The Quest for Identity, or Longing for the Unity of the Self

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    Abstract

    The basic things of life are not questioned until they are no longer self-evident. Most of us do not really think about the air we breathe until its quality becomes threatened. The preoccupation with “identity”, both at the collective and individual levels, can be understood along the same line. The fact that identity has become an overriding concern reflects the threat of disintegration or actual disintegration. Yet, there is an important difference. The popularity of identity as a term can be considered as part of the problem, or so it is argued. Indeed, the widespread recourse to identity, both in our language and thinking, not only manifests the fear of disintegration, but also masks the complexity of the coming-to-be of one’s selfhood. The espousal of a particular identity can help conceal the fragility or even absence of an “I”, and the unwillingness to cultivate the latter. The linguistic and conceptual shift to identity overshadows the laborious, lifelong process of the making of the self, or of character-building. The adoption of false, dangerous and self-alienating identities is therefore also facilitated. In order to address this problem, I revert to the concept “self” and consider its constitution. Along this line, false identities are external, non-personal unities that may provide temporary security or comfort, while not being unified selves.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)38-52
    JournalEuropa Forum Philosophie
    Volume68
    Publication statusPublished - 2019

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