Affectivity and the distinction between minimal and narrative self

Anna Bortolan* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
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In the contemporary phenomenological literature it has been argued that it is possible to distinguish between two forms of selfhood: the “minimal” and “narrative” self. This paper discusses a claim which is central to this account, namely that the minimal and narrative self complement each other but are fundamentally distinct dimensions. In particular, I challenge the idea that while the presence of a minimal self is a condition of possibility for the emergence of a narrative self, the dynamics which characterise narrative selfhood do not have a structuring effect on minimal self-experience. I do so by drawing on both classical and contemporary phenomenological literature to show that at least certain forms of affective experience are complex phenomena in which minimal and narrative forms of selfhood are deeply entwined. More specifically, I claim that, due to their evaluative character, intentional and non-intentional affective states convey a pre-reflective experience of constitutive aspects of the narrative self. This enables me to argue that minimal and narrative selfhood are phenomenologically inextricable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-84
Number of pages18
JournalContinental Philosophy Review
Early online date30 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

This paper stems from the research I conducted as an integral part of my PhD thesis. I am grateful to my PhD Supervisor, Matthew Ratcliffe, and to the academic community at Durham University for providing helpful advice during the period in which these ideas were developed. I have further elaborated and finalised this research in my position as an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellow (Project ID: GOIPD/2016/555), and I thus wish to thank the Council for their support at the time. This paper was presented at the conference "Personhood and Self-Consciousness" at the University of Manchester in July 2018 and I am grateful to the audience for stimulating conversations. My thanks go also to James Jardine, James Miller, and Alessandro Salice for their feedback, and to an anonymous reviewer.


  • Affectivity
  • Emotions
  • Feelings
  • Minimal self
  • Narrative self
  • Phenomenology
  • Self-consciousness


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