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Understanding-the-Self chapter 1

Philosophy (Socrates, Plato, St. Augustine,
Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Hume,
Freud, Ryle, Churhland, Monty-Ponty). All
to answer the basic question, who are
 Philosophy offers a ton of philosophers offering a ton of perspective with just
about any topic. But for this endeavor, some selected philosophers were
collected who directly talked about the self. Philosophically, discussion of the
self is a basic search for meaning and purpose in life. Determination,
rationalization, and identification of self; sets the direction from which an
individual travel to fulfill his identified purpose in life. Inability to define
oneself leads to a lot of contradiction in life later on, hence, it is one of the
many imperative of life to know oneself right away and to go on with the
business of leading a life charted by oneself.
 Now there is no historical documents that Socrates as a person really existed.
We only know Socrates because his illustrious students (from Plato to
Aristotle) spoke eloquently and generously about his knowledge, wit, wisdom
and intellect. Socrates left no known writings, his highly regarded student
Plato though, wrote extensively about Socrates. Some would even claim that
Plato in positing his own new and radical ideas (in his era), spoke through
the character of Socrates in his many known writings and documents.
 Socrates however, tells us to “know thyself”. In Greek, it is “gnothi seuton”.
Socrates posits that if you know who you are, all basic issues and difficulties
in life would be gone in a simple snap of a finger. If you know who you are,
then everything would be clearer and simpler. One could now act according
to his own self-definition without any doubt and self-contradiction.
 His simple technique of asking basic questions such as “who am I?”, “what is
the purpose of my life?”, “what am I doing here?”, “what is justice” were all
questions predicated on the fact that humans must be able to define these
simple things so as to move forward and act accordingly based on what is the
definition of the said individual.
 Socrates also posited that possession of knowledge is a virtue and that
ignorance is a vice, that a person’s acceptance of ignorance is a source or a
springboard for the acquisition of knowledge later on. So, one must first have
the humility to acknowledge one’s ignorance so as to get or acquire
 Answers will always be subjective and there is really no right or wrong
answers to the questions posited by Socrates, the quality and quantity of
answers is dependent on the respective person answering these basic
premises and his subsequent actions is best understood on how he defined
 Thus, the constant reminder of “know thyself”.
 Historically, he is known as the first martyr of education, knowledge and
philosophy. For lighting up the minds of his students, he was literally
charged with corruption of minors. Socrates is even considered to be so ugly,
that only his own mother could love.
 He was made to choose between exile and/or death via the intake of hemlock.
Socrates choose the later, thus earning him the unofficial consideration as
the first martyr for the elusive fight against ignorance and bigotry.
 He is the acknowledged author of the groundbreaking book “The Republic”
and this book became the bedrock of democracy as we now know it today.
This book talks about justice, balance, equality, how best to rule and how to
prepare for ruling. It talks about statecraft, how to run a country, how to
govern with the best interest of people at heart.
 In this book, there is a character named Socrates, and thus, the world now
knew about a teacher that goes by the name of Socrates. The confusion of
modern scholars is whether Plato was just parroting Socrates in his writings
or Plato was positing new concepts, ideas and notions via the character of
 Plato made the philosophical allegory of the cave. Slaves born as such inside
a cave facing only the shadows of men, will never have knowledge that there
is another set of men representing or creating their respective shadows. That
when a chained slave escapes and learned that shadows are just mere
representatives of their captors. If this escapee returns and tell his former
slave buddies that what they are seeing and hearing inside their cave is
nowhere near to what is actually a reality, they would doubt him, in fact they would even doubt his own very existence.
 Plato also contended that man has a soul and that there is more to man than
his worldly body. The soul here symbolically represents the self. Plato is also
the founder of a school that he called the “academe” which is the precursor of
all the words that the word academic brings.
 Such is the brilliance of Plato and such is the reason that he is included in
this manuscript.
 The Roman Catholic Church have written tons of papers about St. Augustine,
in fact the concept of modern church is predicated on his writings. St.
Augustine is even credited with the invention of the idea of “original sin”.
Philosophically, this was already debunked by modern philosophers, but in
his days and the subsequent dark ages, the notion of “original sin” was a big
 He was a doctor of the church; hence majority of his musing were predicated
on the church and its position in society and its importance in everyday
living. He even developed the concept of the church being the city of god.
That a city governed by the church is a city governed by god. By extension,
this is the very basis of kings and royalty, having their coronation presided by
church to symbolically proclaim that their rule is mandated by god. Even the
appointment of university presidents has their own investiture. As if such
covenant were decreed by god.
