Dissertation

The title of my dissertation is "Bringing Back the Magic: Philosophical Temperaments and the Entwined, Embodied, and Enchanted Self." It explores two related lines of thought and argument. First, it posits the idea that the history of philosophical theories of the self have been dominated by individuals bearing one of two philosophical temperaments. William James identified these as the 'tender-minded' and 'tough-minded' thinkers. The dissertation argues that these two temperaments align strongly with the Enneagram personality types One and Five. It also suggests that James was unaware of a third philosophical temperament, which I call the 'self-minded' temperament. This third temperament is strongly correlated with the Enneagram type Four and, I argue, is the one best suited to understanding and describing the 'true' or 'essential' self. 

Next, I examine the ways in which the theory of the 'entwined' self - which I take to be the post-structuralist/post-modernist model of the self as socially-constructed and inherently fractured - is limited and ultimately unsatisfying. I then give the same level of attention to the 'embodied', modern neuroscientific view of the self as an 'illusion' created by the workings of the brain. I also explore the connections between the illusory self of neuroscience and the Buddhist concept of annata and conclude that they are both correct, given their assumptions. But I also insist that those assumptions are erroneous or at least unrelated to and uninterested in the self as we experience it in the mundane sense.

This leads to the final topic of discussion - the enchanted self. Here I explore the self as understood or described in astrological terms. I suggest that both Vedic and Western astrological practice can provide deep insights into all aspects of the singular human being, including his or her physical, psychological, financial, educational, familial, relational, and spiritual life. As theses are things that can be determined to a greater or lesser degree at the time of birth, I argue that the case for a singular, essential self is strong. Such a self is composed of a suite of psychophysical traits and an experiential profile particular to a specific human. It is largely the self-minded thinker, I suggest, that is open to seeing the self in these terms and is therefore the thinker best suited for describing its dimensions. Such description can take place through a creative or artistic medium, or alternatively, through some form of 'divination', such as astrology. 

Lastly, I argue that thinkers subscribing to either the entwined or embodied model of the self, or thinkers aligning with the tender-minded worldview, often harbor a bias, unacknowledged or acknowledged, against the possibility that there is an essential self or that the self can simply be the worldly, experiential self.

The primary reason for this bias, I suggest, is that their respective and innate temperamental dispositions (tender or tough minded, type One or type Five) predisposes them to seeing the 'true' self in two different ways. First, tender-minded types tend to want to see it as something other than what is present. Generally speaking, they believe either that the self is 'ultimately' that which is perfect, un-corrupted, and 'godly'. Alternatively, the tough-minded types insist on a materialistic view and assert that the self is a fiction created by the workings of the brain and that it is the height of irrationality, therefore, to believe that the self is 'real'. In either case, what gets demoted is the self that we all actually experience, and it this demotion that I challenge as problematic.

Ultimately, either view ends up devaluing the individual human and his or her life experience in favor of something more 'perfect' or reductionistically 'real'. My view is that such a devaluing diminishes the importance of our individual experience and therefore needs to be questioned and resisted when it becomes too life-denying.

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