L7: SELF CULTIVATION Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in L7: SELF CULTIVATION Deck (11):


- I will look at the kind of work people do on themselves and on their lives as they strive to be ‘good’ or ‘good enough’. This is what is meant by self-cultivation
- I will look at questions which as who are we, and what capacities and ways do we have of transforming ourselves?
- I will do this by looking at Mauss concept of ‘personne’ and ‘moi’ and how Carrithers has developed this further.



In this text, he looks at an important essay by Mauss (1872-1950) on the category of the person or self.

• It is focused on two main concepts: personne and moi. While Mauss reduces moi to personne, arguing they are the same, Carrither distinguishes between the two.

• For Mauss, personne is the conception of an individual being as a member of a significant and ordered collectivity.

• It is significant, as it wields non-trivial power over the individual who is subject to it. It vitally affects the formation and exercise of the individual’s aims.

• It is ordered, as it has a specific form, in which the individual stands in a specific relationship to other individuals in the collectivitiy. Many things one may take for granted may be closely informed or supervised by the collective.

• So a person in a primitive society, whatever role they are given, that is governed by kinship or clan arrangements, is all that a person is.

• Similarly in modern society (for when Mauss was writing), a personne is a citizen in modern demographic France. This conception of a citizen is ordered by the form of the whole, the government, etc.

• So for Mauss, it was the social and legal history that exactly makes the personne, and nothing else.

So, In personne conceptions, the individual stands in a specific relationship to other individuals within the collectivity. Many things that one might take for granted may be closely supervised or informed by the collective, e.g. the preparation and consumption of food – such as in Jewish Kosher meals, which have a lot of rules around cooking.


PARA 2: What are the problems with Mauss conception of person?

• Can see that there are problems with this, such as there are no ideas about change for the individual, no sense of free will as it limits our sense of individuality. There are many more influences than just social and legal history?

• It is just being assuming in this case that you just belong to one collectivity, But, for example, you might be Christian, but you belong politicaly to a community that’s different.

• It is assuming a very unproblematic relationship between the collectivity and the individual.

• But Carrithers sees that people do have different experiences, which could lead us to think differently to what the collectivity is saying. This is one of the reasons why Carrithers rejects this totality of the Mauss account, and says that parallel to the person, we have this idea of the moi.



A conception of the (1) physical and mental individuality of human beings within a (2) natural or spiritual cosmos, and (3) interacting with each other as moral agents.

♣ The Christian notion of the soul’s relation to the body, to the overarching spiritual universe, and to other souls is an example of this.
♣ The interaction between moral agents is not necessarily as members of a collectivity where each person has a role in relation to others.

• Idea of moi is that we are autonomous individuals, and that we are moral agents who may have are own independent histories.

• As with personne, conceptions of moi have a social history, and are often influenced by the circumstances of the society in which they have formed.

• Conceptions of moi include a view of morality (how psycho-social individuals ought to interact with others). Ideas of what one owes to one’s self and to others that may align with the collective or not.

•Theories of moi have not only a social history, but also an intellectual history. This means that they are not simply a reflection of society (the social).



In terms of self-cultivation then, Individual human beings may try to move out of their personne role’s and develop their moi sense of self.

• It is this movement, and the ways they attempt it, that we refer to as pursuits or projects of self-cultivatoin

• For example, one might be given a certain role, in which they are expected to behave in a certain way. This is the ordered collectivity working on you and saying these are the things you should be doing. However, you might want to develop some particular moi sense of self – and its this moment that is the pursuit of self-cultivation.

• I will look at an ethnographic example later which looks at how these ideas have developed in religion, such as how is it that Islam tells you to develop that moi sense of self, and how is it that people pursuit these paths of self-cultivation.

•But first, it is important to look at the techniques and ways people have of developing their moi sense of self.



• He uses the term technologies, which means the methods and procudures for governing human beings.

Technologies of the self

♣ Technologies of the self, which permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct and way of being so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection and immortality.

♣ Foucault looks at the development of technologies of the self in: (1) Greco-Roman philosophies in the first two centuries A.D. of the Roman Empire and (2) Christian spirituality and the monastic principles developed in the fourth and fifth centuries of the late Roman Empire.


PARA 6: Self-care in Greco-Roman Philosophies

In Plato’s texts, concern for oneself is related to political activity and to a certain period in one’s life. It is an active state, expresses something much more serious than just paying attention.
♣ What is the self that one had to take care of, and what does care consist of?
♣ The self, here, is the principle of the soul and taking care of the soul involves contemplation, and an examination of the soul

• Contemplation and knowing yourself, and an examination of the soul is a way of showing concern for oneself.

In later periods, such as of the Stoics, self-care is not just in relation to political activity or a certain period, but to be undertaken by all at all times. The theme of taking care of oneself was not an abstract advice but a widespread set of activity, a network of obligations and services to the soul. It involves:

♣ Writing (Paying attention to what you did in the day, experiencing yourself but also being vigilant – letters and diaries- could examine yourself through this writing)

♣ Silence and listening (listen for a long time. Think about what you have listened to afterwards. Through this you can then examine the truth in what you have heard.)

♣ Self-examination

♣ Askesis (a mastery over self)


PARA 7: Techniques of self in early Christianity

In Christianity, the truth obligations of faith and self are linked together. This link permits a purification of the soul impossible without self knowledge. It involves a disclosure of the self.
♣ Exomologesis, or ‘recognition of fact’
♣ To recognize publicly the truth of their faith or recognize publically that they are Christians.
♣ Also has a penitential meaning, a status imposed on someone who has committed very serious sins.

- Truth obligation of belief and self are linked together. Examining yourself/knowing yourself enough to disclose this truth. That’s how you get the light/be saved in Christianity
- E.g. sin – seek penance, ask priest. Act of self-disclosure. Self confession. Its through that self disclosure that this status would be disclosed on you

2 techniques present in early Christianity – self examination:


Its through revealing themselves as a sinner, that the penitent self-punishes themselves. Becoming public:
♣ Rubs out the sin and restores purity through baptism.
♣ The paradox of disclosure is that it rubs out sin as it discloses the sinner.
Penance is the model of change, the model of rupture with the past. It is a way of showing you are able to renounce life and self. In this sense self-revelation – the disclosure of self – is at the same time a destruction of self.


Exagoreeusis refers to the practice of self-examination in monastic Christianity. It is closely linked to two other Christian concepts – obedience and contemplation.
♣ A total obedience by the monk of his master means a complete, permanent and total obedience in ever aspect of life. Obedience is the giving up complete control of one’s life, one’s choice – a sacrificing of self and self-will.
♣ Contemplation is the obligation of the monk to turn his point consistently and continuously to god, and to make sure that his heart is pure enough to see god. The goal is a permanent contemplation of god.

Constant examination of through thoughts in which the will is placed into the idea of
someone else.


• In both exmologesis and exagoreusis, you cannot disclose without renouncing.
• Exmologesis had as its model martyrdom. In exagoreusis, the monk ‘kills’ himself through ascetic macerations.
• Whether through martyrdom or through obedience to a master, disclosure of self is the renunciation of one’s own self.



• One might think of technologies of the self as both enabling the realisation of personne or moi notions of self and also of permitting a movement from personne to moi notions
• That is, that the psycho-physical self is worth attention and care in ways that might run counter to foregrounding the social self or personne conceptions of the self

- These technologies, whether about self discourse or getting mastery over ones self, can think about it as ways in which we can make realisations







Being Good in Ramadan: Ambivalence, Fragmentation, and the Moral Self in the Lives of Young Egyptians – Shamuli Schielke