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Feminism Philosophy. Essay

3599 words - 14 pages

Shiran Lavian
If the self is socially constructed, is autonomy possible? Why or why not? (In answering this question, you will need to give your views of (1) what it means to say the self is socially constructed and (2) what autonomy consists in.)To argue that the self is socially constructed means that an individual can only define himself or herself in terms of one's relationship with others. I will offer an argument based on citations from writers we have studied, plus my own views, that one can overcome oppression and pursue happiness through a conscientious effort to discover one's identity and pursue autonomy, and arrive at a selfhood that promotes self-realization and self-actualization. The individual can define one's identity only in terms of the relationships, contacts and connections one enjoys or experiences with others, whether family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, schoolmates, co-workers or the rest of humanity. One cannot do as Henry David Thoreau did and determine to live alone in the woods, isolated, alienated and out of physical contact with others, and expect to retain one's mental equilibrium and sustain one's humanity. The social construction of the self depends on maintaining and cultivating contact with others, through physical contact in terms of verbal and non-verbal communication, physical proximity and the cultivation of primary and secondary relationships with a significant other or others, and secondary relationships. I can do no better than quote a brief but profound observation from no less a personage than Simone De Beauvoir, which I believe provides an implied definition of autonomy as a process of evolution and growth. She said, "You are not born a woman; you become one" (Brison 200). To make that remark less sexist and more universal, I say one is not born an autonomous individual, one becomes one. John Stuart Mill in The Subjection of Women offers an argument that broadly defines the concept of social construction of the self as a core element of the pursuit of autonomy for the individual. He notes: "Human beings are no longer born to their place in life, and chained down by an inexorable bond to the place they are born to, but are free to employ their faculties, and such favorable chances as offer, to achieve the lot which may appear to them as most desirable" (Mill 22). For me, the social construction of the self begins at birth, but it develops when an individual reaches that level of mental maturity and intellectual sophistication that enables one to realize one can take that yellow brick road that leads to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness on one's own terms.However, I cannot ignore the findings from research in childhood psychology that construction of the self takes places primarily in the first five years of life. The individual begins developing one's value system, personality and emotional disposition during the first five years of life. I can vividly recall to this day some people I...

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