03 | CR Book I, Chapter 1 & 2
BOOK I – PROBLEMS AND DEFINITIONS
Chapter 1 – Problems of Selfhood – Philosophy is a way of living
based on an understanding of reality as reality, or of being as being. The
practical question: what shall I do with myself? implies the theoretical
problem: what am I myself? Not all parts or aspects of myself are
equally "mine". Is there something in me, a "self", where I am essentially
and unalienably myself? Is there in me an inner "self" which constitutes
my real being? One has often said that there is in us a "self" which is
defined as (a) the subject of our actions, which (b) accounts for the unity
of our personality, and which (c) constitutes the inner core of ourselves.
Can I find a self of that kind in myself?
(a) It is not immediately obvious what exactly is the subject of our
activities. Tradition hesitates between the concrete personality, the soul,
the body, a personal self and an impersonal self. Nor is the objective
status of the subject at all certain. Some have regarded the individual
subject as a substantive, and accorded it a fair measure of independence,
others as an adjective of the universe, a mere instrument for some-
(b) As regards our unity, it is an open question what degree of
unity or multiplicity we have to expect. The degrees of unity and
integration, further, vary in different persons, and in the accounts of
different scientists. The principle of unity – if and as far as the personality
is one – may be sought either in the nature of the constituent elements,
or in some special factor (a "self"), which either is, or is not, different
in kind from the other constituents of the mind. This factor, again, may
be an actual or a potential reality.
(c) The inner core, the inmost, the most essential and important
part of ourselves, does not reveal itself easily, be it understood as the
top layer of our personality to which we should subordinate the rest
of our activities, or as a refuge in times of trouble, or as the bottom
layer of our personality, the foundation on which we build the rest of
our activities, and which ultimately determines whatever we do.
Opinions vary considerably as to what exactly constitutes essentially
our manhood or selfhood.
In tradition, the "self" is defined, in addition to the three functions
given above, by the following subsidiary activities: (1) The self, or,
better, my self, accounts for my desire to preserve or to maintain myself.
(2) It renders things intimate and makes them mine. (3) It is a source
of united activity. (4) It gives me a certain permanence and unity. (5) It
gives me individuality.
Chapter 2 - Cognate Problems - The problem of selfhood is
inseparably bound up with the problem of reality in general, and cannot
be solved for our understanding apart from an ontological examination
of things in general. Neither feeling nor self-consciousness can solve for
understanding the problems of selfhood. While they may guide and
help understanding they never can give a final answer. The self appears
to be given in direct consciousness. Yet introspection is unreliable,