Avoiding the subject : A critical inquiry into contemporary theories of subjectivity

University dissertation from Stockholm : Thales

Abstract: This dissertation explores certain recurrent problems in modern theories about the nature of thesubject. Taking examples from phenomenology, poststructuralism, neopragmatism and feminism, itargues that philosophical theorizing about subjectivity often assumes that the transition from thedescription of the models of meaning with which they work, to the description of the everyday practices of which they are models, can be achieved within the model. There are two aspects ofthis assumptionthat are worked out in detail with respect to the specific theory under discussion ineach chapter: (i) the supposition that there must be a general description to account for diversephenomena, and (ii) the presumed primacy of that theoretical re-description.In examining the selected illustrations from phenomenology, poststructuralism, neo-pragmatism and feminism, the study sets out to show how the terminology and methods ofphilosophy, even in dissimilar or even opposing traditions, produce an object of study at a farremove from the reality they are supposed to explain. Specifically, the dissertation takes up fiverelated themes: (i) the conflation of facts about language or thinking with descriptions of workingmodels; (ii) the assumed dichotomy between "the thinking subject" as producer of language or asproduct of it; (iii) the tendency to misapply the language and thought-forms appropriate to third-person observations about states of affairs to first-person expressions; (iv) the demand thateveryday linguistic practice fulfill the conceptual requirements of the theory; and (v) the idea thatthe truth or facticity of otherwise indubitable facts about the world is somehow compromized if itis not philosophically grounded.The conceptual difficulties described here are outlined in the introduction. In the followingchapters, the problems raised are illustrated and developed by way of examples from modernphilosophy, represented by Husserl, Foucault, Derrida, Rorty and Fish, and Gilligan and Benhabib.

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