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Subjectivity Revisited Sartre, Lacan, and Early German Romanticism

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This article examines and elaborates the nature of subjective experience by drawing on a variety of perspectives in recent philosophy, psychology, and psychoanalysis. The question of subjectivity has been much debated in each of these disciplines. In contrast with postmodern thinkers who wish to discard subjectivity altogether, I discuss alternative ways to understand and conceptualize subjectivity, or self-consciousness. I consider a tradition of thinkers that includes Sartre, Fichte, and the early German Romantics, who conceptualize self-consciousness as a "being-familiar-with-oneself" that is prior to all reflection. I argue that a developmental corollary to this approach can be found in the psychological research of Daniel Stern, who attributes to infants a "simple non-self-reflexive awareness," while Jacques Lacan's discussion of the specular misrecognitions of the self complicates any simply rendering of "mirroring." By thus combining epistemological, developmental, and phenomenological treatments of the self, I believe it is possible to achieve a conception of subjectivity that avoids the snares of Cartesian essentialism.

Affiliations: 1: George Washington University

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