Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 67–83 | Cite as

Body and self: an entangled narrative


In the past three decades a number of narrative self-concepts have appeared in the philosophical literature. A central question posed in recent literature concerns the embodiment of the narrative self. Though one of the best-known narrative self-concepts is a non-embodied one, namely Dennett’s self as ‘a center of narrative gravity’, others argue that the narrative self should include a role for embodiment. Several arguments have been made in support of the latter claim, but these can be summarized in two main points. Firstly, a logical one: without taking the body into account Dennett’s theory becomes self-refuting. Secondly, a more practical/phenomenological point: a disembodied self-concept overlooks how personal the body is, and as such should be considered part of the self. In this paper I endorse these criticisms of non-embodied narrative self-concepts, but I argue that the relationship between the narrative self and the body is far from sufficiently fleshed out. I claim that the narrative self and the body are much more interwoven than the above criticisms suggest. What I aim to show in this paper is that the relationship between the body and the narrative self is interactive rather than unidirectional: not only does our body shape our narrative self, but our narrative self also shapes our body. The upshot of this is a better conception of the self is as a dynamic interaction between its various aspects.


Narrative self-concepts Embodiment of self 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy Erasmusplein 1Radboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

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