Teleology, Narrative, and Death

In John Lippitt & Patrick Stokes (eds.), Narrative, Identity and the Kierkegaardian Self. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 29-45 (2015)
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Heidegger, like Kierkegaard, has recently been claimed as a narrativist about selves. From this Heideggerian perspective, we can see how narrative expands upon the psychological view, adding a vital teleological dimension to the understanding of selfhood while denying the reductionism implicit in the psychological approach. Yet the narrative approach also inherits the neo-Lockean emphasis on the past as determining identity, whereas the self is fundamentally about the future. Death is crucial on this picture, not as allowing for the possibility of a final meaning to our lives, but as determining Dasein as ‘pure unactualizable possibility.’ Ultimately, therefore, narrative is not what constitutes selfhood – but this does not mean that narrative is not relevant to personal identity, because narrative allows identity to be expressed in action.

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Roman Altshuler
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania


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