Condemned to Personhood
I can't necessarily raccoommend After the Natural Law (a little too basic), but the chapter on The Classical Conception of the Person is a helpful review, plus it converges on what we've been discussing lately.
It begins with a quote from Kierkegaard to the effect that [T]o have a self, to be a self, is the greatest concession made to man, but at the same time it is eternity's demand upon him.
Ooh. I suppose you could say that man -- at least in the Christian West -- is condemned to self- or personhood.
Yeah, the Creator has given us the priceless gift of a unique personality, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it.
Except develop it. In the East the idea is to extinguish it, and maybe that works for them. Hey, maybe it's even providential for those particular cultures.
But in the West, even if we are not Christians we have been conditioned by 2000 years of Christianity, so might as well get with the program.
According to Hill, when we talk about the reality of the self, we're talking about three main questions: whether the self is real and not just the side effect of something else that is more real or fundamental; whether it is active, i.e., a genuine cause of its own decisions and actions; and third, whether it is morally significant in a special way.
The thing is, everyone thinks and behaves as if the self is real, causal, and morally significant, even if they pretend otherwise.
Again, "For the self to be real -- for it to be more than [just] a way of speaking -- it must possess a unity of its own and persist through time. To say that the self is a unity is to say that human personality is not hopelessly fragmented, that there are not 'plural' selves, that there is some centralized locus of identity, decision making and action that serves to bind the person into a whole" (Hill).
"It is to say that there is an integrated foundation underlying the tensions we commonly experience between conflicting reasons, desires, and emotions. It is to point to a moral, psychological, and ontological center of gravity in the person -- that which gives us our identity and makes us responsible for our actions" (ibid).