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The Philosophy of Autobiography$
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Christopher Cowley

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226267890

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226268088.001.0001

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Autobiographical Acts

Autobiographical Acts

(p.156) 7 Autobiographical Acts
The Philosophy of Autobiography

D. K. Levy

University of Chicago Press

I challenge a familiar view that the challenge in writing autobiography is the requirement to overcome self-deception, dishonesty and cowardice to recover the past. I locate a prior challenge concerning the decision to undertake the *act* of autobiography. The autobiographical act is a presentation in a medium, with a motive, conveying a judgment of the author’s life. The act is integral to the autobiography because it gives form to the content. I argue that autobiography is a distinctive kind of creative work that necessarily implicates the author’s moral authority in a moral judgment about her life. The challenge of the autobiographical act is finding creditable motives and secure means for the act and the judgment it conveys. The perils of this challenge mean *inter alia* that one should sometimes not write autobiography. I make my argument using extracts from Iris Murdoch's diaries and Wittgenstein's confession and remarks on autobiography.

Keywords:   autobiography, Wittgenstein, Murdoch, ethics, form and content, creative work, autobiographical act

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