Ulrich Steinvorth offers a fresh analysis and critique of rationality as a defining element in Western thinking. Steinvorth argues that Descartes' understanding of the self offers a more plausible and realistic alternative to the prevailing understanding of the self formed by the Lockean conception and utilitarianism. When freed from Cartesian dualism, such a conceptualization enables us to distinguish between self and subject. Moreover, it enables us to understand why individualism - one of the hallmarks of modernity in the West - became a universal ideal to be granted to every member of society; how acceptance of this notion could peak in the seventeenth century; and why it is now in decline, though not irreversibly so. Most importantly, the Cartesian concept of the self presents a way of saving modernity from the dangers that it now encounters.
Ulrich Steinvorth is professor of philosophy at Bilkent University in Ankara. He has taught at Hamburg and other German universities and as a guest professor at French and American universities. He is editor of Rechtsphilosophische Hefte, is on the Advisory Board of Wittgenstein Studies, and has published a dozen books on topics in political philosophy, ethics, and metaphysics.
Part I. Introduction: 1. The West and the self; Part II. Basics of Philosophical Psychology: 2. Heideggerian and Cartesian self; 3. Free will; 4. Cartesian, Lockean and Kantian self; 5. Extraordinariness and the two stages of rationality; Part III. The Cartesian Self in History: 6. The cause and content of modernity; 7. The second-stage rationality in history; 8. Economic rationality; 9. The Cartesian self in the 20th century; Part IV. Value Spheres: 10. A diagnosis and therapy for modernity; 11. Value spheres defined and the state; 12. The serving spheres; 13. Technology; 14. Utilitarian or Cartesian approach; 15. The media and other professions; 16. Science; 17. Art and religion; 18. Sport; 19. Latin and absolute love; Part V. A Self-Understanding Not Only for the West: 20. Liberty and equality; 21. Harnessing extraordinariness; 22. Cartesian modernity; 23. The undivided universally developed individual; 24. The end of history?