Philosophy of Self : Exploration

Philosophy of Self

In studying the topic of individualism and self-identity, we must ask ourselves which of the philosophies of self are most relevant today? After reading and analyzing the short story, The Masque of the Red Death I became fascinated with the human condition. Thanks to the insight and supporting nature of my English teacher I found a new passion for learning about philosophy. In order to encompass this message, I found a quote by the great Manly P. Hall, “To live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering about in a great library without touching the books”. In order to tackle such a large question, I researched the philosophy concerning personal identity. This topic is important because it concerns everyone and the most fundamental part of ourselves. As the philosopher and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote, “the soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts”. A majority of the ancient Greek philosophers shared a cognitive approach that stemmed from the community, habits, and way of thinking that constitute a person’s life. Some philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle believed that the role of society and culture superseded the individual.

For the purposes of this paper, mind and self will mean the same thing. I will focus this paper on the internal aspect of reality, the development of knowledge from experience. To exist as a person is not to think but to be conscious of one’s thoughts. This philosophy was pushed by English philosopher and physician, John Locke. Locke maintained that we are born as a “blank slate”, what is essential is the minds’ existence is its awareness that accompanies thinking. The term “identity” is very ambiguous because it carries challenging questions such as: “How come that I feel like the same person in my whole life, although many crucial things change, like my age, friendships, occupation and beliefs, who do I want to be which kind of person and personality, and what enables me to feel being the same “I” in all that different roles with different qualities?”. The concept of identity for this paper will be questioned as a structure or form of “an individual’s self-relation and self-conception” (Sollberger). I agree most with Locke on his philosophical beliefs and with compare it with others.

The idea that the self is separate from an identity is shared by several philosophers such as David Hume and Buddha. The rationality of self-characterizes, in addition to other things, the states of personality that make one subject of experience unmistakable from all others. Current research on the idea of oneself are not along these lines on the idea of personhood, or individual personality. Oneself is comprehended as a brought together entity basically associated with cognizance, mindfulness, and organization. Different hypotheses on the supernatural idea of oneself have been proposed. Among them, the mystical idea of oneself has been examined to be that of an unimportant substance. David Hume indicated out that we tend to imagine that we are a similar or same individual that we were five years ago. Even though we have changed in many ways, an individual seems the same as her or she was at that period. To understand this, we may begin to understand which highlights can be changed without changing the hidden self. Hume, in any case, denies that there is a qualification between the different highlights of an individual and the strange self that evidently bears those highlights.

When we begin investigating, “we are never personally aware of anything other than a specific discernment; man is a group or accumulation of various recognitions which succeed each other with an unfathomable quickness and are in never-ending transition and movement” (Wilson). On Hume’s view, these observations don’t have a place with anything. Hume thinks about the spirit specific to a region, which holds its personality not by existing of some suffering center substance, however by being made of continually evolving components. The subject of individual personality at that point turns into a matter of describing the free attachment of one’s understanding of themselves. Hume’s position is fundamentally the same as Indian Buddhists’ origination of oneself. The Buddha specifically assaulted all endeavors to think about a fixed self, while expressing that holding the view “I have no self” is likewise wrong. This is a case of the center route diagrammed by the Buddha and the Madhyamaka school of Buddhism.

John Locke was one of the thinkers who were against the Cartesian hypothesis that spirit represents individual character. Part XXVII on “Character and Diversity” in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding has been said to be one of the main present-day conceptualizations of awareness as the self-distinguishing proof of oneself. Locke gives his record of character and individual personality in the second release of the Essay. He holds that individual personality involves mental congruity. To summarize, he believed we have two different concepts of self: person and man. The person is linked by memories and the concept of it is of use in law for identifying guilt and innocence. What determines the person you are is what you remember thus being judged for what you did and remember (memories). Therefore, someone that does not remember breaking the law, is not responsible for it. However, his concept of man is linked to the object of our body. If someone did commit a crime but there was no memory, Locke would say it’s the same human being but a different person.


