Who Is The Self  Essay

Length: 6 pages Subject: Black Studies - Philosophy Type: Essay Paper: #46479771 Related Topics: Self Reflection, Moral Relativism, Ego, Death With Dignity Act
Excerpt from Essay :

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Who is the self, and what is the self? These are among the most discussed and controversial questions in philosophy. This essay will aim to answer these questions. I will first give an analysis of what I define the self to be. I will then connect my analysis to parts of Blaise Pascal's Pensees as well as to Soren Kierkegaard's Sickness unto Death. It will be argued that the self is a spirit. As a spirit, the self should be detached from all objective factors because the objective world is not a good indicator for defining the self. Objectivity is a good indicator to define what the natural world is and how it is experienced, but it is impossible to define the self in an objective way because the self is always defining the self.

I was resting on my bed and profoundly thinking about what my understanding of the self is. The first thing that came to my mind was the standard claims of what would be said, such as, "The self is you," or "It is I." But who or what is this I? Is it the fact that I can think, breath and move? I think not. In order to see what the self means I must dig deeper, and go below the surface. With that said and done, I decided to conduct an experiment on myself.

I, Kimia, would never intentionally murder another human being. This is a fairly general claim and most people would agree with me. Therefore, it can be asserted that at the very least, I am a type of person who cares about dignity and morality. These traits are a part of who I am. Then, I realized that if I grew up in an atmosphere in which not engaging in murder would be known as "immoral," I would most likely participate in it. After all, I am a moral person, which is why I murder. Being moral and decent as it was defined in the first scenario would not be who I am in the second scenario.

These are simply claims that I have come to believe, not to know. Hence, in order to understand myself and who I am, I need to escape the objective domain and gain my own subjective side. The subjective side may of course have morality and decency contained within it. What we must do then, in order to see who thy self is? It is best to start from the ground up. We need to wipe out all the terms and labels that we have come to know. It seems that when it comes to our belief system a variety of our beliefs are highly dependent and fixed on notions such as culture or upbringing. This is why an approach from the ground up is needed to bring all of these into question and start fresh. What is required is an anti-essentialist methodology, or a kind of thinking that transforms anti-determinism.

The concepts of Kantianism, communism, and religion all have their criteria for what constitutes the correct belief system and actions. For instance, Kantianism holds that an act is right if the will is present, and that it needs to be universalized so that all will agree upon the morality of it. It also seems that all these methods are just that, methods. The guidelines and principles cannot actually apply to concrete systems. What we must do, then, is look at our own situation. We must turn to the self and invent. We must be individuals. As I have conveyed, I am a strong supporter of Relativism, meaning that, I view belief systems and how we define the self as being bound to a variety of influential factors.

I must first clarify that I am not discrediting the objective world. In fact, objectivity is a suitable mechanism for managing and sustaining human life. Objectivity puts boundaries and moderation on human action. Unfortunately, though, objectivity causes a certain leveling in society. It takes away the uniqueness of the human self, and makes our thoughts and desires generic and generalized. For example, the majority of people around us aim for the same things like a good job or education. Because we share the same goals, we lack uniqueness and the ability to invent...


We all have the same norms. I am not supporting immoral acts or anything as such. Rather, I am proposing that while we should conform to the objective world at times, and we should follow some norms, a balance is needed so that we do not lose sight of our individuality. For instance, when I look at my life and all the diverse acts I engage in, there are times when I am lost as to what I really want vs. what I am expected to want. Arising from influences like norms or family pressure, I want to go to law school, get married, and have triplet baby boys. How marvelous such a thing would be, I think. But is it what I desire, or is it what I have been told to desire? Have my diverse acts, the planning of the future, and the realities of the past deterred my ability to reflect on me, what I really want? The self, then, the real self, is that which cannot be limited to human behavior and rationalism.

There is more to it. From my perspective, the self is something far removed from life. We humans can define our selves based on our soul. But what is the soul? I perceive the soul as an entity that has a high degree of greatness and passion within it. Let us use a personal story to clarify my point. Law school has been one of the great aims in my life. My passwords were law related, the bumper sticker on my car related to law, and so forth. Recently, though, I removed from my desire to be a lawyer factors like prestige, money, family, and society. I asked myself: Do I really want this? That is when I realized that I do not. The power of a greater feeling and passion within me felt that something is not right. It was daunting and it took courage to reject my life goal and plans. Instead, I realized how much I have a desire for philosophy and teaching. I have always had this passion too, but I was so engaged in planning my future for law school that I never took a moment to recognize how I feel. In just a moment, I decided to apply for a Master's degree and attend graduate school in philosophy.

My life plan changed based on self-reflection. I did the same experiment based on wanting children and getting married. Again my passion took over, but this time, I knew that I did want it. Finding the self requires looking inward. How is this is done? Well, It depends on you. It is not about what you want to be, but who do you want to be. You need to acknowledge your life more and focus on the little things by not letting things pass you. It is important to pay attention and not forget why you are doing something in the first place.

Let us look at two philosophical texts to make this clear. Blaise Pascal gives a profound account of what and who the self is. One of the highest qualities of a person is to fully embrace and love the self. After all, our ego can be one of the highest merits in order to live a full, and established life. That said, because of this ego, it becomes evidently difficult to love the self because we have flaws embedded within us. Pascal states that the root of self-love comes from the domain that we love ourselves and ignore our faults. We are motivated by trying to protect our dignity and avoiding a state of shame (Pascal, aphorism 100). This takes us to the main notion of his argument that self-love leads us to a hypercritical side, and that this causes us to not be able to be in the present.

According to Pascal, we have a hypocritical side to us. We are not genuine to ourselves and have a mask to cover our internal nature. As Pascal puts it, "He would annihilate it, but, unable to destroy it in its essence, he destroys it as far as possible in his own knowledge and that of others; hiding his faults both from others and from himself," (100). In other words, we intuitively know the truth but we choose to ignore it. We put ourselves in a chosen illusion.

For instance, we hear way too often statements such as, "I am fine, how are you?" Can it be concluded that this individual is really fine? Or is the statement just a normative and mechanical way of speaking that is in no way related to the internal part of…

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