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Forged in the fire

"... what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" Psalm 8.4

The assertion of René Descartes - I think therefore I am - expresses the confidence which characterises the Modern era. It was exploded by Nietzsche's deconstruction of the conceit, ushering us all into a new reality we call Post-modernism. In this not-so-brave new world personal confidence is undermined by a slew of paranoia and neuroses. Paul Ricoeur tried to make sense of it all and introduce some structure to our self-awareness with his polar theory of the self as idem and ipse linked by one's life narrative and located in one's relationship to the other. That all requires some explanation!

Idem is Latin for "the same" and describes those aspects of our personality which are consistent. Ipse is Latin's emphatic pronoun referring to "the self" and that is what remains constant under pressure. These extremes - or poles - characterising our essential nature in both settled state and in extremis must be rounded out in the context of our life-story, so as to present a fuller picture of who we really are. Yet one thing is missing and that is our reference to the outside world and, in particular, to those around us.

The role of personal conscience and whether that wider context can/ should/ must include God are questions for another day...



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