being and Time support a narrative conception of the self. In my view, Heideggerian “everydayness”—how we are, prior to any reckoning with authenticity—amounts already to a version of the narrative self. Just as readers mid-story understand characters by projecting where they are going, we understand who we are by projecting provisional plotlines for our futures. Such understanding is made explicit in textual narratives, which preserve the structure of lived experience better than any other form of description. Literary narratives, especially certain kinds of experimental rather than “realist” ones, most accurately represent the structure of existential possibilities. Heidegger's notion of truth as disclosing provides a frame which makes the anti-naturalist implications of narrativity more coherent. By bracketing Heidegger's controversial notion of authenticity, conversation with recent work in Anglo-American philosophy on narrative and the self is facilitated. My revised conception of the narrative self establishes a basis for further work on how we use narrative to understand and organize our lives.
Introduction: Who—Not What—Am I?
Part One: Contemporary Debates
Chapter 1 Life Stories, Master Narratives, and the Rise of the Everyday: The Founding Arguments of MacIntyre and Taylor
Chapter 2 Deconstructing “Galen Strawson”: The Phenomenology of Selves, Subjects, and Human Beings
Chapter 3 The (Re)Presentation of Temporal Human Meanings: A Baseline Characterization of Narrative
Chapter 4 Are Live Narratives, Non-Metaphorically?: Or, “What Ontology in View?”
Part Two: A Narrativist Interpretation of Heideggerian Everydayness
Chapter 5 How Sartre, Philosopher, Misreads Sartre, Novelist: Nausea and the Adventures of the Narrative Self
Chapter 6 Thrown Projection: Our Inescapable Situation as Readers Amidst
Chapter 7 “In Interpretation, Understanding Becomes Itself”: Narratability and Narration, Sideshadowing and Possibility
Chapter 8 Living in Received Possibilities: Das Man, Falling, and Bad Faith
Conclusion: Heideggerian Disclosing as Telling