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SELF

SUBMITTED BY: HAJRA SULTAN, 21190.


What is a self? Merely a human being? Or perhaps a soul? Different philosophers have different
views on self, some seem to find transcendental selves, historical selves, and objective selves,
among others.
Plato, at least in many of his dialogues, held that the true self of human beings is the reason or
the intellect that constitutes their soul and that is separable from their body. Aristotle, for his part,
insisted that the human being is a composite of body and soul and that the soul cannot be
separated from the body. But since for Plato, human self is fundamentally an intellectual entity
whose "true" or essential nature exists as separate from the physical world. So the question is
what exactly is it? Everything that is alive is a self, or is it actually something hidden and inner.
However, for other philosophers, it has more to do with how we present ourselves to other people,
not about who we really are.
Descartes seems to think the self is a thing in and of itself, independent of how it is perceived or
presented. Descartes theory focused on the superiority of mind over everything else, for him you
are, what your mind is. But what happens if for the self, to be is to be perceived? In other words,
I am because I am perceived, not because I am a thing independent of outside forces. However,
I believe, that here the ‘me’ will be confused with the ‘I.’ as according to me the ‘me’ is how others
see me, whereas the I is my inner self i.e. Hidden, I believe. However sometimes we reveal our
true self unconsciously through our speech and actions, so the conflict that appears here is that
in any way, your true self gets revealed to the society in the end and that is actually who you are.
But this mostly happens when an unexpected situation arrives, thus, it all depends on what the
situation is, as there are different contexts in which we have to present ourselves and in some
contexts we have the ability to reveal and conceal things about ourselves. Thus, I wonder if that
doesn’t refute the idea that there is a gap between what a person really is and what that person
is perceived as being.
As Michael Foucault said, the human self is a social construct, social phenomena’s are created
and institutionalized which become the entire population’s perceived social reality. The human’s
source of knowledge is rooted from social assumptions of reality which lead to the human’s
perception of being, inside a social construct. The society is continuously evolving and re-
evaluating its perception of reality, this makes the human self a product of situated-ness
because he is the image of society, a mirror image of the societies’ perception of reality
embedded inside him and becoming who he is.
Hence, the concept of the real self, remains an elusive one.
Kantian conception of self is of anthropocentric one. Kant spoke on humans from the
transcendental approach. He believed humans possess qualities that are Ahistorical, the human
mind only thinks of things in the framework of qualitative-ness, quantitative-ness and morality.
According to him, humans due to their own structure of mind sees world according to their view.
The human mind is constructed in a way that leads humans to develop a human centric view of
things. For him, humans are anthropocentric, which makes them author of their own morality.
Deleuze, another Western Philosopher like the ones mentioned above, suggests that human
self is a thought without an image and the thought of human self can never be clear. Self does
not know its beginning and end, there is no fixed structure. He defines human self as a mad
phenomenon or schizophrenic phenomenon. He insisted that to a human to practice freedom,
he must be put in a mad system as human self is madness, for him the human self and
madness share the same characteristic of being spontaneous and evolving. For him, difference
is the self, one should continuously change and keep adapting to different roles in order to
actualize his true self. A person should expand himself, otherwise he will attach himself to a
single identity and would never be able to reach to his true self, Hence one should keep
evolving.

So the question now is, is self-something that keeps evolving or is it actually something that is
fixed or already known? With all these mixed views on self, these philosophers really have made
quite a mess of the concept of the self.
In contrast to these western philosophers, are eastern philosophers. Thus, there are two major
conceptions of human self, one being western conception of self and the other being eastern
conception of self. Western conception of self is that either human evolves on the basis of
creativity, or human is solely unique due to the creative attribute and anthropocentric nature.
Whereas eastern conception of self consists of 3 major sects, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.
Jainism believes that in order to actualize true self, one needs to suspend everything else, and
get close to religion to quench the thirst of soul, under Jainism true essence of self is a true
religion. Real self is the one that is the conqueror of inner enemies namely anger, pleasure and
lust.
On the other hand, Hinduism believes the human has four goals, dharma, wealth, happiness and
freedom from ignorance, and once you achieve these goals and freedom, you unite with your
ultimate self and free yourself from reincarnation.
Buddhism critiques Hinduism and believes in blind faith, killing your inner demons and uniting on
the basis of religion, just as Jainism does, it believes your consciousness and soul are the main
aspects of the human self, whereas, body, passion and perception are all temporary.
Now, after discussing all these philosophers and concepts of “SELF”, the question is, how we
take the self to be? And is there a sustainable design for self or not?
To answer this, I believe, we all are just figuring out ourselves as we go along. We reflect on who
we were in the past and compare that to who we want to be in the future. We then split the
difference and that’s exactly who we are now. That is what our “self” is.
And about sustainability, I believe, there is no sustainable self. There is no such thing as a fixed
structure as I said ‘we all try to figure out ourselves as we go along’, hence we keep evolving, and
we keep changing as our goals for future continue to change as well.
Being self-sustainable means to be independent of all external factors, however, one to form his
self depends on his past and future goals, thus, achieving a self-sustainable self remains a myth.