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Personal identity : moving beyond essence

journal contribution
posted on 2005-01-01, 00:00 authored by Scott Webster
Education's ancient and profoundly important pursuit to 'know thyself', is often realised through engaging with the question 'who am I?' In order to the identify who in this search, it is argued in this paper that personal identity should be understood to be embedded in the purposes one has for one's life through how one relates, and is therefore spiritual. This spiritual quality of personal identity is therefore existential in character - not essential.

However, often when children respond to this question 'who am I?', they rely upon socially constructed categories and labels such as religious, feminine, cool, punk and the like. The application of such labelling assumes that meaningfulness lies in their essence; that is, they identify what is. This can become most problematic when individuals accept and apply such essentialist labelling to themselves, because such a process can only answer 'what am I?' and not the educationally more important question of 'who am I?' This paper therefore challenges the inadequacy of such an approach and offers a conceptualisation of personal identity which is spiritually embedded in a purpose for one's life.

History

Journal

International journal of children's spirituality

Volume

10

Issue

1

Pagination

5 - 16

Publisher

Taylor & Francis

Location

London, England

ISSN

1364-436X

eISSN

1469-8455

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2005, Taylor & Francis

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