The Dangerous Art of Biography
Chapter Four: Moral Accountability and Narrating the Self 85
Chapter Four: Moral Accountability and Narrating the Self Narrative as accountability The conception of the self as a narrative is proposed by the philosophers Paul Ricoeur, Charles Taylor, and Alasdair MacIntyre partly as a way of making sense of moral accountability. MacIntyre says ‘I am forever whatever I have been for others – and I may at any time be called upon to answer for it.’1 MacIntyre’s notion of moral accountability is a familiar one, clearly tied to actions. Taylor’s emphasis is somewhat different. Taylor puts stress on ‘making sense’ of our lives, something which he depicts as a moral challenge, so that we are responsible for our lives growing, having a meaningful direction, having weight.2 Taylor says: To repudiate my childhood as unredeemable in this sense is to accept a kind of mutilation as a person; it is to fail to meet the full challenge involved in making sense of my life. This is the sense in which it is not up for arbitrary determination what the temporal limits of my personhood are.3 Ricoeur talks of confronting ‘narrative identity, oscillating between sameness and selfhood, and ethical identity, which requires a person to be accountable for his or her actions’.4 Later, Ricoeur suggests that instead of striving for sameness, we should look at: the essentially ethical notion of self-constancy. Self-constancy is for each person that manner of conducting himself or herself so that others can count on that per- son. Because someone is counting on me, I am accountable for my...
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