Thursday, March 31, 2011

Socrates: Know Thyself

Socrates: Know Thyself
by Scott Bradley


Most everyone who has dabbled in philosophy knows the most famous of Socratic dictums: Know thyself. It is likely that few understand it, however. That includes myself, but I will, nonetheless take a stab.

Certainly, to know oneself is, among other things, to understand why we think and do as we do. In understanding what motivates us we begin to discover what forces determine our behavior -- forces to which we have somehow relinquished control.

There is liberating potential in just this awareness of what motivates us. But these forces are strong within us and do not surrender easily.

Self-illumination is a life-long project and its transformative power, though steady, does, I believe, take a long time to realize.

Personally, I am not an advocate of self-control, though it might be a tentative stepping-stone on the path to harmony. I began this project because I realized I was out-of-control -- I simply was not as I wished myself to be. And though I do attempt to stop one way of thinking and replace it with another, I realize that self-control is of the same genus as out-of-control. From the Daoist perspective there is another way -- the surrender of control to the life that wells up within us. This is the life lived in spontaneity without reference to should and should not.

There is a story in the Zhuangzi where someone asks a sage how he manages to live as he does. I paraphrase his answer: "I have no idea. I just flow like the river. It's natural, all natural!"

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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