The Processive, Situated Self: Models of the Self in the Process and Existentialist Traditions

William Denby Brandon, Fordham University


In this project, I develop a model of the self out of the resources offered by two different philosophical traditions: process philosophy and existentialism. From the former camp, I explore the work of Alfred North Whitehead, William James, John Dewey, and George Herbert Mead. From the latter, I explore the work of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. I show how a comparative approach to these two traditions gives us the means to articulate a model of a ‘processive, situated self.’ Such a model does justice to two important aspects of our experiences as selves: the determined aspect and the determining aspect. The self is in part constituted by the ‘social’ environment in which she is embedded, yet the self also plays a role in constituting this environment itself. In short, the self is agentively active within a ‘world’ that partially, but never wholly, determines what she becomes. An adequate model of the self must do justice to both of these aspects. The process thinkers and the existentialists together give us a rich variety of resources to develop an account that does this and more. I bring these two traditions into conversation with a constructive purpose in mind: to provide the beginnings of a robust and hopefully adequate model of the self. As such, in addition to demonstrating the overlap between how these two traditions understand the self, I show both how these process thinkers might learn from existentialism (and feminism) when it comes to how to conceptualize issues like ‘oppression’ and ‘mystification’ as well as how, with their constant emphasis on the dynamism in the world and in human experience, the process thinkers can benefit the existentialists when it comes to understanding how a ‘non-substantial’ individual self can be both continuous and constantly changing through dynamic interactions in the world.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Brandon, William Denby, "The Processive, Situated Self: Models of the Self in the Process and Existentialist Traditions" (2017). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10275429.