•  681
    Scraping down the past: Memory and amnesia in W. G. sebald's anti-narrative
    Philosophy and Literature 34 (2): 394-408. 2010.
    Vanguard anti-narrativist Galen Strawson declares personal memory unimportant for self-constitution. But what if lapses of personal memory are sustained by a morally reprehensible amnesia about historical events, as happens in the work of W.G. Sebald? The importance of memory cannot be downplayed in such cases. Nevertheless, contrary to expectations, a concern for memory needn’t ally one with the narrativist position. Recovery of historical and personal memory results in self-dissolution and…Read more
  •  182
    A special way of being afraid
    Philosophical Psychology 23 (5): 669-682. 2010.
    I am interested in fear of non-existence, which is often discussed in terms of fear one’s own death, or as it is sometimes called, fear of death as such. This form of fear has been denied by some philosophers. Cognitive theories of the emotions have particular trouble in dealing with it, granting it a status that is simultaneously paradigmatic yet anomalous with respect to fear in general. My paper documents these matters, and considers a number of responses. I provide examples from philosophy a…Read more
  •  179
    Reasons to be Fearful: Strawson, Death and Narrative
    Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 60 133-. 2007.
    I compare and assess two significant and opposing approaches to the self with respect to what they have to say about death: the anti-narrativist, as articulated by Galen Strawson, and the narrativist, as pieced together from a variety of accounts. Neither party fares particularly well on the matter of death. Both are unable to point towards a view of death that is clearly consistent with their views on the self. In the narrativist’s case this inconsistency is perhaps not as explicit but is in…Read more
  •  142
    Reasons to Live versus Reasons not to Die
    Think 10 (28): 67-76. 2011.
    ‘Any reason for living is an excellent reason for not dying’ (Steven Luper-Foy, 'Annihilation'). Some claims seem so clearly right that we don’t think to question them. Steven Luper-Foy’s remark is like that. It borders on the ‘trivially true’ (i.e. so obviously true as to be uninteresting). If I have a reason to live, surely I likewise have a reason not to die. It may then be surprising to learn that so many philosophers disagree with this claim—either directly or by implication. I will lo…Read more
  •  100
    Whole Lives and Good Deaths
    Metaphilosophy 45 (3): 331-347. 2014.
    This article discusses two views associated with narrative conceptions of the self. The first view asserts that our whole life is reasonably regarded as a single unit of meaning. A prominent strand of the philosophical narrative account of the self is the representative of this view. The second view—which has currency beyond the confines of the philosophical narrative account—is that the meaning of a life story is dependent on what happens at the end of it. The article argues that the connection…Read more
  •  100
    The new neo-Kantian and reductionist debate
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 84 (4): 331-350. 2003.
    Has Derek Parfit modified his views on personal identity in light of Quassim Cassam’s neo-Kantian argument that to experience the world as objective, we must think of ourselves as enduring subjects of experience? Both parties suggest there is no longer a serious dispute between them. I retrace the path that led to this truce, and contend that the debate remains open. Parfit’s recent work reveals a re-formulation of his ostensibly abandoned claim that there could be impersonal descriptions of …Read more
  •  79
    Impersonal identity and corrupting concepts
    Southern Journal of Philosophy 43 (2): 159-188. 2005.
    How does the concept of a person affect our beliefs about ourselves and the world? In an intriguing recent addition to his established Reductionist view of personal identity, Derek Parfit speculates that there could be beings who do not possess the concept of a person. Where we talk and think about persons, selves, subjects, or agents, they talk and think about sequences of thoughts and experiences related to a particular brain and body. Nevertheless their knowledge and experience of the worl…Read more
  •  61
    Unmoored: Mortal Harm and Mortal Fear
    Philosophical Papers 48 (2): 179-209. 2019.
    There is a fear of death that persistently eludes adequate explanation by contemporary philosophers of death. The reason for this is their focus on mortal harm issues, such as why death is bad for the person who dies. Claims regarding the fear of death are assumed to be contingent on the resolution of questions about the badness of death. In practice, however, consensus on some mortal harm issues has not resulted in comparable clarity on mortal fear. I contend we cannot do justice to fear of…Read more
  •  60
    Narrative Aversion: Challenges for the Illness Narrative Advocate
    Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 42 (1): 50-69. 2017.
