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Title: Modernity and the problem of self-understanding
Author: Ferguson, Harvie
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1998
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This thesis investigates central issues of self-understanding in modern western society. Given that modernity is defined and grasped in terms of the postulate of human autonomy these issues are central to sociological theory and the historical sociology of modern society. The development of self-understanding is presented, firstly, through a study of the nature and development modern rational science. The success of the natural sciences since the seventeenth century has provided a particular model of rational investigation which has proved influential for every form of knowledge in modern society. The thesis is concerned primarily with the impact of the scientific world view on human self-understanding in terms of the content of its view of nature rather than its methodological position. The social dimension of scientific knowledge comes into prominence in this perspective as does the relation of science to both pre-modern and novel non-rational forms of human self-understanding. The continuity of modern and pre-modern conceptions of human being is investigated through a discussion of the historical transformation of religion in western society. As distinct from any view of modernity as a process of secularization, a focus on existential aspects of self-understanding makes clear both the persistence and novel form of religious traditions for modern selfunderstanding. These larger historical studies are followed by two detailed monographic works in which issues of modern psychology are treated in detail. The writings of Kierkegaard and Freud are dealt with as rich sources of distinctive psychological insight into modern experience which indicate alternative traditions of modernity. In different ways and from quite different perspectives Kierkegaard and Freud focus on the contradictory and paradoxical character of modern selfhood and personal identity. The thesis is further illustrated by an outline of an historical sociology of the body-image.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Sc.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available