Character emerges and evolves in the public arena. Personal identity is not a surface impression existing solely in our own heads. The way that we construe ourselves in moments of private subjectivity, whether meta-examined or not, is never far from the influence of the viewpoints of others. It is in this sense that we are co-authored. The identity of the self is not seamless. Having been cast into the world with others and facing an inevitable demise, we dwell in the vicissitudes of everyday experience. We cannot close the book except by suicide, but autobiography is revisable. Our predicament is to plot coherent stories about ourselves as we move forward, facing conflict, complexity and change.
Is the process of plotting a specific, coherent autobiography for ourselves any different from constructing synthetic knowledge in general?
Can we say that our narrative identity evolves over time? If so how reasonable is it to think in terms of a natural selection of competing alternative narratives? Does sanity itself depend on an ability to distil a coherent autobiography?
To what extent are we co-authored? How are our personal dispositions and emotional traits modified by our formative years in a specific culture?
Is it possible to adopt a radical solipsistic stance? If solipsism is a form of insanity, how might it be cured?
TWISTS OF FATE
A tragic reversal of fortune can temporally dwarf other chapters of a coherent life story. Traumatic experiences, like experiencing the ravages of war, or the sudden loss of a loved one, can leave us high and dry with the dogged task of rewriting the plot of our own life story. Previously settled autobiographical events may become irrelevant or given different emphasis. Our existing fore-structures of understanding are temporarily bulldozed by the severity of the event confronting us.
At first we feel powerless and seem to have no room for maneuver. The stress and painful emotions have a strong emotional presence. We project and recount scenarios endlessly. We fumble for a coherent way to, somehow, carry on. Only with the passage of a considerable amount of time will the overwhelming presence of a cataclysm fade.
SOURCES FOR COHERENT AUTOBIOGRAPHY