Realist versus anti-realist moral selves - And the irrelevance of narrativism

Kristján Kristjánsson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper has three aims. The first is to subject to critical analysis the intractable debate between realists and anti-realists about the status of the so-called (moral) self, a debate that traverses various academic disciplines and discursive fields. Realism about selves has fallen on hard times of late, and the second aim of this paper is to get it back on track. Traditional substantive conceptions of the self contain ontological baggage that many moderns will be loath to carry. This paper settles for a more moderate aim, a "softer" kind of self-realism derived from an unlikely source - Hume - and outlines the Humean moral self and its possible advantages. The third and subsidiary aim is to challenge the view that recent "narrative" conceptions of selfhood have made the old realism versus anti-realism debate redundant. "Narrativism" about selves turns out to do little more than recycle old arguments in fancy new packages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-187
Number of pages21
JournalJournal for the Theory of Social Behaviour
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009


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