Self knowledge (part 2)

Know thyself practical philosophy

[Read Part 1 by CLICKING HERE]

The Ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates urged us to “Know Thyself.”

But what is this self that we need to know?

Know thyself practical philosophyThe self might be a heady mix of conscious and unconscious motives which guide our behaviour and intentions.

The development of the self is influenced primarily by our culture, which conditions the self – by parents, educators and society – and their beliefs and values. Our subconscious self can be influenced by early trauma and phobias.

Alternatively, growing up in a flourishing environment might lead to a much calmer and confident personality. Our experiences and conditioning will, therefore, determine our temperament: we might be rather introverted and contemplative – rather timid even; alternatively, we might be more extroverted and active; many of us are more devotional and religious.

Whichever is the case, though, personalities tend to be either optimists or pessimists.

Why do we appear to be ignorant of that self, as Boethius seems to be suggesting?

The cognitive scientist and philosopher, Thomas Metzinger, argues that the self, created by self-consciousness and sub-consciousness – provides for us, a window on the world.

This is the ego; but the ego develops over time, so we actually view the world through an ego-tunnel. But we cannot see the walls of the tunnel or the window at one end of it; consequently, if the ego-tunnel obscures or distorts our view for some reason, we won’t necessarily be aware of it – so our experience of the world becomes limited by a sort of tunnel-vision.

Our conscious experience is significantly influenced by our fears and phobias, prejudices, and personal desires stored – and hidden from the conscious self – in the subconscious self.

Thus our conscious experience is not so much an image of reality as a tunnel through reality.


In other words, we do not see the ego – rather, we see with it.

Why do we need to know ourselves?

The self is at the centre of its point of view of the world. The self effectively determines the scope of that view – if that view is extremely self-centred, as in depressed people, for example, then, it will be confined to one’s immediate environment; but if that view is much wider in scope, one’s view can become “cosmic” or “oceanic” that takes in the whole universe – Reality as it is.

Our conditioning, therefore, will invariably distort our view; and yet as philosophers, we need to perceive reality, fully and clearly.

Knowing oneself is therefore the basis for right thought.

The next blog will look at the methods used by the School to enquire into the nature of the created self.

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