Contending against both the Augustinian perspective on man as initially wicked and the Cartesian position, which holds that man inherently knows consistent recommendations. Locke proposes a “vacant” personality, a clean slate, which is formed by involvement, sensations and reflections being the three beginning of every one of our thoughts, “the mind is not a ready-made substance that has certain properties and/or qualifications. it appears to be an entity that evolves toward a process of understanding. It is by permanent proximity of mind to sense data that the mind starts to distinguish the familiar from the unfamiliar. Through continuous contact with sense data, a person forms the idea of objects and of other people by receiving their impressions upon his mind. At the level of experiencing external objects and simple ideas then, the mind is passive” (Locke 1975, 118). Memory seems to assume individual character; therefore, it can’t comprise a basis of it. In addition, personality is a transitive connection, while memory isn’t, so the last can’t be a rule of the previous. Lastly, there is the undeniable stress that personality appears to persevere through the loss of memory: it’s difficult to believe that I would stop to exist were I to experience amnesia. It’s for every one of these reasons that contemporary scholars working in the Lockean convention have needed to roll out critical improvements to the hypothesis to make it a practical contender for the connection among personality and morals.

As per Ubuntu philosophy, which has its origin in old Africa, an infant isn’t a person. Individuals are conceived without “ena” and secure it through experiences and encounters after some time. As the Kenyan-born rationalist John Mbiti said in African Religions and Philosophy (1975): “I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am”. In fact, the Zulu phrase “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” translates to a person is a person through other people. An individual who is Ubuntu is open and accessible to other people, doesn’t feel undermined. An Ubuntu person has an appropriate understanding and self confidence that originates from realizing that the individual is in a community and interconnected world. Ubuntu theory uncover that an African society is humanist, network based and communist in nature. The Ubuntu philosophy in this manner doesn’t support any building of a single community inside African culture.

In Plato’s teachings, Socrates frequently asks his Athenians to “Know Thyself”, which was a well-known and repeated saying in 400 BC. He opposed the majority with his belief of self-knowledge. One’s actual self, as per Socrates, isn’t to be related to what we possess; our societal position, notoriety, or even our fame. Rather, Socrates held that our actual self is our the same as our soul. Subsequently it is fundamental that we commit measures of our consideration, vitality, and assets to making our spirit as great and delightful as could be. There is a consensus among psychoanalysts and philosophers that working to comprehend yourself better is a great idea. Why is this? If we are too concerned with the intricacies of ourselves, we may end up reluctant and can reduce our level of social interaction. On the opposite side, René Descartes supersedes present day reasoning with thoughtfulness and the self as his beginning stage. He considered that no matter how thoroughly wicked his reasoning may be, he was having thoughts, so that must imply that he existed. In spite of the fact that Socrates is regularly portrayed as the “father of Western rationality,” the French philosopher René Descartes is generally considered the originator of present-day philosophy of self. As significantly impactful as Socrates and Plato were regarding the idea of oneself, their comprehension was impeded and restricted by the cognizance of their timespans.

Descartes introduced a totally new present-day viewpoint to the philosophy of oneself. Prior scholars had concentrated on investigating the central inquiries of human presence, for example: what is the idea of the real world, what is the “great life” and how we should act, does God exist, what is the idea of the spirit what is the perfect society? Descartes was determined to investigate the idea of thinking and comprehension in connection to the human self. He was certain that to build up the most educated and all-around grounded convictions about human presence, we should be unmistakable about the reasoning instrument we are utilizing. For on the off chance that our reasoning instrument is imperfect, certainly, our convictions must also be defective. The end is come to through a natural jump, as opposed to a contemplated examination of two premises. It is, all things considered, foolish to state that something can think but then not exist. By characterizing his fundamental self as a thinking person, and as only that, Descartes made a totally and drastic detachment of the psyche from the body. This radical separation is known as Cartesian Dualism, a foundation of his whole rationality. The psyche, as per Descartes, has no requirement for anything physical to be what it is. Oneself as a mind exists as a particular substance, as “thinking matter,” and it appreciates a unique liberty from the universe of matter that is liable to the subject of science.

