Two senses of narrative unification

Mary Jean Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper I seek to clarify the role of narrative in personal unity. Examining the narrative self-constitution view developed by Marya Schechtman, I use a case of radical personal change to identify a tension in the account. The tension arises because a narrative can be regarded either to capture a continuing agent with a loosely coherent, consistent self-conception – or to unify over change and inconsistency. Two possible ways of responding, by distinguishing senses of identity or distinguishing identity and autonomy, are examined, but I argue that neither precisely maps this tension. I then develop a distinction between two ways in which narrative can unify: through “bottom-up” processes related to the connection between agency and self-conception; and “top-down” processes related to self-interpretative activity. The account provides ways to resolve some criticisms of narrative theories of identity, in particular in better accounting for the role of repudiated characteristics in narrative identity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-93
Number of pages16
JournalPhilosophical Explorations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • narrative identity
  • narrative unity
  • repudiation
  • self-constitution

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