Reconsidering the Sources of the Self in the Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern Periods

Title: ‘A Decaying Carkass’? Astell on the Embodied Self
Colin Chamberlain,Temple University

Astell’s account of the self is puzzling. On the one hand, Astell suggests that an account of the self is crucial. Care of the self is appropriate, Astell argues, so long as this care is directed towards one’s true self. People are often mistaken about where their real interests lie because they are confused about their nature. On the other hand, Astell is unclear about the kinds of beings we are, or, in other words, what the self is. In some passages, she claims that we are minds, in other passages, that we are composites of mind and body. Thus, Astell’s account of the self lacks the clarity that, by her own lights, we so urgently need. My proposal is that Astell’s considered view is that we are composites of mind and body, but with a twist. The two elements from which human beings are composed—namely, mind and body—are hierarchically ordered. When Astell seems to identify us with our minds, she’s really just calling attention to the fact that our minds are the most important part of ourselves, not the only part of ourselves. Astell’s hierarchical analysis of human nature also helps explain her account of our well-being.



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