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New Left Review I/231, September-October 1998

Malcolm Bull

Slavery and the Multiple Self

The concept of the self currently plays a significant role within moral philosophy and intellectual history. That this is so is due in some measure to the work of Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor. [*] I am grateful to Marcus Wood and Michael Inwood who read an earlier version of this text and made many helpful comments. Both philosophers treat questions about the morality of actions or agents as secondary to those about the identity of the moral subject. And because it is considered vital to relate moral philosophy to the analysis of personal identity, the historical developments that have fashioned that identity become important as well. For MacIntyre and Taylor, the history of ideas offers a uniquely promising way of reanimating moral philosophy, and Taylor in particular has devoted much energy to tracing the formation of the modern self in the belief that the resulting narrative will reveal the framework within which our moral intuitions are articulated. [1] C. Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity, Cambridge, ma 1989.

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