The Vulnerability of the Relational Self: G. W. F. Hegel, Simone de Beauvoir, and Nishida Kitarō Meet Patty Hearst
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This dissertation examines relational models of selfhood cross-culturally through the work of G. W. F. Hegel, Simone de Beauvoir, and Nishida Kitarō. In the master-slave section of the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel states that the self becomes aware of itself only through the presence of the Other. In this encounter, consciousness discovers that the Other can be a source of recognition (Anerkennung). I turn to the work of Beauvoir and Nishida because they further develop Hegel's notion of recognition through their insistence that the face-to-face relationship that incites self-knowledge is mediated by social-historical events and discourses. Fundamentally, they make Hegel's notion of recognition more concrete, thus giving the reader of the master-slave dialectic an idea of the broader implications of Hegel's view. While Nishida uses few examples to illustrate the determinacy of the historical field of relations, Beauvoir's The Second Sex is full of such descriptions, thus offering the reader of Nishida an illustration of the "historical world" that includes dimensions of constituted and constituting forces. Nishida's metaphor of the self as a place of interaction, or basho, in turn, is useful to the reader of Beauvoir who attempts to picture a self that is a project "toward the other." Moreover, their discussions of agency are weighted toward the perspective of the self in the case of Beauvoir and toward the side of the world for Nishida. Ultimately, this difference can be viewed as grounding the distinct ways in which the authors conceive of ethics. Lastly, both authors attribute ethical action to self-surpassing. However, for Beauvoir, the surpassing of one's individuality leads to the transformation of self-other relations through the mutual recognition of freedom, while Nishida's self-surpassing entails seeking a new locus of ethical action, i.e. absolute nothingness.