 On hindsight, this was the birth of the church meddling on the affairs of
men, of the introduction of theocracy. That when one obeys and submit to
the church, one is obeying god.
 In simplified form, his own philosophy posits that love of knowledge brings
happiness and that only knowledge could bring man true happiness.
 By extension, contemporary Filipinos want their children educated to have a
better slice of life, because by extension, if one wants to improve the quality
of one’s life, nothing is more certain than by attaining education and in a
bigger picture, education is equated by knowledge.
 He is best known for quoting “cogito ergo sum”, or in English translation “I
think therefor I am”.
 With all the groundbreaking advances of computers, with computer being
able to do a trillion computations by a second, they still fall short in
comparison to the greatest computer of all, the human brain. More than the
computations, memories, and capabilities for practical daily purposes. No
computer is ever self-aware of its own existence. Just as no animal would be
musing about the purpose of his life, only humans have the audacity and
impertinence of trying to figure out the meaning of his life and is actually self
aware of his own existence.
 Only humans have the hubris of musing such irreverent questions on
existence and purpose of life. And only humans have satisfied itself with his
own answers to his own musings.
 Humans, are self-aware, they are conscious and being such proves their own
placement in the universe. Humans create their own reality and they are the
masters of their own universe.
 Western philosophy is largely based on the writings of Descartes. If you have
heard of the saying that man is a rational animal, one is actually positing the
contention of Rene Descartes. As a further tribute, Filipinos have a unique
word of “diskarte” denoting finding a way or making things possible. Such a
word is a derivative of the surname of Descartes.
 He is considered to be the father of liberalism. Coming from an era where
proper decorum, conservative thinking and compliance to a collective
imposition of the known authority, John Locke posited liberalism not just
from physical bondage but from psychological and spiritual bondage as well.
 John Locke’s profession was that of a country lawyer and he even had a
degree in medicine, fortunately for the field of philosophy, the mark of John
Locke was in advancing the idea of empiricism (which is no wonder, since he
is by profession, a lawyer).
 The other remarkable contribution of this country lawyer was the notion of
“tabula rasa”. This concept posits that everyone started as a blank slate, and
the content is provided by experiences and by what one could prove, as
collected by life experiences.
 The origin of David Hume is that of a nobility. The irony of David Hume was
that though he came from nobility, he had no palpable source of income and
has no learned profession. He was raised by a single mother and as work, to
keep his physical requirements met, David Hume worked as a merchant
 This is an irony because, he espoused three (3) notable contention in
philosophy; empiricism, skepticism and naturalism. He promoted empiricism
by basing his knowledge and philosophy on evidences, knowing and proving
are two different things. And in life, it is not what you know, but rather what
you can prove.
 David Hume was a known atheist and as such, he believed in the natural
cycle of life. Everything is governed by reason, by rationality and as such,
there is a natural order of things.
 As a young scholar, he already displayed a flair for studies at a very young
age. His most notable contribution for philosophy is his authorship of the
book entitled “Critique of Pure Reason”.
 In this book, he posited the idea that there is a connection between reason
and experience. That in order to have solid rationality, one must have a
variety of experience and exposure. He further contended that there is a
correlation between experience and rationality. You cannot have one without
the other.
 Immanuel Kant subscribe to the idea of metaphysics, that which is beyond
matter, he also subscribes to the idea that pure reason is one of the prime
source of morality. That what is right, that what is moral, is best explained
via reason and rationality.
 Just as the sock-eyed salmons of Alaska, of changing their habitable water
from fresh water to salt water and then back again to fresh water, man tend
to do a lot of things just to have sex. Principally, the main contribution of
Freud is predicated on sex and aggression with the unconscious mind as the
platform. He also talked about defense mechanism and postulated the
psychosexual stages.
 Contextually, the prevailing mores and culture prior to the psychoanalytic
theory of Freud was based on conservatism and rooted on the traditional
views and perspective based on the doctrine of puritanism of the church.
With his postulation on the unconscious mind with emphasis on sex and
aggression, the contemporary sectors during his era were scandalized and
denounced him as a hoax. But he started the ball rolling for the renaissance
of psychology, after Freud, his disciples carried the torch and advance
varying and disparate take on self and personality.
 The main contribution of Sigmund Freud in the field of studying the self is
his theory of psychoanalysis. In its simplest form, psychoanalysis is about
studying man via his unconscious mind and his unconscious mind is
principally predicated on sex.
 Ninety percent (90%) of the time, man is unaware of his behavior and often,
his behavior is to feed the libido, residing in the id. According to the theory of
psychoanalysis, every individual is composed of the superego, ego and the id.
