“How one becomes what one is”

Nietzsche derived the subtitle of his Ecce Homo (1988) from Pindar’s line “Γένοιο οος σσ µαθών (Pythian Ode II, 73), which Alexander Nehamas has rendered “Having learned, become who you are” (Nietzsche: Life as Literature, 1985).

Michel Foucault reflected on the “care of the self” (1984) under conditions of becoming by drawing on a question raised by Socrates in the Platonic dialogue Alcibiades: τί ἐστιν τὸ ἑαυτοῦ ἐπιμελεῖσθαι (128a).

The question of the self has been directly important to Pantelis and me in at least two special ways:

First, what does it mean to be your friend’s “other self”?  How does that constitute you?

Second, what does it mean not to have a stable/static self but to keep becoming on the basis of such a friendship?

This Greek song from 2013 has somebody talking to their friend about changing selves and not looking back (it starts at 2:35):

“Πίσω μην κοιτάς”

Στίχοι : Παρασκευάς Καρασούλος, μουσική : Δήμητρα Γαλάνη

Παλιώνει κάποτε σαν ρούχο ο εαυτός σου
κι ας τον συνήθισες και ας βόλεψε πολλά
κι ας ήταν πάντοτε ο πιο πιστός στενός δεσμός σου
κι ας σε κουβάλησε ως εδώ από μακριά.

Παλιώνει κάποτε σαν σπίτι και η ζωή σου
δεν φτάνει πια δε σε χωράει όπως παλιά
τα βράδια τρίζει και εσύ όλο χάνεις το κλειδί σου
όλο πιο δύσκολα η συνήθεια σε κρατά.

Πίσω μην κοιτάς
ό, τι αγαπάς είναι εδώ μπροστά σου
πίσω μην κοιτάς
ό,τι πια χρωστάς είναι στην καρδιά σου.

Παλιώνουν κάποτε και οι δρόμοι να γυρίσεις
και ας σε πονάει που αλλάζεις προορισμό
ένας καινούριος εαυτός ζητάει να αφήσεις
σαν άδειο ρούχο τον παλιό σου εαυτό.

Our dialogue with Pantelis also turns often to the related notion of Bildung which engendered the modern pedagogical, aesthetic, and ethical ideals of self-formation and trained individuals to become citizens of the Kulturstaat.

June 24, 2014

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