Nietzsche, Musil, Atay
← 8 | 9 →Introduction
To the question ‘what is self?’ philosophers give a variety of answers. Some claim that such a thing does not exist at all, while others say the opposite and attempt to give us an account of the self by grounding it in God, spirit, substance, nature or brain, or body, or some combinations of these. Some turn to antiquity, claiming that we could understand things better if only we could establish a continuity between concepts at different times. In other words, they argue that when the ancients asked questions similar to today’s, like ‘what is the fundamental truth of human nature?’ or ‘what defines the identity of an individual?’ they were, in fact, dealing with the one and the same sort of problem.
Whether such continuity – between the conception of the self in antiquity and in modern philosophical thought – exists or not extends the scope of this book, and despite the fact that our contemporary ideas about self stem from Descartes, it is well known that Greek philosophy is a rich source for philosophers and that they often find themselves in a constant dialogue with the Greeks (Nietzsche). So, I will give a synopsis of the conceptions of the self in different eras before we turn to modern conceptions of the self, and, correspondingly, its ethical ramifications.
Richard Sorabji claims that there is such a thing as self and that there was in the ancient Greek world. He says that autos (‘same’, emphatic...
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