The Philosophies of the Self module (PI32022)

Learn of the varying thoughts and ideas of what we believe the self to be

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You will explore what is meant when we ask 'what is the self?'. You will touch on topics and questions such as:

  • Is it a substance that remains constant through time and despite change?
  • Is such constancy merely an illusion or is it something else entirely?
  • Is this even the right way to approach whatever is most properly ours?

You will also think about others in relationship to the self such as 'What of the others and their selves?' and 'How might we approach them?'

You will even go as far to ask 'how have we, the self, stepped back from the other?'

This module highlights that the importance of the question of selfhood is integral to, not only, philosophy, but also to how society is built and the common beliefs we follow.

You will get both a historical overview and an example of a particular type of philosophical investigation in practice: a phenomenological and deconstructive one.

Topics covered in lectures and tutorials include:

  • the constitution of subjectivity and the self
  • the master-slave relationship and its relationship to the self in Hegel
  • the role of the Other
  • the transformation of the self
  • the distinction between the self and the subject

The core reading focuses on key texts within the history of philosophy which argue for different and sometimes competing notions of selfhood. These include extracts from works by Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Lacan, Althusser and Badiou amongst others.

What you will learn:

In this module you will:

  • develop a deeper understanding on different views of 'the self'
  • understand the history of modern philosophy
  • discuss how different theories claim that a self is created

By the end of this module you will be able to:

  • form your own conclusions about the different concepts of the self and their socio-ethical implications.
  • to give an account of what is a self and how it is formed
  • how culture and politics determines a self

Assignments / assessment

  • weekly essay questions (20%)
  • 3000 word essay (80%)

This module does not have a final exam

Teaching methods / timetable

  • lectures
  • tutorials


This module is available on following courses: