Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation (Honours)


School of Liberal Arts


In this thesis, the experience of being a transgender person is viewed and imagined through two different ‘pictures’ of the mind and body: The Dualist Picture, which is operative in Descartes’s and Locke’s philosophy, and The Expressivist Picture, whose primary representatives in this thesis are Wittgenstein and Stanley Cavell. These two pictures are pretheoretical ways of organising reality, and it will be shown, that when a different picture is taken as the base model for what a person, or self, is, there are ripple effects for how a transgender person comes to understand and reflect upon their experience. At the centre of each of the two parts of this thesis is a thought experiment from the respective picture of that part. The first is Locke’s The Prince and the Cobbler, and the second is Cavell’s The Guises. These two thought experiments both describe a kind of personal identity transformation related to the distinction between mind and body, what could more colloquially be called a body swap. Reflection on each of these thought experiments reveals that each picture leads to radically different notions of personal identity, of what a ‘transition’ of the self might be, and of what gender is and how it operates. This thesis also provides considerations of how the distortion of pictures can lead to what Sartre calls bad faith, a self-conception that fails to balance contrasting understandings of oneself, as an object amongst other objects on the one hand and as a subject capable of choice and change on the other hand. This thesis does not make value judgments on the pictures discussed, but rather calls for alternating between these pictures, or for a carousel-like use of pictures, to provide a more wide and rich understanding of self, especially for the transgender individual.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.