Selfhood and the law

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Discussing the institutionalisation of the concept of ‘selfhood’, Jerome Bruner writes:

“Our legal system takes it as a given and constructs a corpus juris based upon notions like “voluntary consent,” “responsibility,” and the rest.  It does not matter whether “selfhood” can be proved scientifically or whether it is merely a “fiction” of folk psychology.  We simply take it as in the “nature of human nature.” P16

the culture of education – bruner

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Possible selves – keeping your options open

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P42 “In a particularly penetrating article on the American self, Hazel Markus and Paula Nurius propose that we think not of a Self but of Possible Selves along with a Now Self. “Possible selves represent individuals’ ideas of what they might become, what they would like to become, and what they are afraid of becoming.”  Although not specifically intended to do so, their analysis highlights the extent to which American selfhood reflects the value placed in American culture on “keeping your options open.””

Folk psychology as an instrument of culture – bruner

History quotes

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“History offers two crucial channels to understanding ourselves better.  The first is the opportunity to learn from the past.  The second is psychological grounding.  We learn where we came from, how we got here and what has given our society its unique character.  History gives us context, richness and depth, continuity and perspective.”[1]

“For history, in some modest and domesticated way, is the canonical setting for individual autobiography.  It is [-p147] our sense of belonging to this canonical past that allows us to frame our self-accounts as, somehow, impelled by deviation from what was expected of us, while still maintaining complicity with the canon.” [2]

“… a historical narrative claims truth not merely for each of its individual statements taken distributively, but for the complex form of the narrative itself.” [3]


[1] Writers in Residence pvii

[2] Narrative construal of reality – bruner P146-147

[3] Narrative form as a cognitive instrument – louis o mink p144