The social practice of forming, shaping, expressing, contesting, and maintaining personal identities makes human interaction, and therefore society, possible. Our identities give us our sense of how we are supposed to act and how we may or must treat others, so how we hold each other in our identities is of crucial moral importance. To hold someone in her identity is to treat her according to the stories one uses to make sense of who she is. Done well, holding allows individuals to flourish personally and in their interactions with others; done poorly, it diminishes their self-respect and restricts their participation in social life. If the identity is to represent accurately the person who bears it, the tissue of stories that constitute it must continue to change as the person grows and changes. Here, good holding is a matter of retaining the stories that still depict the person but letting go of the ones that no longer do. The book begins with a puzzling instance of personhood, where the work of holding someone in her identity is tragically one-sided. It then traces this work of holding and letting go over the human life span, paying special attention to its implications for bioethics. A pregnant woman starts to call her fetus into personhood. Children develop their moral agency as they learn to hold themselves and others in their identities. Ordinary adults hold and let go, sometimes well and sometimes badly. People bearing damaged or liminal identities leave others uncertain how to hold and what to let go. Identities are called into question at the end of life, and persist after the person has died. In all, the book offers a glimpse into a fascinating moral terrain that is ripe for philosophical exploration.
This book explores the social practice of holding each other in our identities, beginning with pregnancy and on through the life span. Lindemann argues that our identities give us our sense of how to act and how to treat others, and that the ways in which we we hold each other in them is of crucial moral importance.
Preface ; Acknowledgments ; 1. What Child Is This? The Practice of Personhood ; 2. The Architect and The Bee: Calling the Fetus into Personhood ; 3. Second Persons: The Work of Identity Formation ; 4. Ordinary Identity-Work: How We Usually Go On ; 5. Struggling to Catch Up: Challenges to Identity-Work ; 6. What and When to Let Go: Identities at the End of Life ; 7. What Does It All Mean? ; References ; Index
A valuable addition to the literature on personhood and identity. Like most such texts, it recognizes the ambiguity of the concepts. However, while other texts then try to clarify and fix the ambiguity, Lindemann goes in another direction. She embraces it by presenting and examining the many ways in which practices of social connection, interaction, and disconnection shape, preserve, and even damage an individual's personal and social identity...In an age where the daily news contains stories of murder, rape, and persecution of humans by humans for reasons related to an inability or unwillingness to tolerate others for who they are, Lindemann provides no platitudes. Rather, she calls attention to the real, rollup-your-sleeves phroenetic work of personhood that can only be approached in steps and measured by effort. Her book resonates long after the last page is turned. * Constance K. Perry, International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics *Lindemann writes with great sensitivity to the complexities of everyday identity work, and, one suspects, with no more and no less precision than the practice of personhood allows. * Andrea C Westlund, The Philosophers' Magazine *Lindemann manages to pull off that rarest of rare feats in academic philosophical writing: to say something that is at the same time philosophically insightful and universally relevant for beings like ourselves. * Anna Gotlib, Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal *Holding and Letting Go is deceptively easy to read. The prose is so delightful and the observations so incisive that it is difficult to put it down. But a great deal of hard philosophical work is being done in these pages, and there is intricate engagement with a wide range of important contemporary positions. What emerges is a rich, new structure for thinking about the nature of identity and its relation to the kinds of ethical dilemmas and difficulties we face every day. We are shown not just a compelling and thought-provoking set of views about these issues, but a new way of thinking about them, one that promises to shed some light where things have been notoriously opaque ... Holding and Letting Go is a sophisticated, tender-hearted, and clear-eyed view of persons that provides original and compelling insights into what we are and why it matters. We will be engaging with it for a long time to come. * Marya Schechtman, Hypatia *In this wonderfully wise book Hilde Lindemann weaves stories into theory to help us see how we weave stories into lives, and how through these stories we hold each other in personhood-for good and for ill. Her stories put flesh on the dry bones of much-discussed, overly-abstracted philosophical problems; and in so doing she makes a case for philosophical theorizing as an embodied, engaged, emotionally and socially responsive practice. * Naomi Scheman, University of Minnesota *
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