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Rahel Jaeggi

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231151986

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231151986.001.0001

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Seinesgleichen Geschieht or “The Like of It Now Happens”

Seinesgleichen Geschieht or “The Like of It Now Happens”

The Feeling of Powerlessness and the Independent Existence of One’s Own Actions

(p.51) 5 Seinesgleichen Geschieht or “The Like of It Now Happens”

Rahel Jaeggi

, Frederick Neuhouser, Alan E. Smith
Columbia University Press

This chapter explores one aspect of self-alienation: the phenomenon of one's own actions taking on an independent existence and the resultant feeling of powerlessness. It argues that, when our life falls into a dynamic of its own, we are just as alienated from ourselves as when our own actions ossify into structures over which we no longer have command. In these cases we can no longer understand ourselves as authors of our own actions. The chapter begins by considering a situation that illustrates the feeling of powerlessness before expounding on the specific problem of this form of self-alienation by distinguishing it from other possible interpretations. It then interprets the phenomenon as a specific form of not being present in our own actions, with particular emphasis on the phenomenon of rigidification that ultimately leads to what might be called the masking of practical questions. It also discusses objections that can be brought against this interpretation and concludes by proposing a conception of self-alienation as a form of loss of control that does not, however, depend on an unrealistic ideal of self-mastery.

Keywords:   self-alienation, powerlessness, loss of control, self-mastery, actions, rigidification

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