It is the main function of the superego and the ego to regulate and control the
 Accordingly, man and his unconscious mind is affected by Oedipus complex,
penis envy and castration anxiety. By and large, man’s behavior is an
interplay of sexual energies and endeavor, all to facilitate the attainment or
near attainment of sexual gratification because of sexual excitation.
 Eventually, Sigmund Freud experimented on his own children and based on
his observations and conclusions, his theories were derivatives of his study
on his children.
 Freud eventually, became addicted to cocaine and his demise was officially
credited to his acquisition of cancer of the mouth.
 The father of Gilbert Ryle is a medical doctor who passed on his own love of
books to his children, the siblings of Ryle eventually, also became eminent
scholars in their own respective fields.
 The main concept of Gilbert Ryle is that there is a relationship between the
body and the mind. Conversely, the body affects the mind and the mind
affects the body. There is a body and mind dualism. The self is affected by
the mind and by the body. The self is a combination of the mind and the
body. While the focus of other philosopher is veered towards the separation
of the mind and body, for this British philosopher – self is taken as a whole,
with body and mind combination.
 Gilbert Ryle also posited the maxim “I am therefor I am” and more
importantly, he also posited the concept of ghost in the machine. By
extension, things take a life of their own. In his contemporary times, every
machine assumes a life of its own – more than what it was intended for.
 According to Churchland, Folk Psychology will eventually be discredited by
scientific inquiry. Indigenous notions, theories, concepts and ideas will be
supplanted by scientific method.
 The main philosophy of Churhland is predicated on “eliminative materialism”.
Principally, eliminative materialism contention is that people’s common sense
understanding of the mind is false and that most of the mental states that
people subscribe to, in turn, do not actually exist. The world could be wrong;
most people could be wrong and even the mind could also be wrong. In
short, everyone and everything could be fallible. There is no such thing as
Five examples of common sense thinking
Heavy clouds lead to rain.
Not all the time.
Rich people are happy people.
Not all rich people are happy.
People with glasses are intelligent people.
Even dumb people wear glasses.
Harvard students are intelligent.
Not all Harvard students are intelligent.
 More importantly, Churchland postulated that the mind and body are
separate. They are not related. The physical body cannot influence the mind
and the same is also true for the mind, the mind cannot influence body.
 The main articulation of the self-philosophy of Merleau-Ponty is
existentialism. Very briefly, existentialism is predicated on the premise that
man gives meaning to his own life. Happiness and sadness are dependent on
the individual and his perception of his on reality. Consciousness and
perception are related to one another.
 Merleau-Ponty is also a proponent of descriptive psychology, this by
extension - places the current interpretation of reality dependent on the
perception, consciousness and appreciation of an individual.
Socrates (Greek)
Died by drinking of hemlock
Had a chance to go to exile
Charged with corruption of
Know thyself
Plato (Greek)
St. Augustine (Numidia, Roman
province of Africa)
Student of Socrates
Love of knowledge brings
Wrote the republic
Made the doctrine of original sin
Founded the academe
Developed the concept of the church
as the city of god
Man has a soul
Doctor of the church
Rene Descartes (French)
Cogito ergo sum
Western philosophy was largely
based on his writings
Had an ambition as a military officer
Father of modern rationalism
John Locke (English)
Father of liberalism
Was a country lawyer and obtained
a degree in bachelor of medicine
Tabula rasa
David Hume (Scott)
Empiricism, skepticism, and
Raised by a single mother, worked
as a merchant assistant
Although of noble ancestry, had
no source of income and no
learned profession
Immanuel Kant (German)
Metaphysics, beyond matter.
Reason is the source of morality.
Relationship between reason and
Young scholar, aptitude for study at
an early age
Critique of Pure Reason
Sigmund Freud (Prussian)
Died of cancer of the mouth
Addicted to cocaine
Subjected his own children to
Oedipus complex, penis envy,
castration anxiety
Gilbert Ryle (British)
Ghost in the machine, concept of
the mind, I act therefore I am
Father was a doctor who passed on
to his children his vast collection of
Brothers were also considered to be
eminent scholars
Body and mind dualism
Paul Churchland (Canadian)
Eliminative materialism
Wife is also a noted philosopher
(Patricia Churchland)
Folk psychology will eventually be
discredited by a scientific
The self as a brain, mind and
body are separate from one
another and they are not related
Maurice Merleau-Ponty (French)
Existentialism, consciousness and
perceiving are correlated
Proponent of descriptive
Father died at his very young age
Perception influence one’s