Ancient and Modern Insights about Individuality, Life, and Death
Part I: Existence of Self and philosophical development of the idea
1 The Self: is there such a thing?
2 The varieties of self and philosophical development of the idea
Part II: Personal identity over time
3 Same person in eternal recurrence, resurrection, and teletransportation
4 Stoic fusion and modern fission: Survival cannot depend on what happens to someone else
5 Memory: Locke’s return to Epicureans and Stoics
Part III: Platonism: impersonal selves, bundles, and differentiation
6 Is the true self individual in the Platonist tradition from Plato to Averroës?
7 Bundles and differentiation of individuals
Part IV: Identity and persona in ethics
8 Individual persona vs. universalizability
9 Plutarch: narrative and a whole life
10 Self as practical reason: Epictetus’ inviolable self and Aristotle’s deliberate choice
Part V: Self-awareness
11 Impossibility of self-knowledge
12 Infallibility of self-knowledge: Cogito and Flying Man
13 Knowing self through others versus direct and invariable self-knowledge
14 Unity of self-awareness
Part VI: Ownerless streams of consciousness rejected
15 Why I am not a stream of consciousness
16 The debate between ancient Buddhism and the Nyaya school
Part VII: Mortality and loss of self
17 How might we survive death?
18 Could we survive through time going in a circle?
19 If we do not survive death, is it irrational to feel dismay?
Table of thinkers
Select bibliography of secondary literature
“Richard Sorabji’s books typically display a remarkable combination of virtues: meticulous scholarship, amazing historical range, philosophical insight and precision, and a vivid sense of the issues that a nonphilosophical reader will find interesting and engaging. Self may be his best, displaying all those virtues at a very high level. Sorabji has mastered not only the obvious texts of Plato, Aristotle, and Hellenistic philosophy, but also later texts that many philosophers ignore. Sorabji has a missionary enthusiasm for these texts, and writes about them with the sort of élan that will captivate readers.”
“Richard Sorabji has accomplished what Vico envisioned and what Foucault, Taylor, and other philosophical anthropologists have variously attempted—namely, to provide a road map to the self. While others have explored the archaeology of the self with highly-selective demonstration excavations, Sorabji has taken up this same project with an astonishing breadth of systematic scholarship encompassing much of literate human history, ranging from the ancient Greco-Roman invention of the persona, Hindu and Buddhist explorations of personal identity to Christian, Islamic, and contemporary variants of the question, ‘what is it to be myself.’ With astonishing erudition and deep thinking, this is a rare work that captures the mystery of philosophy, its wondrously multi-faceted ineffability, as each of us looks into the mirror of the soul and wonders who we are exactly.”
“This is an extraordinarily rich, learned, thoughtful and personal study of a fascinating subject. While exploring a remarkably wide range of subjects—embracing Eastern religion as well as classical Antiquity, the classical tradition and modern Western philosophy—the book maintains a clear focus on a specific set of issues and concepts. Overall, a distinctive vision of the complex, many-layered subject of the self emerges, as well as an exceptionally informative and perceptive review of philosophical perspectives.”
Journal of the History of Philosophy: Best Book Prize