Letting go of one's life story

Think 17 (50):91-100 (2018)
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Abstract

Persons are widely believed to be rational, planning agents that are both author and main character of their life stories. A major goal is to keep these narratives coherent as they unfold, and part of a fulfilled life allegedly stems from this coherence. My aim is to challenge these convictions by considering two related claims about persons and their lives. Contrary to the widespread theoretical conviction in philosophy of mind and action, persons are fundamentally emotional and affective rather than rational and deliberative beings. And so, on a practical level, persons need not constantly aspire to integrate their past, present, and future into a coherent whole in order to live fulfilled lives. Needless to say, I cannot hope to defend these claims and their relation in great detail with a few brief strokes. In addition to theoretical reflections, I discuss some practical implications and potential benefits that come with discarding the daunting task of continuously keeping track of one's life story. Drawing on insights from a contemplative Buddhist tale, I venture that the practice of letting go can break the spell, and give rise to an alleviating source of liberation from life's troubles.Export citation.

Author's Profile

Nils-Frederic Wagner
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

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