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Seeking Viable Selfhood

Seeking Viable Selfhood

(p.123) Five Seeking Viable Selfhood
Chemically Imbalanced
Joseph E. Davis
University of Chicago Press

Participant resistance to medicalizing language and practice is not some negative struggle with stereotypes but a positive effort to restore their self-conception, the self that it is good to be. Exploring their evaluative standards and aspirations illuminates the social norms of liberal selfhood that underlay and ordered—to various degrees, to be sure—how participants interpreted the nature of their predicament and the terms in which it might be overcome. In a complex society like ours, marked by many social differences and subcultures, there is a range of practices, authorities, and visions constituent of the good life. Yet, in the face of predicaments that concern our subjectivity, our relationship to ourselves in Foucault’s terms, there are norms of being—efficient, optimizing, instrumental, positive, and autonomous—widely valued in our society. With the goal of establishing or reestablishing this “viability,” which did not include, notably, authenticity, many people defined their predicaments as constraints on their volition, a constraint that arises outside them and apart from them. Recourse to the neurobiological grammar presented a way to imagine this constraint as an object that could be technologically addressed.

Keywords:   authenticity, autonomy, social norms, norms of being, liberal selfhood, optimization, volition, evaluative standards, Michel Foucault

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