One of our lecturers earlier in the week alluded to the shift in an individual’s concept of Self that can be detected between medieval and modern Western societies. In fact, even the way I’ve framed that sentence would be a pretty good indicator of where I belong in that development.
The work of Descartes is often picked out as a herald of this revolution.
The pre-Cartesian self has been characterised as ‘porous’ as opposed to the modern ‘buffered self’ (the terms come from Charles Taylor).
Almost everyone can agree that one of the big differences between us and our ancestors of five hundred years ago is that they lived in an â€œenchantedâ€ world, and we do not; at the very least, we live in a much less â€œenchantedâ€ world. We might think of this as our having â€œlostâ€ a number of beliefs and the practices which they made possible. But more, the enchanted world was one in which these forces could cross a porous boundary and shape our lives, psychic and physical. One of the big differences between us and them is that we live with a much firmer sense of the boundary between self and other. We are â€œbufferedâ€ selves. We have changed. (Read More)
And maybe we are changing again. The growing awareness of our environmental impact may be contributing to a concept of the ‘ecological self’. Have a read of Tim Flannery’s words in an interview with Andrew Denton:
TIM FLANNERY: Well Gaia is our earth, this extraordinary living organism of ours that weâ€™re all part of and just breathing now, talking we are plugged into Gaia arenâ€™t we? We are, we taking the atmosphere into our bodies, weâ€™re changing its chemical composition and weâ€™re exhaling it. And itâ€™s life that makes the atmosphere what it is, thatâ€™s a very important aspect of Gaia you know. Gaia is life working as a whole to maintain the atmosphere as it is, so that life can go on. So Gaia I think is is saying to us itâ€™s time you took control. (Read More)
How does a Christian understanding of subjectivity interact with, and critique, the ecological self?
No answers, just a question.