AmirAshkan Pishroo
by AmirAshkan Pishroo

In discussing his notion of “the self,” Richard Rorty starts with a poem by Philip Larkin. Here is the final part of it:

And once you have walked the length of your mind, what

You command is as clear as a lading-list

Anything else must not, for you, be thought

To exist.

And what’s the profit? Only that, in time

We half-identify the blind impress

All our behavings bear, may trace it home.

But to confess,

On that green evening when our death begins,

Just what it was, is hardly satisfying,

Since it applied only to one man once,

And that man dying. (”Continuing to Live,” Larkin 1988)

The poem is an examination of the fear of dying, which suggests to Rorty a way of unpacking this fear by asking concrete question about the one’s I: “what it is that will not be” (Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity(CIS): 23). For the word I as such is an empty phrase, which is why Freud says that psychoanalysis “seeks to prove to the ego that it is not even master in its own house” (S.E. 16: 284).

Freud puts an end to the common-sense assumption that a single human body typically contains a single self. So in the Freudian picture the metaphysical questions like “But what am I really?” “What is my true self?”, become unhelpful phrases. For the I is a multifaceted character (Joyce Mcdougall: “Theaters of the Minds”), and the same human body can play host to two or more persons (Donald Davidson: “Paradoxes of Irrationality”).

Good God, where am I in all this and how do I manage to make adjustment to the inevitability of death? What Epicurus says as to why we shouldn’t fear death, Rorty tells us, is as clumsy as the question, But what am I really? Epicurus said, “When I am, death is not, and when death is, I am not.” According to Rorty, this is just exchanging one empty phrase with another.

Mcdougall puts these holistic considerations to work as follow. Most of us manage to make unstable adjustments to the fact of aging and the inevitability of death by becoming in our unconscious fantasies “all omnipotent, externally young, and immortal”(1986: 9).

What Larkin fears, Rorty suggests, is the extinction of “his idiosyncratic lading-list, his individual sense of what was possible and important. That is what made his I different from all other other I’s” (CIS: 23).


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AmirAshkan Pishroo

Thanks Ebi xaan

by AmirAshkan Pishroo on

Thanks Ebi xaan for your support. I have also followed your posts, and enjoyed your sense of humor. I have thought and laughed many times about what you said to jj: you sleep on the couch, I sleep on the floor, as if in your house roghan nist, though safaa hast. And I am sure there is lot of it.

AmirAshkan Pishroo

Beauty requires a frame, and death will provide that frame

by AmirAshkan Pishroo on

Dear Azarin,

I have read, I must confess, nothing by Blonchot himself except some commentary about him. I know that his intellectual connections to the thought of Hegel and Heidegger, Derrida, Levinas, and Foucult, have earned him a high place in contemporary debates on philosophical and literary culture. The similarity you found in my comment is probably via post-modern thinkers like Derrida, Deluez, and Jean-Luc Nancy, from whom I have now and then borrowed phrases to make myself intellectually more impressive.

In your comment you noted that "Almost as if it’s our passion that drives our act of writing, or maybe we're just following Blanchot's advice: "let the disaster speak in you!". Or to put the point in Heidegger's way, "language speaks man," and language change in the course of history, and so they change us.

Donald Davidson's philosophy of language helps us see language as we see now evolution, as new forms of life, new vocabulary and metaphors, constantly killing off old forms, blindly, of course.

To sum up, the moral I want to draw from my discussion of the Heideggerean claim that "language speaks man," is that if Heidegger and Davidson are right, then we should brush aside Blonchot's proposition "let the disaster speak in you!" He focused on thoughts of death, the disaster which was often associated with the Holocaust, bearing witness to something that exceeds our ability to represent it, and taking up the task of representing the unrepresentable. He demanded that we try to grasp the disaster so that it will never be forgotten, no matter how futile this it may be.

Blonchot and his contemporaries were largely borrowing from the vocabulary of the culture which they were hoping to replace. They have created us--our conscience, our culture, our form of life. But we latecomers must now replace them. They have done just that.

This is what we should do, changing the slogan: Let the beauty speak in you! For beauty requires a frame, and death will provide that frame.

ebi amirhosseini

Mr Pishroo aziz

by ebi amirhosseini on

your blog is not "half-baked" sir,but actually "properly baked".though it is my firts time that I leave a comment for you,but I always enjoy reading your blogs .


Azarin Sadegh

Have you read Maurice Blanchot?

by Azarin Sadegh on

One of my all time favorite authors and thinkers is Maurice Blanchot. Your last comment about passion, writing, death and solitude reminds me of main subjects that Blanchot has been writing about. I am almost sure you would enjoy reading him, considering your impressive knowledge about Philosophy and your obvious interest in any difficult subject..:-)

You also seem doing a good amount of research for your posts, unlike most of us who would basically write on a "coup de tête" and without doing any research. Almost as if it’s our passion that drives our act of writing, or maybe we're just following Blanchot's advice: "let the disaster speak in you!".

Voila a few lines of Blanchot's Faux pas:

“A writer who writes ''I am alone'' or, like Rimbaud, “I’m actually from beyond the graves.” can be considered rather comical. It is comical to be aware of one’s solitude while addressing a reader, making use of means that keep one from being alone. The word “alone” is just as general as the word bread. To pronounce it is to summon to oneself the presence of everything the word excludes…”  

And from L'écriture du désastre:  

“To read, to write, the way one lives under the surveillance of disaster: exposed to the passivity that is outside passion. The heightening of forgetfulness. It is not you who will speak; let the disaster speak in you, even if it be by your forgetfulness or silence…” 


PS: BTW, my favorite Blanchot is definitely L'espace littéraire!

