Week 2 Seminar Synopsis and Reading List: Subjectivity

For the second week of our interdisciplinary seminar on the philosophy of social science we discuss the topic of subjectivity. We present the following three texts: René Descartes’s Meditations I-II, Charles Taylor on Descartes’ disengaged reason, and Nikolas Rose, a contemporary sociologist, who discusses the assemblage of the modern subject.

René Descartes, Meditations I-II (Caleb Scoville)
Descartes’s argues that the presupposition of all knowledge is that “I” exist as a “thinking thing.” Further, this is the only claim that can be made with certainty. The corollary is that the human mind is better known than the body.

Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self, chapter 8, “Descartes’s Disengaged Reason” (Razvan Amironesei)
In this chapter dedicated to Descartes, Taylor shows that his concept of reason is disengaged. He frames his argument within a larger genealogy of the historical formation of the self.

Nikolas Rose, Rewriting the Self, chapter 14, “Assembling the Modern Self” (Ike Sharpless)
Rose argues that what he calls the “psy” conception of the self is assembled in modernity by a particular set of factors and techniques. He situates his thesis in the larger context of the transformation of our evaluative vocabulary in which experts of experience seek to manage human conduct with language, types of explanation, judgements, techniques, and expertise.

Descartes, René. Meditations on First Philosophy: With Selections from the Objections and Replies. Trans. John Cottingham. Cambridge UP, 1986.
Rose, Nikolas. “Assembling the Modern Self.” Rewriting the Self: Histories from the Renaissance to the Present. Ed. Roy Porter. Routledge, 1997.
Taylor, Charles. Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. Harvard UP, 1989.

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