My Body, My Self?
Heather Widdows (University of Birmingham)

February 19, 2020, 3:00pm - 4:30pm
School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics, Queen's University, Belfast

Peter Froggat Centre room 03/006A
Queen's University Belfast
Belfast BT7 1PB
United Kingdom

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities


Queen's University, Belfast

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Professor Heather Widdows is the John Ferguson Professor of Global Ethics at the University of Birmingham. and the author of Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal.

Professor Widdows' talk, which takes up some of the themes of her book, is entitled:

"My Body, My Self"


That our bodies have become our very selves in a visual and virtual culture is one of the main arguments of Perfect Me. This is so widely believed that we often don’t recognise either that it is true (until it is pointed it out) or how surprising and transformative this is. To think that our selves are our bodies is new. We used to think of ourselves as our ‘inner selves’. Self-improvement was not improving the body but improving the mind or the soul. Being better was knowing more, having a better character or being able to do more. Success is becoming appearance-success, and recognising the moral element in this is crucial to understanding what is going on. Body work has become virtuous. If we work hard enough – stick religiously to our diet, pump iron, run, buff, smooth and firm – we will be rewarded. And the rewards will be significant. We will be better people, and, in the logic of the beauty ideal, we will be rewarded with the ‘goods of the good life’. Better relationships, better jobs, happiness, better lives.

In ‘My Body, My Self?’ I will explore the move to bodies as selves under an ethical ideal and consider what this means. In locating the self in the body we do not simply objectify. The body is not passive. It is subject and object. The self is located in the body, but not just in the actual flawed body – the objectified body. It is also in the transforming body, a body of potential and possibility, and the imagined body, the perfect me.


The event is open to the public. No registration is required. The venue is on the third floor of the Peter Froggat Centre, the building has a lift. Please contact Jeremy Watkins (j dot watkins @ with any other inquiries.

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