https://doi.org/10.31979/2151-6014(2018).090109">
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Abstract

In Against Individualism, Henry Rosemont argues against a contemporary Western concept of self that takes rational autonomy to be the “core” of what it means to be a person. Rational autonomy is thought to be the only essential feature of this core self, endowing us with an independent existence and moral framework to act accordingly—as independent, rational, autonomous individuals. In marked contrast, and drawing from the Analects of Confucius, Rosemont defines personhood as consisting of social roles and their correlative responsibilities. We are persons relationally, only in virtue of the roles that interdependently connect us to each other. Rosemont holds that the independent self is a chimera that leads to a problematic ethic where our connection to others is undermined instead of seen as central to who we are and how we should treat others. I argue that social roles are also chimeras that are constructed instead of metaphysically given. That is, while we are essentially social, how this plays out is variable and contingent. Moreover, I argue that we are essentially self-aware subjects—or embodied selves—whose personal experience is uniquely our own and inescapably filled with otherness. Both individualizing and socializing aspects of self are necessary as well as interdependent; moreover, favouring one over the other has both positive and negative consequences.

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