Patrick Stokes: “Naked Subjectivity: Minimal vs. Narrative Selves in Kierkegaard”

The journal Inquiry has just published an essay by Patrick Stokes (Philosophy, University of Hertfordshire), which we thought would interest some of you. It is it entitled “Naked Subjectivity: Minimal vs. Narrative Selves in Kierkegaard.” To access it, click here.

Here is the abstract:

In recent years a significant debate has arisen as to whether Kierkegaard offers a version of the “narrative approach” to issues of personal identity and self-constitution. In this paper I do not directly take sides in this debate, but consider instead the applicability of a recent development in the broader literature on narrative identity—the distinction between the temporally-extended “narrative self” and the non-extended “minimal self—to Kierkegaard’s work. I argue that such a distinction is both necessary for making sense of Kierkegaard’s claim that we are ethically enjoined to become selves, and can indeed be found in Either/Or and the later The Sickness Unto Death. Despite Kierkegaard’s Non-Substantialism, each of these texts speaks (somewhat obliquely) of a “naked self” that is separable from the concrete facticity of human being. In both cases, this minimal self is linked to issues of eschatological responsibility; yet the two works develop very different understandings of “eternity” and correspondingly divergent accounts of the temporality of selfhood. This complicates the picture of Kierkegaardian selfhood in interesting ways, taking it beyond both narrativist and more standard neo-Lockean models of what it is to be a self.

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