The conception of the self is something that has changed over time. It used to be pretty well set, and rooted in a particular time and place, a particular culture. As the sociologist Phillip Reiff taught in his work, we no longer in modern American society live in a culture, we live in what he called an "anti-culture." Cultures are defined by values and morals, and what they forbid. Scarily, our culture only forbids forbidding, a recipe for nihilism and anarchy. Which is what we're getting more of every day.
There are of course outposts of culture within the anti-culture, and I've written a lot about that. This blog is one outpost.
I wanted to share a book I just finished that is an excellent synopsis of how we ended up in this mess, where people are "identifying" as the opposite sex, as animals, and all sorts of things.
Truth is no longer based on truth, but is based on feelings, in other words there is no functional concept of truth. If I feel like a woman, or a black person, then I am, because to me it's true. How someone feels about something determines whether it is true or not. You have your truth and I have mine.
This is the rise of the "Therapeutic Self" or the "Modern Self" where reality is based on the psychologized self.
Years back I started studying theology as a natural process, that came from studying the mind and philosophy. You can't understand the modern self without studying metaphysics (the study of "being") and theology. As Chesterton said, "All arguments are theological."
The therapeutic, modern self identity is based on emotions and emotivism, the philosophy that emotions reveal truth.
Carl Trueman has written an excellent and accessible book on this subject for the lay reader:
"The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self"
It's based on the work of 3 writers I’ve previously read. He synthesizes the work of:
- Alasdair Macintyre in "After Virtue" a pivotal work I read a few years back. One of the best and most influential nonfiction books of the past century.
- Charles Taylor, A Secular Age, a dense book I enjoyed but was a grind.
- Philip Reiff, The Triumph of the Therapeutic, fascinating look at how modern man largely has entered a 3rd stage (versus political then religious) of existence - therapeutic.
You would not have to had read these 3 to understand Trueman, which is good, because those are all much harder reads. I highly recommend anyone who wants to make sense of our current pathologies.