Tuesday, April 01, 2014

RSA - From Self to Selfie: Simon Blackburn

Simon Blackburn is the author of Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love (March 2014). Here is the synopsis of the book from Amazon:
Everyone deplores narcissism, especially in others. The vain are by turns annoying or absurd, offending us whether they are blissfully oblivious or proudly aware of their behavior. But are narcissism and vanity really as bad as they seem? Can we avoid them even if we try? In Mirror, Mirror, Simon Blackburn, the author of such best-selling philosophy books as Think, Being Good, and Lust, says that narcissism, vanity, pride, and self-esteem are more complex than they first appear and have innumerable good and bad forms. Drawing on philosophy, psychology, literature, history, and popular culture, Blackburn offers an enlightening and entertaining exploration of self-love, from the myth of Narcissus and the Christian story of the Fall to today's self-esteem industry.

A sparkling mixture of learning, humor, and style, Mirror, Mirror examines what great thinkers have said about self-love--from Aristotle, Cicero, and Erasmus to Rousseau, Adam Smith, Kant, and Iris Murdoch. It considers today's "me"-related obsessions, such as the "selfie," plastic surgery, and cosmetic enhancements, and reflects on connected phenomena such as the fatal commodification of social life and the tragic overconfidence of George W. Bush and Tony Blair. Ultimately, Mirror, Mirror shows why self-regard is a necessary and healthy part of life. But it also suggests that we have lost the ability to distinguish--let alone strike a balance--between good and bad forms of self-concern.
The video below is a highlight reel, so to speak, of his full talk at the RSA (there is a link to the podcast of the full talk with the Q and A that followed).

From Self to Selfie

13 Mar 2014


When "selfie" became the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year in 2013 many saw it as symptomatic of the triumph of the self-absorbed, individualistic "because-I'm-worth-it" generation. But is narcissism always to be deplored? Isn't a measure of self-regard a healthy necessity - and could we avoid it even if we tried?

Acclaimed academic philosopher and author Simon Blackburn visits the RSA to explore the history of self-love through the writings of great thinkers from Aristotle to Adam Smith, Kant and Iris Murdoch - and to reflect on its contemporary manifestations - from the rise in cosmetic surgery and the burgeoning self-esteem industry, to the tragic over-confidence of Bush and Blair and the fatal commodification of social life.

Speaker: Simon Blackburn, philosopher and author of "Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love" (Princeton University Press, 2014).

Chair: Jonathan Rowson, director, Social Brain Centre, RSA

To find out more about this talk, visit the event page.

Listen to the podcast of the full event including audience Q&A.
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