The Philosopher's "I"

Autobiography and the Search for the Self

By J. Lenore Wright

Subjects: Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791469149, 228 pages, October 2006
Hardcover : 9780791469132, 228 pages, October 2006

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Table of contents


1. Writing the Self


Groundwork for a Study of Autobiography
Writing the Examined Life
The Rationale for Autobiographical Writing
Autobiography As Confession: Knowledge and Coherence
Features of Autobiographical Writing
The Function of Autobiographies


2. Bifurcating the Self


Self-Ascription and Self-Description    
The Inner Self  
The Outer Self


3. Masking the Self


Deception and Concealment
Knowledge and Truth in Autobiography


4. Transforming the Self


The Dialectic of Philosophical Autobiography
Interpretation and Understanding
Gracia on Interpretation
Gadamer on Truth in Interpretation
Nietzsche and the Subversion of the Self
Writing the Author
Writing Gender


Using works written over the course of 1,500 years, considers philosophers’ autobiographies as a genre of philosophical writing.


This book examines philosophers' autobiographies as a genre of philosophical writing. Author J. Lenore Wright focuses her attention on five philosophical autobiographies: Augustine's Confessions, Descartes' Meditations, Rousseau's The Confessions, Nietzsche's Ecce Homo, and Hazel Barnes's The Story I Tell Myself. In the context of first-person narration, she shows how the philosophers in question turn their attention inward and unleash their analytical rigor on themselves.

Wright argues that philosophical autobiography makes philosophical analysis necessary and that one cannot unfold without the other. Her distinction between the ontological and rhetorical dimensions of the self creates a rich middle ground in which questions of essence and identity bear upon existence.

J. Lenore Wright is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Baylor University.