Philosophy series asks whether we have a real self

Australian Catholic University (ACU) will hold a public webinar series on the idea of the self to honour Professor Claude Romano, who was recently awarded the Grand Prix de Philosophie.

Awarded by the prestigious Académie Française, the Grand Prix is regarded as the highest award for a philosopher in France, the centre of European philosophy. 

The webinar series will give the public a chance to understand the work of Professor Romano, who is a noted French philosopher and distinguished visiting professor at ACU.

Professor Romano will use the webinars to explore how we understand the idea of the self. Entitled A Very Short History of Being Oneself: Theological, Philosophical and Aesthetic Perspectives, the series will explore a different reading of the history of Western philosophy from the traditional focus on subjectivity or ego. 

Instead, it will focus on modes of existence, exploring how different authors across the centuries understood the self through different forms of life and modes of existence.

Professor Romano said the metaphor of the journey was a helpful starting point for those wanting to begin thinking about these issues.

“The Odyssey, the most ancient poem of Western culture, depicts the metamorphosis by which Ulysses is changed into himself under the look of those who failed hitherto to recognize him, thus allowing him to reintegrate his own appearance, his own status of king, husband and father, his own land and, more deeply, his own truth. Ulysses is the very first among a long list of characters to undergo this mysterious transformation: the passage from an existence under a mask to an existence “in person”, in a form a truth.”

He said the series would consider the way Western thought had developed the idea of a “true” or “real” self.

“We will try to question the sources, sometimes hidden, of this idea of “existence in truth” that underlie the modern ideal of personal authenticity, by making a genealogy of that ideal and unconcealing some of its more remote forms.”

The series will include not only philosophical discussion but also theological, spiritual, rhetorical, literary, aesthetic writers including Aristotle, Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, Cicero, Quintilian, Castiglione, Montaigne, the French Moralists, Jansenism, Gracian, Madame de Lafayette, Marivaux, Rousseau, Kierkegaard and Stendhal.

Seminar dates and topics are below. Register to attend here.

Monday 16 August: Introduction: When and why does the ideal of authenticity emerge?

Thursday 19 August: Magnanimity and the virtue of the man who is himself (authekastos) in Aristotle

Monday 23 August: Stoic virtue and stoic truthfulness

Thursday 26 August: Cicero and the doctrine of the four roles (personae)

Monday 30 August: Naturalness in Ancient Rhetoric

Thursday 2 September: Saint Augustine on making the truth in one’s life

Monday 6 September: Social grace as unity with oneself and with others: Castiglione

Thursday 9 September: Naturalness as perfect freedom in Montaigne

Monday 13 September: Personal truth (and falsity) according to the French Moralists

Thursday 16 SeptemberRousseau and the revolution of authentic city

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