Exploring the Self: A Metaphysical, Practical, and Linguistic Perspective

Doctoral Dissertation


This project consists of three distinct chapters. All of them are centered on exploring different aspects of the self. The first chapter investigates exactly what the self is; the second chapter explores how we should reason about the self; and the last chapter explores how we should speak about the self.

To answer exactly what the self is- I defend a novel version of the view that the self just is a story. The account I propose is in part inspired by Buddhist no-self accounts. In my exploration of how we should reason about the self, I utilize the Buddhist account as a case study for how no-self accounts in general can coherently navigate concerns about future planning. I specifically explore the question of whether proponents of a no-self view can recommend that adherents save for retirement. In the last chapter, I explore the way we talk about our self and others. I focus in on terms that are often a source of suffering – slurs. After giving a novel account of how slurs work, I explore how “fat,” a word often used with the intention of causing harm, is not the slur that it might first appear to be. As a result, using this particular term both internally to one’s self as well as in describing the bodies of those around us should be seen as a neutral rather than harmful choice.

While the project touches on metaphysics, practical reasoning, and philosophy of language, all three chapters are unified in their goal to unpack what is required of a plausible account of selfhood. Any plausible account of the self must stand on firm metaphysical and practical grounds. That practicality has not always been given the attention it deserves within academic philosophy. Rather than merely note these practical concerns, I have chosen to center my project on developing some of the groundwork for my account of the self in terms of both practical reasoning and our use of language. While I do not explicitly explore how chapters two and three interact with the picture, I present in the first chapter, I hope to do so in future work.


Attribute NameValues
Author Louise Williams
Contributor Jeffrey J. Speaks, Research Director
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Philosophy
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Banner Code

Defense Date
  • 2021-02-26

Submission Date 2021-04-06
Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units
Catalog Record


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