AmirAshkan Pishroo

Blessed with aesthetic bliss: Nazy, Azadeh, Azarin, and Irandoxt

by AmirAshkan Pishroo on

Had I known that my half-baked post on selfhood was going to be commented by such beautiful minds: Nazy, Azadeh, Azarin, and Irandoxt, then I would have written a book on it, using every resource, every asset, every power I could find at my disposal. Let's go back; let's repeat the text again.

You fair ladies are blessed with aesthetic bliss and wisdom without equal at expressing them without distorting them. I believe in Nazy's sense of passion: the passion of sense. Passion always is destined towards the impossible. It does not transform the impossible into the possible; it is rather dedicated to it; it expresses itself in it, where everything comes, where all meaning comes, and "when the time is here for I fooled life into giving me its very best shot and I gave it back mine."That remains, according to Nazy and/or Derrida, the absolute solitude of a passion without martyr.

This passion is a digging without end or limit, and the digging is writing, as Azarin has it: "it's only the word that remains," or a void which re-empties itself.

Thank you.


Dear Amir Ashkan

by IRANdokht on

Thank you for the collection of the various thoughts on this matter. I enjoyed reading the comments made by the lady writers of this site and now I have an understanding of how they feel about "Selfhood" and "death".

This is a very interesting subject. I am here to learn and I'd like to know what your own views are on the subject too. 

Thank you


Nazy Kaviani

Live with joy, die whenever

by Nazy Kaviani on

A most thought provoking post, Amir Ashkan.

Through many trials and tribulations, pains, and joys, I have come to live every day of my life as though there is no tomorrow. This is the moment that counts and for which I have to do my best. When I look at my past, everything looks right to me, even my mistakes and my failures. If I had to do it all over again, I would probably do exactly as I did under the circumstances. Regret-free, that's my approach to life, for I know I did my best at every single moment of the life that I have lived. I love tomorrow, not because it looks better than today, but because of the hope and promise which lies inside it, propelling and motivating me to do my best today.

When I die, even if it is this second, there is nothing, nothing, that I feel I should have done, for I have done my best with whatever was handed to me. I have loved like no one I know, I have confessed to that love for as long as it has lasted, I have laughed like no one else, I have danced more than others, and I have reached out more than others have, saying my heart. There are no words I wish I had said, for I have said them all, no embraces I wish I had held, for I have held them all, and no apologies I should have uttered, for I have uttered them in full.

I love life and precisely for that reason, I am ready to die without notice. Truth be told, I do fear a slow and painful death, but if and when that one is handed to me, I'm sure I'll be able to figure out how to do my best about it. I don't believe in martyrdom, I don't believe in being a victim, and I don't believe in saving for a rainy day. None of the pains and agonies I have experienced in my lifetime, and I have had my share, have ever constituted a rainy day in my life. In its seemingly bleakest and darkest, certainly with hindsight and in retrospect, my life has been a sunny day, full of laughter, dance, joy, and learning.

Come and get me when the time is here for I fooled life into giving me its very best shot and I gave it back mine.

Azadeh Azad

Fear of death can not be discussed & understood philosophically

by Azadeh Azad on

I think those who are afraid of death, are also afraid of life. They have not overcome the existential anxiety of being and living. This fear ought to be surmountable, because I am no more plagued by the anxiety of existing as I was most of my life.

Extreme individualism (i.e., to believe that, or experience life as if, my "I" is an independent entity, separated from others and the Universe, is another cause of this fear /anxiety. And this, even if you become aware that you carry your mother and father and multiple personal and collective archetypes in your psyche.

I have come to be intensely aware of death and to love it. I mean I love the idea of my own death (too complicated to go into how I got there), which allows me to enjoy life more than ever.

I write, and do other creative stuff, because that’s the most pleasurable way (for me) to wait for my own death. Many years ago, as a result of both experiencing life as meaningless and knowing that it is so, I twice attempted suicide. But after I failed, I decided to live and enjoy the hell out of existence. Life in itself has no meaning, but there are things such as beauty and pleasure that make us forget this undeniable certainty.

And the fact that I have a loved one (my younger sister) who has died, allows me to imagine that I will be joining her wherever she is: either in nothingness or some other dimension (I am sometimes agnostic :-). I think it is *love*, or at least some psychological adjustment, that can help us overcome the fear of dying, not any philosophical consideration. I love my sister so much that I totally embrace the idea of one day having the same experience as hers.

(Obviously, people who believe in a god, after-life, etc, also believe in an intrinsic meaning for life and don’t have this problem.)




Azarin Sadegh

writing...writing is like catching the essence of immortality

by Azarin Sadegh on

I always thought that "it's only the word that remains"...don't we all know that when nothing existed, concepts and abstactions or simply words existed. The notion of time cannot be applied to any word.

So I think we write because we don't want to die. because we're afraid of death.

But by the same reasoning ....if during our lifetime we choose to go mute, it's like choosing to be dead, even alive.

I wonder if it still does make sense...(I am sure my writing teacher would say no! )

When I was 18 I wanted to study Philosophy. I even took one course at university...then I realized that our philosophy teacher resembled someone who has never lived, or at least someone who didn't know how to laugh or to cry...So I gave up and chose to live...:)

Thanks for your thought provoking blog and sorry if it doesn't make sense! Azarin