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Subjectivity and identity

Department: Faculty of Philosophy

The relevance of this paper is determined by a crisis of collective identities – ethnic, national, confessional, professional - that entail a crisis of individual identity. Taking one of the particular “symbolic strategies” of collective identity as a foundation for one’s actions, the subject accepts merely attributable particular obligations. However, recognition of the exclusively pragmatic nature of this choice as a simple manifestation of loyalty to a cultural community not only transforms reality into a social construct, but also challenges the integrity of the subject as his or her lifeworld, which is broken up into many “incommensurable” symbolic realities – “nation reality”, “gender reality”, “profession reality”, “confession reality”. The identity crisis is diagnosed by post-modernist methodology in the thesis of the “death of the subject”, and a debate on this thesis is the main purpose of the project.

The purposes of the project:
1) historical and philosophical reconstruction of the evolution of ideas about the subject and identity from Antiquity to the modern era;
2) explication of logical, ontological, cultural and sociological dimensions of subjectivity and identity phenomena;
3) analysis of current concepts of subjectivity and identity in different disciplines of the philosophical cycle (ontology, logics, cultural studies, sociology);
4) development of subject ontology, resistant to hypercriticism of post-modernist methodology.

The main purpose of the research is a retrospective reconstruction of the modern philosophy of the subject, reviewed in the light of the most advanced logical, semantical, phemenological and hermeneutical approaches.

During the course of the research, we:

1. Examined the process of the formation of subjectivity problematics in Antique philosophical thinking. We determined the influence of Aristotle’s doctrine of the soul and, in particular, his doctrine of the active mind (nous poietikos) on the formation of major problems in medieval and modern European ontological, psychological and anthropological discourses on the subject. We reconstructed the semantics of the term “person (persona)” in the texts of Cicero and his predecessor - Stoic Panaetius, with special emphasis on the legal dimension of the term and its connotations of the drama. We carried out a semantic analysis of the analogies of modern European subject categories, developed in scholastic and patristic literature (subjectum, “person”, “hypostasis”). We demonstrated that with the category of enhypostatic Leontios Byzantios offered a personal interpretation of subjectivity, as opposed to objective understanding of the concept among ancient philosophers.

2. Conceptualized the relations between the categories of authorship and subjectivity, reconstructed the process of the origination and formation of the author as a responsible subject of the statement in European cultural history. We demonstrated that it is the doctrinal authority that in a paradoxical way required a Scholastic author to take a certain conceptual position and signal the author's will. We used the literary monuments of the Italian and Latin literature of Renaissance (texts by Lorenzo de’ Medici, historians and chronicles authors of the late XIV - early XV cent.) to investigate the process of authors’ emancipation from the authority and the rehabilitation of the author’s subjectivity.

3. Considered the background and consequences of the “transcendental turn” in the interpretation of the subject and its identity: discovered alternative concepts of subjectivity replaced by the Cartesian philosophy of the subject; studied the transformation of the notionof the subject in the European historiography and philosophy of history. We demonstrated that Descartes considered the "I" as a category, not reducible to any object notions ("soul", "thinking man"), which allowed us to consider the Cartesius-initiated project of the “I” history in the existentialist perspective, suggested by M. Heidegger. We identified the foundation for "transcendental subject" criticism in phenomenological tradition of the 20th century (from Heidegger to Marion). Based on a reconstruction of J. Locke’s ideas, we developed a cognitivist concept of personality that is an alternative to the substantialist one.

4. Identified the grounds and limits of the application of the methodology and conceptual apparatus of logical semantics in the analysis of identity problem. We provided semantical and phenomenological grounds for the idea of intentionality as intensionality, justifying the use of intensional logic in the analysis of intentional relations. We demonstrated that the transition of modern intensional logic from the "a priori" assignment of individual domains to the development of semantic methods of constructing "intentionally identical" individuals indicates the beginning of a fundamentally new stage in logical and phenomenological   studiesof identity.

5. Developed an original approach to the problem of a subject’s self-identity, based on an understanding of cultural self-identification as a “multi-dimensional” object of epistemological study that “recovers” from its “one-dimensional” or “two-dimensional” projections, developed by sociology, ethnography, psychology and other social studies. We demonstrated the special role that is played in this recovery by the philosophy of culture.

6. Prepared for publication in HSE Publishing a multi-author treatise “Subjectivity and Identity” (executive editor – A. V. Mikhailovsky) that included original articles by authors of the paper. We held an international academic conference “Subjectivity and Identity” with the participation of members of the research team, professors of the Philosophy Department of Caen University (France), researchers from RAS Institute of Philosophy, Kant Russian State University, St. Petersburg State University and Lomonosov Moscow State University (September 15-17, 2010, HSE, Moscow).


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Субъективность и идентичность. Москва : Издательский дом НИУ ВШЭ, 2012.