The self in and as dialogue

Paul H. Lysaker and John T. Lysaker

in Schizophrenia and the Fate of the Self

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199215768
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754524 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

The self in and as dialogue

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Because we’d like to explore how one’s sense of self could suffer such a fate, we first need to explore how sense of self emerges, that is, how it is that we as human beings are disclosed to ourselves outside of psychosis. To that end, we now will thicken our understanding of sense of self. With that in hand, we can turn to how such disclosures might acquire the kind of character we saw in Chapter 2.

Let’s begin with a hypothesis that governs our inquiry. Human beings engage in, even live as an ensemble of dialogues. Said otherwise, the locus of life that we are, and from which the first-person emerges, is dialogical. We relate to others and ourselves, we plan, imagine, remember, and lust only on the basis of dialogical relations. We are thus more than an atomistic entity. In elusive but crucial ways, our being is bound to and in some sense involves the presence of others, and our lives unfold as movements within ourselves and among others.

Even at the outset, it is crucial to note that we are not claiming simply that selves employ narratives that synthesize their lives and that these narratives involve dialogues among various facets of a life. No doubt this happens to varying degrees, and we shall try to explain, at least in part, why and how, but our claim runs further than this. At base, the very self whose life one might gather up and redirect through a narrative is dialogical in the first place, and thus a multiple phenomenon in and of itself, not simply in its self-presentations.

What follows does not provide a comprehensive account of the self. A comprehensive theory would identify and explain elements whose interactions constitute human being, as well as the principles that govern those interactions. Such a view would have to reckon with a vast array of phenomena, from perception and self-awareness to an infant’s journey into adulthood, from language and labor to emotion and conscience. It would recognize that human beings are not simply instantiations of an eidos or Platonist form, but unique, active loci of a temporally woven life. That said, our claim is nevertheless a strong one – dialogical relations are integral to the self, and those relations form an irreducible field out of which a sense of self is allowed to emerge.

Chapter.  8943 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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