In this module, we will study technologies of the self, practices that individuals adopt in order to transform themselves in light of their ideals. We will look at the origins of this concept in the study of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy and discuss texts drawn from Western and Eastern traditions that recommend particular practices of self-transformation. Throughout the module, we will also consider whether ancient technologies of the self are still relevant today and to what extent contemporary self-improvement approaches and forms of digital self-fashioning are modern examples of technologies of the self or a qualitatively different phenomenon.
By the end of this course, students will be able to:
- Analyze and compare the ways in which technologies of the self that have been proposed by different philosophical and religious traditions aim to transform practicing individuals in light of their particular values and theoretical beliefs.
- Evaluate the applicability of the concept of technologies of the self, which came out of the study of Western philosophical traditions, to non-Western traditions, and examine the differences between Eastern and Western approaches to the self and self-improvement.
- Investigate why there is a resurgence of interest in technologies of the self in contemporary society and reflect on the question to what extent ancient practices are still relevant today.