Self-knowledge (psychology)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In the psychological sense it is the idea of a self-aware person understanding himself (in all ways, but mostly in a wider biographical or emotional sense). In philosophy it is the concept of a mind knowing itself (realizing its nature) or simply, in what is called "basic self-knowledge", the thinker's capacity of directly knowing his own thoughts. Mysticism sometimes uses this word to describe the pursuing, or the experience of, direct contact with the self.

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Self-knowledge and social psychology

William James (1842-1910) described a duality of our self-perception. The self is composed of our thoughts and beliefs about ourselves and is referred to as the “known”, the “me”, the “knower”, or the “I”.

We also refer to our self-perception as the self-concept and self-awareness, which contributes to two factors that help create our sense of identity.

Knowing the self through introspection

Introspection is the process by which someone forms beliefs about their own mental states. We might form the belief that someone else is happy on the basis of perception, for example, by perceiving their behavior. But a person typically does not have to observe their own behavior in order to determine whether they are happy. Rather, one makes this determination by introspecting. Though the term “introspection” literally means “looking within” (from the Latin “spicere” meaning “to look” and “intra” meaning “within”), whether introspecting should be treated analogously to looking – that is, whether introspection is a form of inner perception – is debatable. Philosophers have offered both observational and non-observational accounts of introspection.

Using other people to know ourselves

The self-concept is not solely created by our own knowledge, but also how the self is molded by social contact. When interacting with others around us, we compare our own abilities and attitudes—illustrating the social comparison theory.

Self-knowledge and epistemology

Self-knowledge distinguishes itself from knowledge of other things (exterior to the individual) because it is immediate, in the sense that the evidence is present naturally. We can say self-knowledge is the result of introspection. The individual has privileged access to his own thoughts, that is, knows his own thoughts in a way others usually don't. Privileged access is the distinctive feature of first person authority, since what someone sincerely claims to be thinking should often be taken as what he is in fact thinking. On the other hand, claims about the thoughts of others do not hold such kind of authority.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Self-knowledge (psychology)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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