Are All Studies the Study of the Self?

The modern obsession with self has led—most visibly, thanks to the Internet—to confessional blogging, Twitter and Facebook self-promotion, and, ultimately, to the “selfie” (the Word of the Year for 2013 according to Oxford Dictionaries).

This emphasis on the first person might seem inevitable in an age dominated by what Tom Wolfe labeled the “Me Generation.” Yet the “culture of narcissism” observed by Wolfe and Christopher Lasch in the in late 70s was merely an updated manifestation of an older phenomenon. In 1914, Sigmund Freud, in “On Narcissism,” discussed narcissism and its intensification into a perversion. The prevalence of this tendency has only increased over the decades, leading the psychologists Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell in 2009—nearly a century after Freud—to declare a “narcissism epidemic” in the United States.

This “selfism” has not merely a psychological but also a philosophical basis. The term “egology” was introduced by Edmund Husserl in his Cartesian Meditations (1931), in which he explained that phenomenology begins as pure egology—that is, the study of the individual consciousness and its modes of experience: seeing, hearing, touching, thinking, etc. It then proceeds to an “intersubjective phenomenology” or analysis of things as they appear to that ego. <Read more.>

Via Theodore Ziolkowski, The Chronicle of Higher Education.