THEME 14.Problems of human in society. Philosophy of history. Philosophy of religion
Self-consciousness or Self-awareness is the knowledge of one's own presence and existence, including one's own traits, feelings and behaviors. Self-consciousness remains a critical mystery in philosophy, psychology, biology, and artificial intellegence. It is the awareness of one's awareness, and how it exists for others. Self-consciousness can refer to both the idea that "I exist", and the idea that "others know I exist". Self-consciousness is a unique type of consciousness, in that it not always present, and it is not sought after. Self-consciousness, unlike self-awareness, has connotations of self esteem.
Self-consciousness is credited with the development of identity (see the self). In an epistemological sense, self-awareness is a personal understanding of the very core of one's own identity. This is because it is during periods of self-consciousness that people come the closest to knowing themselves objectively. Jean Paul Sartre describes self-consciousness as being "non-positional", in that it is not from anywhere in particular.
Self-consciousness plays a large role in behaviour as it is common to act differently when people "lose themselves in a crowd". It is the basis for human traits, such as accountability and conscientiousness. It also plays a large role in theatre, religion, and existentialism. Self-consciousness affects people in varying degrees, as some people are in constant self-monitoring (or scrutinizing), while others are completely oblivious about their existing self. Different cultures vary in the importance they place on self-consciousness.
Self-awareness can be perceived as a trait that people possess to varying degrees beyond the most basic sentience that defines human awareness. This trait is one that is normally taken for granted, resulting in a general ignorance of one's self that manifests as odd contradictory behavior. This ignorance of one's own self is viewed in existentialism and Zen Buddhism as the source of much human suffering, as noted by the famous saying from Zen Buddhism "we are each the source of our own suffering." However, the reader should take care before presuming that the usual Western conception of self is interchangeable with that of Zen Buddhists. More precisely, it is ignorance of the true nature of one's self that is the source of suffering. Zen Buddhists do not consider the self to have separateness or constancy as do most Westerners. Suffering in the Zen Buddhist sense results from attaching firmly to the narrow conception of a self that is an unchanging entity. For example: yesterday's self was healthy and happy but today's self is ill and lamenting the loss of health in addition to suffering with the pain of ill health.
John Locke's chapter XXVII "On Identity and Diversity" in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) has been said to be one of the first modern conceptualization of consciousness as the repeated self-identification of oneself, through which moral responsibility could be attributed to the subject - and therefore punishment and guiltyness justified, as would critics such as Nietzsche point out. According to Locke, personal identity (the self) "depends on consciousness, not on substance" nor on the soul. We are the same person to the extent that we are conscious of our past and future thoughts and actions in the same way as we are conscious of our present thoughts and actions. If consciousness is this "thought" which doubles all thoughts, then personal identity is only founded on the repeated act of consciousness: "This may show us wherein personal identity consists: not in the identity of substance, but... in the identity of consciousness". For example, one may claim to be a reincarnation of Plato, therefore having the same soul. However, one would be the same person as Plato only if one had the same consciousness of Plato's thoughts and actions that he himself did. Therefore, self-identity is not based on the soul. One soul may have various personalities. Self-identity is not founded either on the body or the substance, argues Locke, as the substance may change while the person remains the same: "animal identity is preserved in identity of life, and not of substance", as the body of the animal grows and change during its life. Take for example a prince's soul which enters the body of a cobbler: to all exterior eyes, the cobbler would remain a cobbler. But to the prince himself, the cobbler would be himself, as he would be conscious of the prince's thoughts and acts, and not of the cobbler's life. A prince's consciousness in a cobbler body: thus the cobbler is, in fact, a prince. But this interesting border-case leads to this problematic thought that since personal identity is based on consciousness, and that only oneself can be aware of his consciousness, exterior human judges may never know if they really are judging - and punishing - the same person, or simply the same body. In other words, Locke argues that you may be judged only for the acts of your body, as this is what is apparent to all but God; however, you are in truth only responsible for the acts for which you are conscious. This forms the basis of the insanity defense: one can't be held accountable for acts from which one was unconscious - and therefore leads to interesting philosophical questions.
OBLIGATORY READING MATERIALS: 1 (p – 345-378)
ADITIONAL READING MATERIALS: Internet
Spiritual and material values in society.
Western conception of self. Self-consciousness as a motivator for social isolation.