Narrative Identity, Autonomy, and Mortality

From Frankfurt and MacIntyre to Kierkegaard

By John J. Davenport

© 2012 – Routledge

230 pages

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About the Book

In the last two decades, interest in narrative conceptions of identity has grown exponentially, though there is little agreement about what a "life-narrative" might be. In connecting Kierkegaard with virtue ethics, several scholars have recently argued that narrative models of selves and MacIntyre's concept of the unity of a life help make sense of Kierkegaard's existential stages and, in particular, explain the transition from "aesthetic" to "ethical" modes of life. But others have recently raised difficult questions both for these readings of Kierkegaard and for narrative accounts of identity that draw on the work of MacIntyre in general. While some of these objections concern a strong kind of unity or "wholeheartedness" among an agent's long-term goals or cares, the fundamental objection raised by critics is that personal identity cannot be a narrative, since stories are artifacts made by persons. In this book, Davenport defends the narrative approach to practical identity and autonomy in general, and to Kierkegaard's stages in particular.


"The account of narrative practical identity presented in this book is nuanced, sophisticated, and answers many of the objections given to specific versions elsewhere. Although it leaves room for further development, it provides an excellent base upon which to build. It also provides a powerful perspective from which to read Kierkegaard's notions of existential stages, double-mindedness, patience, infinite resignation, and purity of heart."William McDonald, University of New England, Australia in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Autonomy, Practical Identity, Self, and Character 2. Narrative Realism about Practical Identity 3. Narrative Unity, Autonomy, and Kierkegaard's Aesthetic-Ethical Distinction 4. Kierkegaardian Wholeheartedness: Purity of Heart versus Doublemindedness 5. Selves in Time before Death: Kierkegaardian Religious Narrative Unity

About the Author

John Davenport is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University. He teaches and writes on ethics and moral psychology and agency (including free will and autonomy theory), existentialism, political philosophy (including rights and global governance), and philosophy of religion. With Anthony Rudd, he co-edited the 2001 collection, Kierkegaard After MacIntyre, and he has authored several other essays on Kierkegaard, including three recent articles on the structure of existential faith.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
PHILOSOPHY / Religious