All posts tagged: self-knowledge

Week 21 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Objectivity & Subjectivity

(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This week’s journal topic: Objectivity and Subjectivity These terms seem frighteningly philosophical, right?  What’s this? you ask. More stuffy classroom terms that serve scant purpose in everyday life?  Actually, the terms objectivity and subjectivity are used fairly regularly in intelligent conversation about politics, science, and ethics.  And if it’s not the specific terms that are invoked, the concepts behind them are nonetheless are. Objectivity Say you’re having an argument with someone who finishes his speech by saying, “I’m just reporting the objective facts – you have to accept that I’m right about this.”  What does he mean by objective facts and why does stating them provide evidence to support his view? Simply defined, objectivity is the characteristic which expresses the idea that a statement is free of perspectives, value judgments, or bias from personal interests.  To emphasize that a statement is an “objective fact” is to iterate to your listener that the statement is “faithful to the facts” …

Week 20 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Fear

(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This week’s journal topic: Fear You’ve undoubtedly received all kinds of contradictory information about fear.  As a child, nauseous with nerves before stepping onstage in the school play, you probably heard your parents or teacher tell you that “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself” (FDR, former American president). If you’re a child of the 80’s or 90’s, you might remember the brand No Fear, whose edgy (at the time) T-shirts mocked fear. Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real These quotes tell us that fear is some kind of illusion; moreover, it’s an illusion that loses its power when we laugh at it and clearly see the illusion.  Fear is like a rubber snake dropped into your lap.  It’s impossible not to react, but when you see that it’s rubber, it’s funny. What is fear? Fear is really made up of two aspects: physiological and emotional.  In an environment in which our bodies perceive fear, the body reacts …

The Problem of Role Models: You’re Probably Doing It Wrong

In a confusing world that forces us to curb our natural behaviors, we often look to exemplars (i.e. role models) to facilitate and accelerate the decision making process. Those exemplars aren’t participants in the process  (obviously, we don’t have Warren Buffet, Jack Ma, or Mother Theresa on speed dial) but they influence our decisions in an indirect way. We reflect on our beliefs about these exemplars, asking questions such as What Would ____ Do? and allowing ourselves to be guided by the imagined response to a similar scenario.  There are different kinds of exemplars, and here are a few examples: Role model: A person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others. Idol: (colloquial usage) an image of a person with an ethereal, god-like, or transcendent status to which worship is addressed. Prophet: e.g.  Jesus, Mohammad, Abraham, Krishna, Buddha, Lao Zu, Confucius, etc. Moral saint: a moral philosophy term coined by Susan Wolf who says, “By moral saint I mean a person whose every action is as morally good as possible, …

Week 19 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Names

(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!)  This week the questions are a break from the previous week’s heavy questions!  You can even use these questions as conversation starters. Enjoy! This Week’s Journal Topic: Names Romeo doesn’t care the Juliet’s surname is his enemy’s surname; to Romeo she’ll always be the same enchanting woman, even if her name was something else.  A name, in other words, means nothing.  But is a name really just an arbitrary thing, or does it affect our personality and future?  If names are unimportant, why do parents agonize over choosing the perfect name? Parents name their children’s given names with various purposes in mind. Unique reference. Some parents are concerned about originality of the name and want the name and spelling, in combination with the last name, to be a one-of-a-kind feature. E.g. Abcde, Mykenzee, J-a (Jadasha), etc. Meaning.  Some parents want a name to carry meaning and/or give the child a certain strength or quality.  Biblical and religious names remind …

Week 18 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Mind-Body Dualism

(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here! I hope you’re enjoying the topics so far.  Now that we’re approximately a third of the year in, the concepts are getting a little more abstract!  Hang on tight – we’re about to get metaphysical!) This Week’s Journal Topic: Substance Dualism Substance dualism is a fancy term for the belief that the mind and physical body are two different kinds of “stuff” in the universe. Think of the brain and mind.  The brain is physical substance, whose properties we can detect through scientific study.  For example, we can measure electrical impulses, chemicals, and understand the connections between cells.  The mind, however, seems to be a substance that really exists but is undetectable by scientific methods. The reference to the mind as a substance is controversial because although we have intimate subjective experience with it (we feel it), we cannot scientifically test its properties.  So how do we know the mind exists and how can we even …

