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Authority and Estrangement: An Essay on Self-Knowledge. [Paperback]

By Richard Moran (Author)
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Item description for Authority and Estrangement: An Essay on Self-Knowledge. by Richard Moran...

Since Socrates, and through Descartes to the present day, the problems of self-knowledge have been central to philosophy's understanding of itself. Today the idea of ''first-person authority''--the claim of a distinctive relation each person has toward his or her own mental life--has been challenged from a number of directions, to the point where many doubt the person bears any distinctive relation to his or her own mental life, let alone a privileged one. In "Authority and Estrangement," Richard Moran argues for a reconception of the first-person and its claims. Indeed, he writes, a more thorough repudiation of the idea of privileged inner observation leads to a deeper appreciation of the systematic differences between self-knowledge and the knowledge of others, differences that are both irreducible and constitutive of the very concept and life of the person.

Masterfully blending philosophy of mind and moral psychology, Moran develops a view of self-knowledge that concentrates on the self as agent rather than spectator. He argues that while each person does speak for his own thought and feeling with a distinctive authority, that very authority is tied just as much to the disprivileging of the first-person, to its specific possibilities of alienation. Drawing on certain themes from Wittgenstein, Sartre, and others, the book explores the extent to which what we say about ourselves is a matter of discovery or of creation, the difficulties and limitations in being ''objective'' toward ourselves, and the conflicting demands of realism about oneself and responsibility for oneself. What emerges is a strikingly original and psychologically nuanced exploration of the contrasting ideals of relations to oneself and relations to others.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Princeton University Press
Pages   202
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.2" Width: 6.3" Height: 0.64"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 6, 2012
Publisher   Princeton University Press
ISBN  0691089450  
ISBN13  9780691089454  

Availability  52 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 24, 2016 10:25.
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More About Richard Moran

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Richard Moran is Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University.

Richard Moran was born in 1953.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Consciousness & Thought
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Epistemology
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Authority and Estrangement: An Essay on Self-Knowledge.?

One of the best books on the nature of I  Feb 7, 2005
Excellent book! It shows in astonishing profundity how Descartes's "I think therefore I am" was just the beginning of a beginning of the serious discussion on the first-person authority.

Mr. Moran successfully demonstrates that the otherwise disprivileging similarities between the first-person perspective and the third-person one, in fact, offer us the best possible understanding of the first-person as an agent responsible for her own actions in a world dominated by Other-person-stances. The arguments he brings in defense of his position range from subtle to sublime. I especially enjoyed his extended analysis of Sartre's rakehell-gambler. Highly recommended.
Admiring yourself for despising yourself and so on  May 12, 2004
Imagine you have to finish off a piece of work tonight, or in any case it would be good if you did - if only for the relief of having got it over with. You have seen yourself lose heart and fail at similar tasks before, though they were by no means impossible to accomplish. As you set out to add a few extra hundred words to your manuscript, your poor record so far begins to haunt you. Knowing yourself all too well, as far as keeping deadlines goes anyway, you end up thinking that you, or whoever is having your thoughts, must be a gullible fool. Surely someone else, in all respects like you, could only be expected not to finish it off tonight, so why should it make any difference that the prediction of failure in this particular case concerns you and not someone else?

And yet it does matter that the thoughts about your task tonight are yours and not someone else's, and that is because - at least if you want to stay sane - you cannot abdicate from responsibility for your actions into a purely spectatorial perspective on what you will in fact do. What makes all the difference here is not that you are more intimately familiar with your past record as a writer than anyone else might be, or that you grasp all the inner circumstances of writing and its terrible difficulty in your specific case, or else that no one can see that you really have it within yourself to succeed. Rather, the crucial point is that you cannot always merely observe yourself as if you were someone else and retain a normal life as a person. If you resolve to churn out a few more pages tonight, you may of course be deluding yourself again, but your intention will differ very significantly from an impersonal assessment of how things are likely to turn out with someone who just happens to be you.

Richard Moran's wonderful book examines this and related issues in a subtle and patient way, and it does a lot to undermine the belief that it is special access to your inner life, rather than a unique responsibility for what you do with yourself, that makes you a person, someone already lodged in a world with others like you. All chapters repay in abundance close attention and rereading, but the last one - with a brilliant passage on Kingsley Amis's adulterer admiring himself for despising himself for his adultery - is a masterpiece. In addition to all its philosophical merits, this book is also a discreet source of hope for eternal procrastinators like the present writer...


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