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Self-Knowledge for Humans$
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Quassim Cassam

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199657575

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657575.001.0001

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The Value of Self-Knowledge

The Value of Self-Knowledge

(p.210) 15 The Value of Self-Knowledge
Self-Knowledge for Humans

Quassim Cassam

Oxford University Press

‘High road’ approaches explain the value of self-knowledge by reference to high-sounding ideals such as rationality and authenticity. ‘Low road’ approaches explain the value of self-knowledge in pragmatic terms by reference to its contribution to human well-being. There is little to be said for high road approaches. Intentional self-knowledge is not essential for rationality, and substantial self-knowledge is not a condition of authenticity. In order to be true to yourself it is not necessary to know yourself, and it is possible to live a unified life without self-knowledge. However, there remains the fallback position that authenticity and unity are easier to achieve with the backing of self-knowledge. It does not devalue the value of self-knowledge to explain it in pragmatic terms, and there is empirical evidence that the positive contribution of substantial self-knowledge to well-being outweighs the benefits of self-ignorance.

Keywords:   high road, low road, rationality, authenticity, well-being, life, unity, value of self-knowledge, fallback position, self-ignorance

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