On Knowing Yourself and Being Worth Knowing Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • MacKenzie, Jordan
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy
  • Why should you know yourself? While philosophers have paid ample attention to the epistemological issues surrounding the Delphic Command to ‘Know Thyself’, they have been comparatively quiet on the question of why we ought to care about heeding it. When attention has been paid to the question of why we ought to know ourselves, the answers that it has generated have typically been broadly instrumentalist. Self-knowledge is instrumentally valuable in many ways: we are better moral agents for not being self-deceived, and we are better rational deliberators for knowing what we desire. These sorts of instrumentalist explanations, while compelling, do not fully explain the value that many of us place in self-knowledge. We demand the truth, even when the truth hurts, and we try to understand our motivations for long-ago actions that have few, if any, practical implications for our present-day selves. This non-instrumental commitment to self-knowledge is not just common, but also admirable. There is, after all, something impressive about people who want to see themselves ‘warts and all’. In my dissertation, I explain why we have reasons to value self-knowledge that are independent of the valuable consequences that self-knowledge often helps bring about. I argue that, just as interpersonal love gives us non-instrumental reasons to know its objects, so too does self-love give us non-instrumental reasons to know ourselves. Further, while interpersonal love is not something that we can owe to other people, self-love is something that we can owe to ourselves. This is because self-respect requires us to act in ways that adequately embody our values and honor our commitments. In doing so, we extend to ourselves the sort of partiality that is required by self-love, while at the same time making ourselves into people whom we can love. Thus, to see oneself as worth knowing for the sake of knowing is part of what it is to love oneself, which is something that self-respect demands that we strive to do. To pursue self-knowledge for its own sake, in turn, is to respectfully honor one of the commitments that self-love motivates us to make.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Wolf, Susan
  • Blackburn, Simon
  • Neta, Ram
  • Hill, Thomas E.
  • Kotzen, Matthew
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

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