Self-Construction and the Formation of Human Values: Truth, Language, and Desire

Self-Construction and the Formation of Human Values: Truth, Language, and Desire

Self-Construction and the Formation of Human Values: Truth, Language, and Desire

Self-Construction and the Formation of Human Values: Truth, Language, and Desire

Synopsis

This volume presents a theoretical defense of the potential of ordinary individuals to construct values and through them to become self-empowering, responsible participants in a democratic community. Rather than conceiving of power as domination, the author identifies true power as self-empowerment, a notion based on self-construction. He proposes the vision of an authentically free self filled with a compassion that is a composite of reason and feeling. Such a composite self does not consciously manipulate language, truth, and desire to dominate and subordinate other individuals, but uses them to construct values and norms that can enrich others. To support his argument the author draws on both classical and contemporary philosophers, as well as on literary sources.

Excerpt

We forget too easily that a thinker is more essentially effective where he is opposed than where he finds agreement.

--Heidegger, What Is Thinking

Power and domination--contrary to the ancients' and the moderns' conceptions-- are not the same. Rather than conceiving of power as domination, I have chosen to explore power as self-empowerment. Power as domination is destructive of the possibilities inherent in human power. Domination impoverishes one's selfconfidence and destroys one's capacity to grow, change, and evolve. Power as self-empowerment, on the other hand, grounded upon the premise that humans are capable of self-construction and self-constitution, is creative, transformative, and enriching. The authentically self-empowered individual who seeks to construct values is critically aware that he/she is allured by power as domination, but he/she makes sincere efforts to struggle against the temptation and use the tool of selfcontrol to purify himself/herself of the ever tempting "will to power" as domination. Self-construction, following Kant, requires self-generated principles of moral legislation. Of course, recent contributions in certain feminist theorizing have developed powerful ways of combining emotions and reason so that we can in the course of time nurture sensitive humans who will not shamelessly dominate others by succumbing to power as domination. I wish to join those feminist thinkers who have made a special place for compassion as a vehicle of profound thinking, by way of seeking to limit the excess of power, via placing principles as guides of morally sensitive political action. Principles alone cannot guide the selfconstructing moral subject. As certain feminists have rightly stressed, principles must be blended with compassion and care.

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