This project will be looking at the concept of the self through body modification. In it, I assert my own conception of the self and will be using body modification to demonstrate the validity of my model. I will be focusing on the implications upon the self in engaging in extreme body modification, the relationship that the self and the body have, and the social relationship between individuals and greater society.

In the first chapter I start with a brief history of tattoo culture. This section explains the significance across cultures, and the general development of the style. The next section is about group identity, as tattooing was very instrumental in group identification. I use African models of group identity to demonstrate how the notion of the self fits into a communitarian based society. I think go into a case study of Polynesia, as it is extremely well known for its tattoo practices on a group level.

The second chapter I use Plato’s dialogue The Phaedo and Samkhya philosophy to start to explain my conception of the self. The extreme dualism of these two schools of thought provides the groundwork for me to build my view of the self that will be used throughout this project.

Chapter Three starts with a discussion of notions of how the body is viewed in contemporary Western society and how my notion of the self explains the body modifications that are occurring. The final section considers John Stewart Mill’s conception of individualism and the “Harm Principle” and further discusses the contemporary implications of body modification.


Schiltz, Elizabeth

Second Advisor

Kammer, Charles


Philosophy; Religious Studies


Aesthetics | American Material Culture | American Popular Culture | Cultural History | Other Philosophy | Other Religion | Polynesian Studies | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


Self, Body Modification, Tattoos, Polynesia, Plato, Samkhya, John Stewart Mill, Society, Contemporary, Body, Narrative, Aesthetic

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2015 Emma J. Kahn