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The Socratic “Man know thyself” and the problem of personal identity

E Eyo
JN Ogar


When Socrates, an Athenian moral philosopher, cautioned “man know thyself” most scholars were inclined to have construed it from a banal perspective. Others saw his clarion call for knowledge of self as the basis for true understanding of self, a possible mastery of self, development of same and the society for the overall benefit of self and others. Theatetus saw it as a call for self perception. It suggests to us that, if perception is the gamut of knowledge, misperception can as well double for knowledge. John Locke sees it as the act of being aware of the existence of facts. This may have diverted the purpose of knowledge in general, leaving the major birth place which revolves around knowing one self as a spring board for knowledge of external objects. Descartes being cognizant of this, identified a way out of all the uncertainties, confusion and doubtful experiences. He opted for a complete beginning from his being. This was a radical approach towards self discovery and identification, perhaps in response to the Socratic bid. But we are left with these questions: how successful was Descartes? What is the extent of self knowledge? What is this concept of knowledge all about a person? Is it physical or metaphysical? What is the underlying benefit of self identity to self and others and lots more. These form the major constituents of this paper.

Key Words: Socrates, Personal Identity, Knowledge; Self, Person.