From TheTLS: In Praise of Narcissism

Shahidha Bari must be applauding her article for the TLS, ‘In Praise of Narcissism”, which attempts a reappraisal at the figure some of us have the pleasure of finding staring us in the mirror. Many wild theories have been proposed to explain these beautiful people, including ones that have expanded their definition of narcissism to include those for whom beauty is only in the eye of the beholder. But what’s wrong with being full of ourselves? For Bari, narcissism can be fruitful for philosophical introspection:

Illustration for the TLS.

Illustration for the TLS.

These kinds of self-reflections are not always wasteful. We are accustomed to the idea of a contract-based culture of rights and responsibilities whereby we abide by laws andfulfillobligations, but we might also think about the ways in which civic society is predicated on ideas of self-cultivation, not far removed from narcissism. We can care for the self as the ancient Greeks once did. This is what Michel Foucault reflects on towards the end of his life, his body pitilessly ravaged by illness. This kind of self-care can take different forms writing, reading, eating, exercising but also training oneself to be a citizen, committed to a community in which all human beings are possessed of the same dignity we attribute to ourselves.

So Bari isnot talking about the self-aggrandized sense of narcissism that qualifies it for an entry in the DSM, but the moderated version, a little dosage of which is healthy for us all. In a sense, this neutered definition makes the article slightly disappointing, since not even the greatest bulwarksof altruism would deny that one must take the time toensure the wall is properly maintained and what not. In another sense, it it is a relief, because we know she voted for the right candidate.

Read her full post at The Times Literary Supplement

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