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Moral character is the foundation of a sense of personal identity. One morning after her accident, a woman I’ll call Kate awoke in a daze.

Moral character is the foundation of a sense of personal identity

She looked at the man next to her in bed. He resembled her husband, with the same coppery beard and freckles dusted across his shoulders. But this man was definitely not her husband. Panicked, she packed a small bag and headed to her psychiatrist’s office. On the bus, there was a man she had been encountering with increasing frequency over the past several weeks. Kate has Capgras syndrome, the unshakeable belief that someone – often a loved one, sometimes oneself – has been replaced with an exact replica.

A classic philosophical thought experiment poses the following paradox. Personal identity does not work this way. This distinction, between mind and body, begins early in development. For Nina-the-ship, no part of the vessel is especially Nina-like; her identity is distributed evenly across every atom. Whatever you think, you don’t necessarily know your own mind. Do you think racial stereotypes are false?

Whatever you think, you don’t necessarily know your own mind

Are you sure? I’m not asking if you’re sure whether or not the stereotypes are false, but if you’re sure whether or not you think that they are. That might seem like a strange question. We all know what we think, don’t we? Most philosophers of mind would agree, holding that we have privileged access to our own thoughts, which is largely immune from error. Evidence for this comes from experimental work in social psychology.

Get Aeon straight to your inbox Many other studies support this explanation. Building on such evidence, Carruthers makes a powerful case for an interpretive view of self-knowledge, set out in his book The Opacity of Mind (2011). The ISA theory has some startling consequences. Nature or Nurture: Why No Two People Are Alike. Why You Can't Trust Yourself. Bertrand Russell famously said, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubts.”

Why You Can't Trust Yourself

Over the years, I’ve hammered on the importance of becoming comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, in questioning all of your most cherished beliefs and dreams, on practicing skepticism, and doubting everything, most importantly yourself. Throughout these posts, I’ve hinted at the fact that our brains are fundamentally unreliable, that we really have no clue what we’re talking about, even when we think we do, and so on.

But I’ve never given concrete examples or explanations. Well, here they are. Eight reasons you can’t trust yourself, as demonstrated by psychology. 1. There’s a thing in psychology called the Actor-Observer Bias and it basically says that we’re all assholes. Same action, but when someone else does it they’re a horrible person; when you do it, it’s an honest mistake. The Art of Living: The Great Humanistic Philosopher Erich Fromm on Having vs. Being and How to Set Ourselves Free from the Chains of Our Culture. A pioneer of what he called “radical-humanistic psychoanalysis,” the great German social psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm (March 23, 1900–March 18, 1980) was one of the most luminous minds of the twentieth century and a fountain of salve for the most abiding struggles of being human.

The Art of Living: The Great Humanistic Philosopher Erich Fromm on Having vs. Being and How to Set Ourselves Free from the Chains of Our Culture

In the mid-1970s, twenty years after his influential treatise on the art of loving and four decades after legendary anthropologist Margaret Mead turned to him for difficult advice, Fromm became interested in the most basic, most challenging art of human life — the art of being. At the height of a new era that had begun prioritizing products over people and consumption over creativity, Fromm penned a short, potent book titled To Have or To Be? — an inquiry into how the great promise of progress, seeded by the Industrial Revolution, failed us in our most elemental search for meaning and well-being. The Johari Window. Disciplines > Communication > Models > The Johari Window The Basic Johari Window | Four Personas | So what?

The Johari Window

The Johari Window sounds somewhat esoteric until you learn that it was devised by two men called Joseph and Harry. Despite this quaint naming it is, in fact, a very useful way of understanding something of how our self may be divided into four parts that we and others may or may not see. The Basic Johari Window Below is a diagram of the standard Johari Window, showing the four different selves and how the awareness or otherwise of these aspects of our self by others and by us leads to these four categories. The Public Self The Public Self is the part of ourselves that we are happy to share with others and discuss openly.

The Private Self There are often parts of our selves that are too private to share with others. Private elements may be embarrassing or shameful in some way. The Blind Self. Identity. Explanations > Identity Description | Discussion | See also 'Identity' is both a simple 'me' and a much, much deeper philosophical topic.


These are a few pages on this impenetrable subject done during a university course. Identity is...: More than is often thought.