Some western theories of the self. Where do we come from? What makes us who we are?. The Fated Self – Greeks and Romans Our destinies are decided by the Fates, we are the playthings of the gods. The Faithful Self – Christian Middle Ages-present
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Where do we come from? What makes us who we are?
The Fated Self – Greeks and Romans
Our destinies are decided by the Fates, we are the playthings of the gods.
The Faithful Self – Christian Middle Ages-present
The self is a soul created by God and defined by its obedience to the Lord and its expiation of Original Sin.
Four modern humanist conceptions
The Rational Self – Descartes
The self is a rational thinking mind, separate from and having control over the body.
The self is a complicated interplay between the ego, id, and superego and the conscious and unconscious elements of the psyche, drives, repressed thoughts and feelings, and reason.
The Conditioned Self – Skinner
The self is a complex collection of learned responses to environmental stimuli.
The Self as a Work of Art – Nietzsche
Each individual is an experimental work of art, and life itself is a work of art – dare to be yourself fully.
Philosophy, Humanities, the Arts
The Rational Self
French philosopher, scientist and mathematician
Rejects the authority of ancient philosophers and the Church
Tries to apply a more scientific method to philosophy.
The place to start is by questioning everything you think you know.
Generally rejects authority to focus on
EmpiricismObserving reality and testing it – scientific method
RationalismLogical and careful deep thinking, avoiding emotional biases and preconceptions based on previous authority.
Straight from the horse’s mouth.
Think twice. Then think some more.
Question or be suspicious of the certainty of everything, in order to find what you know you can trust to be true.
Religious and philoshophical traditions and authorities
The evidence of the senses (so he is not an empiricist)
The “laws” of logic and mathematics (there could be an evil demon bending our minds to believe that 2+2=4 when in fact 2+2=22
What do I know to be true for sure?
Eliminate all beliefs that cannot be known with certainty (authorities, sense perceptions, logic and math)
You can doubt everything except the one single fact that you are doubting.
Actually, he wrote it in French: “Je pense, donc je suis.”
Usual translation: “I think, therefore I am.”
Less snappy, but more to the point:
“I’m thinking, so [at least] I [must] exist.”
Descartes believed we are made up of two different components: the mind and the body.
Descartes located the self in the mind.
There are many antecedents for such dualism in philosophy and religion.
Reason and logic establish who we are, more than the emotions, experience, outer authority, or our physical being.
The self is a mind, whose identity and actions are determined by the exercise of its powers of reason.
The mind is the centre of the self; the body is separate and lesser. The mind is “the pilot of the vessel” (body=vehicle; mind=driver)
The Conflicted Self
(1856 - 1939)
Freud based his theories of the self on his analysis of mentally disturbed psychiatric patients.
Freud expanded the theory of the self to include all the places where the conscious mind (Descartes’s self) loses or relinquishes control:
slips of the tongue
neurotic and hysterical symptoms
Freud acknowledges that we are not just conscious and rational adult minds - the body and its most primitive emotional and physical impulses are also part of the self:
the need for a mother and father, for nurturing, for guidance, for love
A basic defense reflex of the mind to ward off anxiety or conflictsthat are too difficult to resolve, and to push out of consciousness impulses that are socially unacceptable.
The unconscious mechanism whereby unacceptable impulses or memories are kept hidden from awareness.
The more we keep something hidden from consciousness, the more power it actually has in our psychological life - the more we remain unconsciouslypreoccupied with it.
The hidden thing makes itself felt in other ways: in dreams, in slips, in jokes, in symptoms, in culture.
out of our
The id is an essentially unconscious part of the mind that expresses our most primitives drives, needs, aggression and fears. It wants to maximize pleasure and minimize pain.
out of our
The superego is a partly conscious and partly unconscious part that tells us how to behave and who we should be. It comes from our internalization of authority figures and role models.
out of our
The ego is a mostly conscious part that tries to manage demands from the superego, the id, and reality. When we are consciously thinking and communicating, that is mostly the ego.
out of our
Return of the Repressed
Conscious, pre-conscious, unconscious
Id, superego, ego