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Stefán Snævarr
The Self in Emotional Space


There are by necessity emotional moments in the Self, without them no Self. Metaphorically, we can say that the Self moves in emotional space.1 The reasons for this are as follows: 1) Heidegger was right about the Self being something that cares for itself. And Robert C. Roberts is right in saying that emotions are concern-based construals (a construal is created by seeing-as, i.e. aspect seeing). The present writer maintains that the Self is a construal; we see different emotional episodes, thoughts, actions and so on as being a part of a whole, a Gestalt called the Self. Thus, the Self has the same structural properties as emotions; it is a concern-based construal. So the first dimension of the emotional space of the Self is the dimension of concerns. The Self can move towards or away from given concerns but never escape the dimension. 2) Now, Harry Frankfurt quite correctly says that a person’s identity is partly constituted by the set of passions he or she endorses. To use the terminology of the present writer, a person must place herself at a distance or in proximity to certain passions, at distance from the ones she rejects, in proximity to those she endorses. This is the second dimension of emotional space, the dimension of endorsed or rejected emotions.3)The third dimension is the one of Self-consciousness. Antonio Damasio has put forth some convincing arguments in favor of our Self-awareness being emotional; we feel that we are, but we do not know it in an intellectual fashion. This dimension of the cogito is a sort of micro-space where closeness is all there is, closeness to the I-am. 4) The next dimension is that of narrativity. The present writer maintains that the constitutive stories of the Self are stories with emotive structure. The inspiration comes from Patrick Colm Hogan. 5) The last dimension is the dimension of strong evaluation. Charles Taylor is right about strong evaluation being a part of who we are. These evaluations are emotional, we evaluate strongly by pulling us from evaluations we do not want to have and push ourselves towards those we want to have. 6) I point out that we in our workaday life actually identify others and ourselves on emotional ground (“Joan the proud”) and that our concept of Self is designed for beings that usually have emotions and that these emotions tend to matter for these beings.


1 The first thinker to place the Self in emotional space was David Hume who seems to have thought that emotions such as pride and humility create a Self of sorts, arguably a real one in contrast to the substantial Self Hume “deconstructed.” Pride and humility concern, by necessity, the individual having them. You can only be proud of your house if you consider yourself its proud owner. I think it is fruitful to contrast this to blind rage, which by necessity does not concern a person directly because the person is oblivious of his/her own existence while in this emotional state. But could there be a blind pride? I think not. The “Self-centred” moment of pride and humility is obviously a moment of concern and care for oneself, even though Hume does not use these expressions.
Hume (1972): A Treatise of Human Nature. Books Two and Three (edited by Páll S. Árdal). London: Fontana/Collins, pp. 38-49 (Book II, Part I, Sections II-V).

Stefán Snævarr is a Professor of Philosophy at Lillehammer University in Norway. He was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1953. He studied at the University of Oslo, finishing his MA in philosophy in 1986. He also studied at the Universities of Heidelberg and Frankfurt. He worked as a part-time teacher of philosophy at the Universities of Oslo, Reykjavik and Bergen, Norway. He spent several years pursuing a career as a writer of imaginative literature. He took his PhD in philosophy in 1998 at the University of Bergen. He then became associate professor of philosophy at the University College of Lillehammer, Norway in 1998 and full professor in 2003. He is the author of several books in three languages, English, Norwegian and Icelandic. His sole book in English to this date is Minerva and the Muses. The Place of Reason in Aesthetic Judgement. A book in Norwegian, an introduction to the philosophy of art, will be published in the spring of 2008. He is currently writing a book in English on metaphors, narratives emotions, and Selves. He has published philosophical articles on various issues, besides essays of various kinds, and some books of imaginative literature.


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