    Engaging in self-narrative is often touted as a powerful antidote to the bad effects of illness. However, there are various examples of what may broadly be termed “aversion” to illness narrative. I group these into three kinds: aversion to certain types of illness narrative; aversion to illness narrative as a whole; and aversion to illness narrative as an essentially therapeutic endeavor. These aversions can throw into doubt the advantages claimed for the illness narrator, including the key bene…Read more
  •  56
    The Senses of and Ending
    In John Lippitt Patrick Stokes (ed.), Narrative, Identity, and the Kierkegaardian Self, . pp. 186-202. 2015.
    Many philosophical discussions of the narrative self touch upon the end of life. End-related terms and concepts that occur in these discussions include finitude, completion, closure, telos, retroactive meaning-conferral, life shape, and a closed beginning-middle-and-end structure. Those who emphasise life’s end in non-philosophical narrative contexts are perhaps clearer on its significance. The end is thought to play a key role in the story of a life, securing or enhancing the life narrative’s …Read more
  •  40
    Illness as Narrative (review)
    Medical Humanities 39 (1): 65-66. 2013.
  •  24
    Despair, Liberation and Everyday Life: Two Bundle Views of Personal Identity
    Richmond Journal of Philosophy 1 (5): 32-37. 2003.
    Philosophy sometimes has the reputation of dealing with matters outside the realm of ‘everyday life’, and trading in ideas that float free from anything beyond the armchair in which we sit contemplating them. In this paper, I discuss a standard armchair-branch of philosophy – personal identity theory – and the real-life effects it either has had or has apparently failed to have upon two philosophers: David Hume and Derek Parfit. Both arrive at similar and quite radical beliefs about personal ide…Read more
  •  17
    Hirsch, Sebald, and the Uses and Limits of Postmemory
    In Russell J. A. Kilbourn & Eleanor Ty (eds.), The Memory Effect: The Remediation of Memory in Literature and Film, Wilfrid Laurier University Press. pp. 51-67. 2013.
    Marianne Hirsch’s influential concept of postmemory articulates the ethical significance of representing trauma in art and literature. Postmemory, for Hirsch, “describes the relationship of children of survivors of cultural or collective trauma to the experiences of their parents, experiences that they ‘remember’ only as the narratives and images with which they grew up, but that are so powerful, so monumental, as to constitute memories in their own right”. Through appeal to recent philosophica…Read more
  •  13
    Impersonal Identity and Corrupting Concepts
    Southern Journal of Philosophy 43 (2): 159-188. 2005.
    How does the concept of a person affect our beliefs about ourselves and the world? In an intriguing recent addition to his established Reductionist view of personal identity, Derek Parfit speculates that there could be beings who do not possess the concept of a person. Where we talk and think about persons, selves, subjects, or agents, they talk and think about sequences of thoughts and experiences related to a particular brain and body. Nevertheless their knowledge and experience of the world i…Read more
  •  4
    Does thinking about our death help or hinder us? I will approach this question by looking at which portions of a life can bear meaning, i.e. whether meaning is local (something that attaches to parts of a life taken in isolation from one another) or global (resulting from the combination of, or interrelations among, events in life as a whole). I present two versions of the “part life” view of meaning and two versions of the “whole life” view. I show how these views yield different outlooks on…Read more
  •  3
    The problem of mortality treats death as posing a paradox for the narrative view of the self. This view, on some interpretations, needs death in order to complete a life in a manner analogous to the ending of a story. But death is inaccessible to the subject herself, and so the analogy fails. Our inability to grasp the event of our own death is thought to undermine the possibility of achieving a meaningful, coherent, or complete life on narrativist terms. Narrativist attempts to solve the proble…Read more
  •  1
    Depressing Goings-on in the House of Actuality: Philosophers and Poets Confront Larkin's 'Aubade'
    Partial Answers: Journal of Literature and History of Ideas. forthcoming.
    Philip Larkin’s poem “Aubade” tackles the subject of mortality with technical facility and unsparing candour. It has a reputation for profoundly affecting its readers. Yet poets Seamus Heaney and Czeslaw Milosz think “Aubade” is bad for us and for poetry: it lures us into the underworld and traps us there, and betrays poetry’s purpose by transcribing rather than transforming the depressing facts of reality. Philosophers, however, quite like it. “Aubade” crops up repeatedly in contemporary philos…Read more
  •  1
    Derek Parfit
    In Leemon McHenry, P. Dematteis & P. Fosl (eds.), British Philosophers, 1800-2000, Bruccoli Clark Layman. pp. 262--168. 2002.