Ekhart Tolle would state that your brain is like a book even if it has words in it, content and characterizing attributes. He says that you are not that “data”, however the book itself. You may have ten chapters in that book, yet you are the book that they are composed on. Selves are a binding together; absolute account or portrayal of an individual. The word ‘I’ seemingly alludes to the individual and not oneself. As indicated by Kant, every individual is a self-ruling being fit for visualizing strategies that rise above any biological relationship such as: traditions, childhood, sexual orientation, race, and societal position. An origination of the self-governance of oneself will at that point assume an important job in the definition of human rights: every person is qualified for such rights because every human self-merit’s in as much as it is a self-governing operator. Kantian points of view have been declined in a few distinctive forms during recent hundreds of years; Kant established one of the most grounded and most fascinating hypothetical centers crediting a focal to oneself. Although, Kant himself held that his perspective on the brain and awareness were inessential to his primary contention. However, a portion of his thoughts came to have a tremendous effect on his successors. The Kantian perspective, and his view of consciousness and the mind are integral to intellectual science. There are three distinctive ideas that distinguish Kant’s perspective,

  1. The mind is a complex set of abilities (functions).
  2. The functions crucial for mental, knowledge-generating activity are spatio-temporal processing of, and application of concepts to, sensory inputs. Cognition requires concepts as well as percepts.
  3. These functions are forms of what Kant called synthesis. Synthesis (and the unity in consciousness required for synthesis) are central to cognition.” (Brook)

These principals are fundamental to contemporary view of the mind and cognitive science. His view of the mind was well documented in his Critique of Pure Reason and Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, first distributed in 1798 just six years before his passing. Kant didn’t hold any reliable perspectives on the investigation of the mind, the “empirical method for doing psychology that Kant discussed was introspection” (Brook). This reasoning is problematic for a number of reasons. For instance, having an investigation on the basis of an internal observation is impossible to quantify and mathematically model. The experience is only separated by thought, one subject only differs from their view, the item doesn’t change. The only testable study of the mind possible is investigating oneself, “distorting the state of the object itself” (Brooks).

Recent feminist philosophical literature and perspective on the self has formed itself into three main subjects: “critiques of dominant modern, Western views of the self, reclamations of female identities, and reconceptualizations of the self as both a dynamic, relational individual beholden to unconscious desires and social bonds and an intersectional, multilayered phenomenon” (Willett). In contrast to the Kantian view of the self, feminist philosophers seek to provide alternative perspectives on the self. The feminist critique accuses dominant philosophers’ perspective of the self as masculine. They believe this because the conceptions regarding oneself reinforce a social identity. These conceptions ignore the intricacies of identity such as age, looks, sexuality, biological composition, and physical competencies. Even though we have made great progress in the status of women in society, we continue to place a special burden for their work. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Feminist Perspectives on the Self encompasses this perfectly, “For many feminists, to acknowledge the self’s dependency is not to devalue the self but rather to revalue dependency, as well as to call into question the supposed free agency of a self that implicitly corresponds to a masculine ideal” (Willet).

Aristotle differed from Plato in his perspective on what a person on a very basic level is. Plato held that the genuine self of people is the brains that establishes their intelligence and that is distinguishable from their body. Aristotle opposes the idea and believes that the person is a composite of body and soul and that the spirit can’t be isolated from the body. Aristotle’s opinion on the self was developed on the basis on physical objects resulting for a combination of matter and form; the spirit of an individual is the structure of the human body. He was an ancient Greek philosopher and scientist who covered a wide range of topics and pioneered the intellectual revolutions (Enlightenment, Reformation, and Renaissance). His published treatises remains a powerful current in contemporary philosophical debate. In answering the aforementioned question of which philosophies are most relevant, I have concluded that there is no single, most important one. Each famed philosopher held unique perspectives that establish a spectrum of opinions.

However, I agree most with John Locke. John Locke considered individual identity or oneself to be established on cognizance and memory and not on the substance of either the spirit or the body. Self-identity is not based on the soul because someone may claim to be a reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln yet does not have the same consciousness as him. In conclusion, we are the same person in that we remember our past and can function to have the same thoughts and actions we have had. This line of thinking establishes the insanity defense which is an affirmative defense declaring the defendant not responsible (held unaccountable) due to being unconscious, or unable to be aware of self and environment. For these reasons I have held that the philosophy of self pushed by John Locke is most relevant.

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