Self-Realization and Inner Necessity
"How should we live?" is the crucial question Socrates asks at the beginning of one of the first books of philosophy, Plato's Republic. This very important and practical, but also challenging and wide-ranging question preoccupied the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, and is especially pressing for us today, as some traditional sources of authority have lost credibility and more possibilities have opened up to many of us than in the past.
The key aspects of how we should live which this book will focus on are self-realization and inner necessity. The book develops novel ways of looking at both of these topics after considering what some of the greatest thinkers of the last 2000 years or so have had to say about them, ideas which are both relevant and fascinating for us today. Self-realization is often rightly seen as emancipatory and for this reason it is an ideal which appeals to most of us. Inner necessity is about discovering our deepest impulses and following them.
Inner necessity is about discovering our deepest impulses and following them, or, to put in the words attributed by Liv Ullmann to Kierkegaard, "We are all born with sealed orders."
This book is written for people who are interested in philosophy but have no training in the subject. It avoids philosophical jargon and uses a lot of examples to make the issues clearer. These examples are taken from very varied sources, which include novels, poetry, opera, popular music, newspapers, films, painting, history, politics, psychiatry and psychology, reflecting the wide-ranging educational background, experience and interests of the author.
This book is an exploration of self-realization. It does this by seeking answers to a number of questions, including:
- How should one live? (a question asked by Socrates at the beginning of Plato’s Republic)
- How is self-realization connected to autonomy or self-determination?
- What is the "self" in self-realization?
- What is an authentic self?
- What is autonomy or self-determination?
- Why do we value it?
- What makes us more autonomous and what makes us less autonomous?
- What is rationality?
- Where does rationality come from?
- To what extent are humans rational?
- Are there different kinds of self-realization?
- What is individually distinctive self-realization?
- To what extent is individually distinctive self-realization under our conscious control?
- And to what extent is it a matter of inner necessity?
- Is individually distinctive self-realization narcissistic?
- What part do necessity, trust and risk play?
- How can this kind of self-realization go wrong?
- What gives our individual lives meaning?
- Are we responsible for who we are?
- How might individual self-realization affect our notion of justice?
- What is justice?
- What is fairness?
- Is individually distinctive self-realization connected to the common good?
- What holds society together?
- What are the ethical problems of increasing commercialization?
- What is wrong with neoliberalism?
- Was Karl Marx right to say "Philosophers merely interpret the world, the point, however, is to change it"?
The author will contribute to the Conference of Classics and Ancient History in London, 21 June 2014 at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.
He has also been invited by the Philosophy Department of the University of Bristol, UK, to give a presentation on "Epistemic Injustice and Mental Disorders" at a conference entitled "Understanding Epistemic Injustice" on 26 June 2014.