Week 17 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Happiness

(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This Week’s Journal Topic: Happiness Do you want to be happy? For all humans, the answer is an unambiguous Yes.  To be human is to seek happiness, wouldn’t you agree? The desire for happiness simultaneously brings humanity together and tears us apart. Sure, we are all united in our desire to be happy. However, happiness means different things to different people and therefore, we’re divided in how we go about getting it! Concepts of Happiness Happiness as Pleasure: The Greek school for “happiness as pleasure” is called Hedonism.  Hedonism thought that pleasure was the ultimate human good. There were higher pleasures and lower pleasures.  A lower pleasure is a physical pleasure such as eating or sex. Higher pleasures were intellectual goods and virtues which had the effect on the possessor of increasing her other pleasures.  For example, the virtue of moderation allows a person to receive the most pleasure from her body – if you drink …

Week 15 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Uncertainty & Risk

(This blog is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project.  Start here!) This Week’s Journal Topic: Uncertainty & Risk Spring is a hopeful time of year. In spring, we witness the energy of nature as fauna busily attend their young and flora burst forth with an array of spectacular shapes and colors.  Human activity picks up pace for we begin making summer plans and thinking of love. In nature, we can count on things like the seasons to happen regularly. In philosophy, what’s known as the principle of the uniformity of nature (PUN) dictates the rationality of assuming that the future will be like the past. In spite of the PUN, the future is always uncertain – it can never be predicted with 100% accuracy. The recognition of life’s unpredictability causes distress and insecurity for many people.  At some point, each of us must decide on a way to deal with an unpredictable future: Try to control it – the “control freak” Avoid thinking about it – the …

Week 14 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Cheating

(This blog is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project.  Start here!) This Week’s Journal Topic: Cheating You might think that cheating is purely a character flaw or a lack of virtue. This isn’t the case.  Cheating is partially a social phenomenon because it depends on our social expectations, interactions, and observations of others.  Studies show that people are more likely to cheat if they believe that others are cheating, too.  The rub: expect others to cheat, and you might, too. Do Values Make Us Immune? Studies on college students reveal that students who think that others have cheated will also cheat, even if they believe cheating is wrong.  The studies run the following scenario:  a class of students is given a test to work on.  Several of the “students” are actually actors who display obvious signs of cheating.  The actors complete the hour long test within several minutes and leave the classroom.  The result is that the real students, after witnessing the cheating, one-by-one begin to cheat, …

Week 13 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Vacations

(This blog is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This Week’s Journal Topic: Vacation A vacation is a length of time spent away from home, usually involving travel. We not only leave our regular physical environments of work and home, we also abandon the normal patterns in life. The broad goals of vacation are relaxation and celebration. Freedom from deadlines and responsibilities allows our bodies and minds to return to baseline stress levels. By abandoning patterns, we affirm our freedom to make fresh choices, to focus on relationships with loved ones and treat them, and to reignite passion for life by living out previously unimagined possibilities. To remember these events, we take souvenirs (from the French verb to remember) and photos. Touching or viewing a certain object or photo has the ability to reconnect us with the part of us that gets lost after we return to the patterns and ritual thoughts of everyday life. Aside from these common threads, there are many different vacationing …

A Cheerfulness Practice to Radically Improve Your Mindset and Get Rid of Ennui

Don’t let a chronic case of the Mondays bring down your entire life.   Have you ever felt that each week is more of the same?  You make it through Monday to Thursday.  Finally, it’s Friday! But suddenly it’s Monday again.  How did that happen? The weeks run like torturous deja vu. Or perhaps it feels like every day is worse than the last.  The same breakfast, the same commute, the same crabby coworker.  And even the weekends are starting to seem as bland as plain, congealed oatmeal. It’s not that things are bad.  The response to “How are you?” is  “Oh, I really can’t complain.”  How do we cope with this perpetual, mild dissatisfaction?  Nothing’s really wrong.  Or is it? This listlessness has a name: ennui (pronounced: On-We).  It’s an emotional state of overcast, the kind that threatens of rain for days on end, but fails to provide the relief of a downpour.  It just goes on being overcast.  After the overcast becomes “normal”, you occasionally find yourself nagged by memories of last summer, …