A central issue in contemporary philosophy is the problem of the self. Is it a real entity or a very convincing illusion? Drawing on the work of two leading philosophers, Daniel Dennett and Paul Ricoeur, philosopher Joan McCarthy examines how each of these thinkers casts the self in narrative terms.
McCarthy begins with Dennett's naturalist objectivist account of the narrative self. Specifically, she considers Dennett's use of the language of computer programming and his version of the self as a kind of downloadable software package. Turning to Ricoeur, she assesses his phenomenological-hermeneutic account of the self as a culturally mediated narrative unity. In comparing Ricoeur's concept of self as an embodied character (as in a play or novel) woven from the many plots of a single life to Dennetts neuroscientific model, McCarthy ultimately finds Ricoeur's approach more comprehensive. Finally she makes links with a new approach to ethical issues, narrative ethics, which is currently the subject of much debate in bioethical literature.