PHIL 2410: Know Thyself

The Delphic Oracle is said to have had two premier injunctions: Nothing in excess, and Know thyself. This course will be an examination of the latter injunction. Our central questions fall into two categories. First, What is it? We shall inquire into just what self-knowledge is: Is it a form of inner perception, somewhat like proprioception, by virtue of which our minds (and hearts) have internal scanners of their own states? Or should we construe self-knowledge in a way not crucially relying on a perceptual model? In that case, what other model might we use? Second, Why is it such a big deal? We shall inquire into the question why self-knowledge should be thought so important. Just what, if anything, is missing from a person lacking in self-knowledge that makes her significantly less wise, virtuous, or able than others who have this capacity? Our exploration will take us into research in Western philosophy, psychoanalysis, current personality and social psychology, neuroscience, aesthetics, and Eastern, particularly Buddhist philosophy as well. In aid of these investigations we will become students of our own dreams, and cultivate some meditative practices. Course requirements are two papers, a midterm and final examination, and active participation in class discussion.

Trouble registering? This class has a catalog-level pre-requisite of PHIL 1101/1102/1103/1104/1105/1106/1107. We can override this pre-requisite. If you are an Honors student, you may register by emailing and including (1) your name; (2) your 7-digit Student Admin number; (3) your registration “pick time”; (4) the course number and section (PHIL 2410-001); (5) the class number from Student Admin; and (6) confirmation that there are seats available in the course.