Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn has been awarded a research grant for her current book project "Contemporary American Notions of Selfhood," from the Historical Society's Religion and Innovation in Human Affairs (RIHA) Program funded by the John Templeton Foundation. The RIHA Program encourages investigators interested in conceptually oriented research on the role religion plays in the generation of new ideas leading to progress in history.
Lasch-Quinn's book explores one of the most noticeable historical developments of the period from the 1960s to the present has been a proliferation of new therapies aimed at individual health and well-being. Yet, in a seemingly cruel twist, contemporary Americans seem to be experiencing extreme levels of loneliness, anxiety, depression, and other such ailments of the emotions and spirit. This book project seeks to explore why this is so and offer a new perspective on the way we approach the perennial questions we face as part of being human. Chief among these is a question that is often pushed to the side in the fast-pace of life in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries: how should we live?
The book examines the current crisis of selfhood as a problem of too little inwardness in a culture that places a premium on outward appearance at all costs. True, our uniqueness makes our inner thoughts and feelings impossible to communicate fully, but the struggle is what creates a form of inwardness that allows us to make the deepest connections with others. This book presents the different concepts of selfhood at work today, bringing serious philosophers of the inner life, even from as far back as the 3rd century, back into the conversation about how to live most fully.