Desire/Knowledge

19 May 2017

Keynote 2 –  5:00 pm

‘Being Personal’

Aristotle gives as an example of investigating the essence of something the question: what is the “to be you”? This is an instance of questioning about human individuality. In this paper, I examine the opposition between two ways to answer Aristotle’s question about what makes you the person you are.

According to the anthropomorphic conception of being a person, a self-moving agent is a person by being able to behave like a human being, i.e. by sharing with others a human form of life. According to the egological conception of being personal, I am a person because I am a self or a Cartesian Ego, whose subjective identity is distinct from my human identity.

I will argue first that the egological conception breaks down because it takes the person to self-related in a reflexive way. I will argue then that there are more ways for an agent to achieve a state of self-relation than by means of self-objectification.

Vincent Descombes, Professor, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, and Visiting Professor Emeritus of Social Thought, University of Chicago. His highly influential work on the philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of literature includes Modern French Philosophy (1980); Objects of All Sorts: A Philosophical Grammar (1988); Proust: Philosophy of the Novel (1992); The Barometer of Modern Reason: On the Philosophy of Current Events (1993); The Mind’s Provisions: A Critique of Cognitivism (2001); Les Institutions du sens (1996); Le Complément de sujet (2004).