Current paper is devoted to the presentation of my understanding of the concept of the self. In order to specify all necessary aspects of this term, it is reasonable to investigate different views expressed by great philosophers of the past including Plato, Kant, Hume, Ryle, and Proust.
According to Plato, the self is a specific form of activity. Every human being has two states. The first one relates to a human soul, and the second one corresponds to actual human actions. Plato’s understanding of the self is mostly related to the existing religious beliefs. He believed that the soul was separate from the human body and could be analyzed independently (Plato, 1969). However, this separation does not seem well-supported because it is possible to see one’s intentions only through actions. The impact of the human soul may be observed in actions of a particular individual. Therefore, the concept of the self should consist of both human soul and actions as two inseparable elements.
Kant stresses that there are two kinds of consciousness of the self. The first one is consciousness of oneself, and the second one is consciousness via performing acts of apperception (Kant, 1787). Thus, according to Kant, people create their representation of themselves on the basis of their understanding of the external reality. Moreover, the positions of other people influence their perception of the self as well. Kant stresses that all individuals are social beings. Although it is correct, it should be stressed that human beings are not merely the representations of the external environment. They are able to rationally act in accordance with their moral choice.
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David Hume suggests that people consider themselves as being the same individuals as in the past, although they are constantly changing. A person may admit some changes, but the self per se is the same (Hume, 1738). This observation is important because it stresses the significance of human identity as the foundation of any changes. At the same time, the philosopher compares the self to a society and believes that it is possible to investigate them only through the observation of their elements. Although he is correct that society should be viewed as a collection of individuals rather than an independent entity, this comparison is not relevant in this case. The elements of the self are not conscious and rational entities. Therefore, they cannot be analyzed separately while the members of society can be examined without any references to a society as a whole.
Ryle proposes to reject the idea of separation between the body and mind. The operation of the mind is directly related to the actions of the body, and they should be investigated in a complex way (Ryle, 2002). It is a significant contribution of Ryle. At the same time, the logical relationships between the human body and mind may be further developed. In the majority of situations, mind influences the actions of body. Even if the body sends specific signals to mind, only after the mental appreciation of mind, new actions are possible. Therefore, human rationality is the core element that demonstrates the difference between people and animals.
Proust believes that the concept of the self is central for the modern world. The self is presented in a subjective way. It is the form of individuals’ understanding of their role in a society. People may create self-created memories in order to develop a coherent perception of reality (Caranfa, 1990). The subjective interpretation of the self is correct as different people represent themselves in different ways. However, this ultra-subjectivist approach has some disadvantages as well. First, it does not provide any rationale for the objective scientific investigation. If the concepts of the self are completely different for all people, then it is impossible to compare and systematize them in any way. This conclusion is incorrect because science may be used for receiving objective information about the concept of the self. It seems that the method of analysis should not be empirical in this case. It is reasonable to use a logical approach in order to develop a complex system of this term.
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In general, the concept of the self is central for all people because it is the basis of relationships between an individual and a society. A number of factors influence the formation of the self. Objective factors include the social environment, existing cultural traditions, etc. Subjective factors include the individual perception of the external reality. Even if this perception is incorrect, it is an essential part of a given personality. Real human intentions may be understood only through specific actions. People demonstrate their preferences and choices in this way. The perception of the self may change during one’s life. However, these changes are different in comparison with the changes that may be observed in relation to other aspects of social life. Individuals cannot completely change their behavior and worldview. Even if some changes take place (and they are important for a given person), they often are not evident for other people. The basic structure of the self remains the same.
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People need to maintain their internal integrity in order to successfully act. This integrity is impossible without the concept of the self. The perceptions of different people influence the understanding of self by others as all people are social beings. The term of the self is also needed because it helps to distinguish a particular individual from all other members of a society.