Who am I? What am I? Where am I going? These questions have baffled the minds of humankind for centuries, since man was able to evolve a concept of self and consider his own nature. Man has come a long way since that day, but has no further answers in the quest for “Self-Concept”. Who we are is, and always will be a reflection of different yet individual societies and environments in which we live. The roles we play in our specific societies give us a place of belonging and self. The self as an entity exists on two levels: mental and physical.
Diverse environments and habitats are what give us our individuality and our ideas of self. What I mean is; would I be the same person I am now if I was born and raised in say, Saudi Arabia? Is my view of my self the same as my ideal self? I am tall; thin have short hair, fairly goal oriented. Is this how I perceived myself ten years ago. Am I the same person I was ten years ago? I am and I’m not. I am still in the same body, only bigger and still have most of the same interests and viewpoints on things, but I’m also different. I have expanded my knowledge, and elaborated on some and changed some views I once had. I was born in Canada and raised with the social norms and values of that of a Christian as opposed to that of a Muslim. I have never experienced war or lived in a society controlled by a Monarchy.
My entire lifestyle would be different. My upbringing would be different. All my experiences would be different. My idea of norm and thoughts on gender, race and religion would be differed. I would have different goals and heroes and activities for enjoyment. I would be a completely different person than I am now, due to the fact that I was raised in an entirely different culture than my own. My idea of self would contain altered aspects than now. As of now, I live and have always lived in a free, peaceful society. The role I hold in my specific society makes me who I am and gives me a place of belonging. To participate in society, we must become increasingly more considerate of others and less self-centered.
Let us examine the first statement. “Who am I” “I” as a physical entity exist due to the laws of physics. Atomic structure is very real, and has been proven through scientific experimentation. I know, from Einstein’s Theory of relativity that everything is energy. Everything is made up of atoms in exact sequence with one another making up solid forms through atomic bonds. Separation of these bonds is how we break objects apart. From Science, everything has atomic structure. I know I have a physical form, and that I am a solid entity and know this because it is true. I have what we call through linguistics a “body” and I have solid structure. All humans share the same basic physical makeup whether they like it or not. It’s slight variations in physical appearance that creates racism and discrimination. The idea of a superior race or gender is absurd, but unfortunately it exists through people’s insecurities and false cognitions of superiority.
Example, I have a penis and I am Anglo-Saxon, therefore I am superior. The false idea that superiority is found through sexual gender and or racial makeup is what will probably be the downfall of the human race. Not to stray from topic, but the idea of self is where one feels he or she fits into society. Our specific roles we play and what we do all mould us into unique selves. Because of the immensity of the earth, variation is vast. People come from and live in different societies containing different beliefs with different values and social norms. Makeup of individualism is purely reflective in different environments and societies in which we live.
During our development, a mentally intact individual learns about their own self, as well as about their physical and social worlds, and adapts themselves to their total environment. They cognitively derive ideas and beliefs providing meaning and interpretation of themselves from their interactions with others. Our concepts are secretly implied and manifested through interactive behavior with others. Social interaction involves participation in social exchange and conduct.
Humans construct views, attitudes and perceptions of themselves. They derive views, attitudes and perceptions of others. The expectations they construct of others structures their environment and provides them patterns of behavioral response which gives them, status arrangement of their social world and their relationships within it. They elaborate and recognize their self from results of their social participations. Patterns of social behaviors are traditionally described as roles in a social organization. Roles are the social opportunities for expression of self. Not to be too psychological on the subject of self, but psychology has everything to do with our cognitive self. The way we feel about our social context is how we construct personal perceptions of our selves, whether it be idealistic or not.
According to Plato, the self has a body and a soul, the physical and mental self. The body is imperfect. “It is a flawed, material kind of thing. All information which flows through it is confused.” (Silverthorne) On the other hand, Plato believes that the soul is; “Perfect and immortal.”(Silverthorne) Plato believes in the fact of two separate planes of self. He also believes that through social interaction we acquire knowledge about self, and obtain the ability to criticize our own conceptual ideologies of self.
If the soul is pure and perfect as Plato points out, and is separate from that of the body, than we must exist on two separate planes.
Gotama’s position, according to Buddha is, “flatly contradicted by our own immediate experience of initiative and effort in overcoming evil tendencies. If there is any experiential truth in the idea of self, it is the fact of moral effort, awareness and mental alertness.” (Shoemaker pp257) It is through experience that we derive a concept of self.
Recall, we know we exist as physical entities due to the laws of physics
We know through social interaction that we learn our specific societal roles and individualistic properties.
Therefore we must be a reflection of individual societies, which makes us who we are.
So, is it not safe to say that because of this reflection of personal societies that we never really know who we are anyway, because of the complexity of human culture?
Back to the question, if I where born and raised in Saudi Arabia, would I be the same person I am now?
I would have completely different views on everything I believe in now, because all my experiences would be different.
Yes, because I would have a different culture, language, climate, government, etc. Are you beginning to understand?
So then is it not safe to say that I would be a completely different person.
Than if I would be a different person I don’t and never really will know myself at all. The self as a level of existence is evident we know that, but as far as having an understanding of self we may never really know.