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Things That Bother Me

Galen Strawson

I’m bewildered. I’m completely uninterested in the answer to the question…‘What have I made of my life?’ I’m living it…what I care about, insofar as I care about myself and my life, is how I am now. The way I am now is profoundly shaped by my past, but it is the present shaping consequences of the past that matter, not the past as such.
— Strawson

Who am I? Am I the ongoing story of my life? Or a nerve ending through which the Universe experiences itself? Does biography disclose identity, or do we, as VS Pritchett writes, “live beyond any tale that we happen to enact”? 

In Things That Bother MeGalen Strawson mounts an assault on narrative identity. He neither believes that human beings are fundamentally described by their life-stories, nor that the predominance of narrative identity is a good thing. Quite the opposite, he writes that measuring a life by the stories we tell of it will:

“…hinder human self-understanding, close down important avenues of thought, impoverish our grasp of ethical possibilities, needlessly and wrongly distress those who don’t fit their model, and can be highly destructive in psychotherapeutic contexts.”