1. THESELFFROMVARIOUS PERSPECTIVES
I. SESSION TITLE: PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVE OF THE SELF
II. EXPECTED OUTCOMES:
1. Learners will be able to explain the role of philosophy in understanding the
concept of the self;
2. Discuss the different philosophical viewpoints about the self;
3. Analyze the relevance of various philosophical standpoints to one’s sense of
Philosophy is often called the mother of all disciplines simply because all fields of
study began as philosophical discourses. Philosophy employs the inquisitive mind to
discover the ultimate causes, reasons, and principles of everything. It goes beyond
scientific investigation by exploring all areas of knowledge such as religion, psychology,
politics, physics and even medicine. Hence, the etymological definition of philosophy
“love of wisdom” could pertain to the desire for truth by formulating never ending
questions to provide answers to every inquiry about the nature of human existence.
2. Lesson 1: Empiricism and Rationalism
The philosophy of the self has been defined through two distinct approaches:
empiricism and rationalism. In empiricism, there is no such thing as innate knowledge;
instead, knowledge is derived from experience either perceived with the five senses
or processed with the brain. One knows things because he or she has experienced it
through sensory and bodily experiences. On the other hand, rationalism argues that
there is innate knowledge; however, there are different sources of innate knowledge.
Rationalism explains self from the standpoint of what is “ideal” and “true”, and not
rooted in what is felt by the senses or body. Conclusions are derived through logic and
reasoning. Some philosophers applied empirical views of the self; others used the
Lesson 2: The Philosophical perspective of understanding the self
Prominent philosophers have different views regarding the nature of the self. The
ancient philosophers explained the self from their conceptual understanding of the world
since scientific evidence was hard to obtain due to lack of measures. Meanwhile,
contemporary philosophers have incorporated science to their theories in the light of the
technological advancements they have been exposed to.
-Socrates was a Greek philosopher who believed that philosophy had a very important
role to play in the lives of the people. One of his most quoted phrases is, “The
unexamined life is not worth living”. According to Socrates, self-knowledge or the
examination of one’s self, as well as the question about how one ought to live one’s life,
are very important concerns because only by knowing your self can you hope to
improve your life.
-Socrates suggested that the self consists of two dichotomous realms: physical and ideal
realms. The physical realm is changeable, transient and imperfect. The ideal realm is
unchanging, eternal, and immortal. The physical world in which we live belongs to the
physical realm. For Socrates, our body belongs to the physical realm while the soul
belongs to the ideal realm.
-Socrates explains that the essence of the self―the soul― is the immortal entity. The
soul strives for wisdom and perfection, and reason is the soul’s tool to achieve this
dignified state. Socrates suggests that man must live an examined life and a life of
purpose and value. The individual person can have a meaningful and happy life only if
he becomes virtuous and knows the value of himself that can be achieved through
incessant soul-searching. Self-knowledge is the ultimate virtue.
Plato was the student of Socrates who also believed that the self is synonymous with
the soul. Plato elaborated the concept of the soul; specifically he introduced the idea of
a three-part soul: reason, physical appetite and spirit or passion.
⮚Reason is the divine essence that enables us to think deeply, make wise choices
and achieve a true understanding of eternal truths.
⮚Physical appetite includes our basic biological needs such as hunger, thirst and
⮚Spirit or passion includes basic emotions such as love, anger, empathy.
5. These three elements are in a dynamic relationship with one another, sometimes in conflict. When conflict occurs,
Plato believes it is the responsibility of our Reason to sort things out and exert control, restoring harmonious
relationships among the three elements. Further, Plato believed that genuine happiness can only be achieved by
people who consistently make sure that their Reason is in control of their Spirit and Appetite.
African philosopher Augustine is regarded as a saint in the Catholic Church. As religious
philosopher, he contemplated on the nature of man with an emphasis on the soul as an
important element of man. He believed that the soul is what governs and defines the
Augustine described that humankind is created in the image and likeness of God.
Everything created by God who is all good is good. Therefore, the human person being
a creation of God is always geared towards the good. Augustine was convinced that the
self is known only through knowing God. For Augustine, “knowledge can only come by
seeing the truth that dwells within us.” The truth that which Augustine spoke refers to the
truth of knowing God. God is transcendent and that the self seeks to be united with God
through faith and reason.
6. REŃE DESCARTES
French philosopher Descartes is the father of Modern philosophy. He brought an
entirely new perspective to philosophy and the self. The Latin phrase Cogito ergo
Sum ” I think therefore I am” is the keystone of Descartes’ concept of self. For him, the
act of thinking about the self of being self-conscious is in itself proof that there is a
self. It was then that he developed his theory of knowledge because he is confident that
no rational person will doubt his or her own existence as a conscious, thinking entity-
while we are aware of thinking about ourselves. For Descartes, this is the essence of
the human self- a thinking entity that doubts, understands, analyzes, questions and
For Locke, the human mind at birth is tabula rasa or blank slate. The self or personal
identity is constructed primarily from sense experience― specifically, what people see,
hear, smell, taste, and feel. These experiences shape and mold the self throughout a
person’s life. For Locke, conscious awareness and memory of previous experiences are
the keys to understanding the self.
7. IMMANUEL KANT
For German philosopher Kant, it is the self that makes experiencing an understandable
world possible because it is the self that is actively organizing all our thoughts and
perceptions. In other words, the self constructs its own reality, actively creating a world
that is familiar, predictable, and most significantly, mine. The self is the product of reason,
a regulative principle, because the self regulates experience by making unified
experiences possible. The self transcends experience because the mind can grasp
aspects of reality which is not limited to the senses.
British philosopher Ryle believed that the self is best understood as a pattern of
behavior, the tendency for a person to behave in a certain way in certain circumstances.
Ryle’s concept of the human self thus provided the philosophical principle, “I act
therefore I am”. Ryle considers the mind and body intrinsically linked in complex and
intimate ways. In short, the self is the same as bodily behavior. Ryle is convinced that
the mind expresses the entire system of thoughts, emotions, and actions that make up
the human self.
8. PAUL CHURCHLAND
American philosopher Churchland advocated the idea of eliminative materialism or the
idea that the self is inseparable from the brain and the physiology of the body. All a
person has is the brain and so, if the brain is gone, there is no self. For Churchland, the
physical brain and not the imaginary mind, gives people the sense of self. The self is the