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From "The Craft of Family Therapy" by Salvador Minuchin, etc.:

A self is created in a context populated by significant "others" at different historical periods in the life of a person, but it has a single identity who partakes through life and is influenced--and exerts influence--on other selves. And while we talk about our identity as if it is a unit, in effect we can unwrap the latent identities that have formed through out lives.

This quote is so confusing! Does the identity in "it has a single identity" the same thing as the one mentioned in the next sentence? Does the author think a person has more than one self?

Thanks for response.

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The quote is not really in philosophy, so you might also want to ask in a sociology or psychology SE question. But I wrote my PhD dissertation on selfhood.

I see in this quotation three concepts:

(1) The self as a socially constituted entity. A self is created in a context populated by significant "others" at different historical periods in the life of a person. The idea here is that to be a self (here meaning the sort of entity that has self-consciousness) is to be built on certain constituting relationships to others. In other words to be a self is to receive certain ideas and thought processes from others (i.e., one's society).

(2) The self's identity as the self's unity. it has a single identity who partakes through life and is influenced--and exerts influence. This is to say that the self is a unified node that operates in relation to other nodes in the social matrix.

(3) Identity as a complex notion. And while we talk about our identity as if it is a unit, in effect we can unwrap the latent identities that have formed through out lives. Here, the point is that social identity theory and several contemporary philosophical views of the self point out that the identity of the self varies by social context. In other words, sometimes my configuration is a college professor, some times as a white guy (esp. in Japan), sometimes as a man. And these notions of identity don't always overlap; rather different identities matter in different interactive contexts.

I don't know if that made things any clearer for you but that's what I see happening in that quote. There's a lot to unpack there.

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    Nice answer! How is this not philosophy?! – Einer Sep 5 '14 at 8:39
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    The quote is not in philosophy. (Presumably, it's in family therapy?). Not many philosophers tread these lines of thought -- it's much more common in religion, sociology, and psychology. – virmaior Sep 5 '14 at 8:49

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