First Advisor

Angela Coventry

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Philosophy and University Honors




Agent (Philosphy), Self (Philosophy), Dan Zahavi -- Criticism and interpretation, Galen Strawson -- Criticism and interpretation




Contemporary analytic philosophers posit that selves are continuous mental entities by virtue of their ability to arrange their life’s episodes into a narrative. A self must connect diachronically to episodes in their remembered past or imagined future, and impose upon these episodes a structure that resembles a traditional story arc. Proponents of the ethical Narrativity thesis (ENT) argue that this exercise is not only necessary for continuity, but that it is vital for one to have meaning, agency and coherence in their lived experience. Galen Strawson, among others who reject the ENT, posit that one can lead a rewarding, structured life without having a self-narrative. So-called “episodics” will inhabit an extended temporality (a mental representation of the past and future), but will not relate to those extended episodes as would someone with a self-narrative. Such episodes function merely for navigation in a complex world, and they lack the emotive “charge” necessary for a cross-temporal empathic connection. An episodic does not locate their present self in their remembered past or imagined future. In this paper, I argue that self-narratives are useful organizing devices for charged events. However, a persistent self-narrative is a barrier to a more thorough self-understanding, and to greater agency in the present. Episodic selfhood affords greater access to psychological states of “flow,” which are characterized by sustained concentration, enhanced performance and increased positive affect. Episodics are also less susceptible biases and heuristics. Narratives are beneficial intermediary self-states, but optimal temporal orientation is episodic.


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