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Who are we? From a modern Cartesian self to alternative views on selfhood

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Abstract

The advent of postmodernism, post structuralism and social constructionism led over the last years to a multitude of theoretical philosophical reflections on possible meanings of the psychological basic concept ‘selfhood’ or ‘subjectivity’. The modern, sovereign self was deconstructed and no longer considered as an ontological fact but rather as a product of language. The stable core self from which many traditional psychological theories start, was dethroned and substituted by a narrative, multiple and variable self that is permanently constructed and reconstructed in social situations. May we invite the reader to reflect on this fascinating subject together with Anna and Tom, the two interlocutors. Starting from the question ‘Who are we?’, we make a tour of the different schools of thought on subjectivity. Departing from the subject concept of Descartes, we track symbolic interactionistic, post-structuralistic, social constructionistic and narrative hermeneutic ways. All these ways provide us with a different ‘view’ on subjectivity/selfhood and raise new questions that are relevant to researchers in the social sciences.

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