Construing the self through autobiography

Main Text  I  Poem  I  References  I  Comments


“In 1957, Iris Murdoch wrote, with perhaps too much concision, ‘Man is a creature who makes pictures of himself, and then comes to resemble the pictures.’” (Hagberg, 2010, pg 101)

“[Murdoch] gives voice to kind of guarded skepticism concerning self-knowledge and makes a strong claim concerning the active nature of our involvement in our past.” (Hagberg, 2010, pg 101)

“In his brief life Vygotsky observed that the very process of writing one’s thoughts leads individuals to refine those thoughts and to discover new ways of thinking. In this sense the process of writing can actually reenact within a single person [a] dialectic.” (Wolf, 2008, p 73)

“Conradi says, ‘Over many pages of reflection, [Murdoch] reaches towards a distinction between a ‘frozen’ and an ‘unfrozen’ past.’ ... Indeed, in this pages Murdoch also put this point compactly and which emphasis: ‘Re-thinking one’s past is a constant responsibility.’ ... How do we go about the life-defining project of making a ‘picture’ of ourselves, which we then come to resemble?” (Hagberg, 2010, pg 101)

“Murdoch wrote, “Re-thinking one’s past is a constant responsibility”: it should be constant because of new light shed by the ongoing recontextualisation of our past deeds, words, and thoughts ... And that ongoing work-in-progress then becomes a picture we come to resemble, in that it determines which experiences are salient and which are not, thus shaping, at least partially, our subsequent choices in response to the picture, the unfolding narrative.” (Hagberg, 2010, pg 118 - 119).

PI 280: Someone paints a picture in order to show how he imagines a theatre scene. And now I say: “This picture has a double function: it informs others, as pictures or words inform -- but for one who gives the information it is a representation (or piece of information?) of another kind: for him it is the picture of his image, as it can’t be for anyone else. To him his private impression of the picture means what he has imagined, in a sense in which the picture cannot mean this to others.” - And what right have I to speak in this second case of a representation or piece of information - if these words were used in the first case?

“We similarly have developed a subtle vocabulary concerning how we see ourselves.” (Hagberg, 2010, pg 104)

“The reply, rather, is given because of a capacious grasp of the life of which the event in question in one significant part, and where the rest of that life is known in sufficient details to see linkages - linkages reported in that life’s narratives - that give that life its teleology, its sense.” (Hagberg, 2010, pg 109)

“So understood, Wittgenstein’s perception ... will be closely allied with Romantic investigations of our recurrent human failure to genuinely experience our world and to appreciate the significance of (events in) our lives ... Romantic projects [enable] such experience and in that way [enable] a recovery, or discovery,  of the significance of (events in) our lives.” (Affeldt, 2010, pg 273) 

 Back to Top ..

 Poem   (back to top)

“No one ever told us we had to study our lives,

make of our lives a study, as if learning natural history

or music, that we should begin

with the simple exercises first

and slowly go on trying

the hard ones, practicing till strength

and accuracy become one with the daring

to leap into transcendence ...”

-- Adrienne Rich, “Transcendental Etude”

References  (back to top)

  • Affeldt, S. (2010). On the difficulty of seeing aspects and the 'therapeutic' reading of Wittgenstein. In W. Day and V. Krebs (Eds), Seeing Wittgenstein anew. (pp. 268 - 288). Cambridge University Press.
  • Hagberg, G. (2010). In a new light: Wittgenstein, aspect-perception, and retrospective change in self-understanding. In W. Day and V. Krebs (Eds), Seeing Wittgenstein anew. (pp. 101 - 119). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rich, A. (1978) Trancendental Etude. In A. Rich, The Dream of a Common Language: poems 1974 - 1977. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
  • Wittgenstein, L. (2001). Philosophical Investigations. 3rd Edition. Translated by G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
  • Wolf, M. (2008). Proust and the squid: the story and science of the reading brain. Cambridge: Icon Books.