Patrick Stokes: "What's Missing in Episodic Selfhood? A Kierkegaardian Response to Strawson"

In a series of important papers, Galen Strawson has articulated a spectrum of "temporal temperaments," populated at one end by "Diachronics", who experience their selves (understood as the "mental entity" they are at this moment) as something that existed in the past and will exist in the future, and at the other end by "Episodics", who lack any such sense of temporal extension. As a self-declared Episodic, Strawson provides lucid descriptions of what episodicity is like, but cannot furnish a corresponding phenomenology of diachronic self-experience. He further argues that nothing normatively significant depends upon diachronicity, so Episodics can live fully moral (and fully satisfying) lives.

I attempt to supply this missing phenomenology of diachronic self-experience using Kierkegaard’s account of "contemporaneity" (samtidighed). Kierkegaard operates with something quite close to Strawson's "me/me*" (human/self) distinction, yet he nonetheless offers a compelling description of diachronic self-experience that is fully normative in character. I discuss some of the implications of this normativity for Strawson's claim that there is nothing ethically or psychologically deficient in the Episodic's self-experience.

Patrick Stokes is Danish Research Council for the Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow, Søren Kierkegaard Research Center, University of Copenhagen.