What Is the Self?

I have no knowledge of myself as I am, but merely as I appear to myself.

- Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, B 158

Podcast of the Day

Is it possible to know your self? Does everyone have a sense of their own self? These thorny questions are the focus of this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast. Galen Strawson is in conversation with Nigel Warburton. David Edmonds introduces the podcast.

Listen to Galen Strawson on the Sense of Self

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

“To thine own self be true”, the saying goes. It is often taken as sage advice, a remnant scrap of Elizabethan life coaching, but Shakespeare may have meant it to be heard as a stale platitude. He puts it in the mouth of Polonius, a windbag given to hackneyed pronouncements. But what is this true self to which we should be true?

The idea that we have true selves has been contentious. For every bright-eyed humanist urging us to shed our social conditioning and discover the authentic self within there is a jaundiced philosopher telling us it is an illusion. Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that he “had no true self” and his self was in fact “an empty palace of mirrors”.

Whether the true self is fact or fiction, many people believe in it. Those beliefs have been explored by a number of social psychologists and “experimental philosophers”. Their work has begun to clarify why the idea of the true self matters, regardless of whether it is real...

Continue reading Nick Haslan's article: Is there such a thing as a 'true self'?

Further Reading

In philosophy, “self-knowledge” standardly refers to knowledge of one’s own sensations, thoughts, beliefs, and other mental states. At least since Descartes, most philosophers have believed that our knowledge of our own mental states differs markedly from our knowledge of the external world (where this includes our knowledge of others’ thoughts). But there is little agreement about what precisely distinguishes self-knowledge from knowledge in other realms. Partially because of this disagreement, philosophers have endorsed competing accounts of how we acquire self-knowledge. These accounts have important consequences for a broad range of philosophical issues, especially issues in epistemology and the philosophy of mind...

Continue reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Self-Knowledge by Brie Gertler

Related Topics

If you’re interested in the idea of the self, check out some of the following related topics for more resources:

Consciousness | Existence | Metaphysics | The Soul

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