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In Search for the True Self: A Critical Reaction

Updated on July 16, 2020
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Prof Frederick V. Rael has been teaching for almost 23 years in various local colleges and universities in the Philippines.

In Search for the True Self: A Critical Reaction

One of the oldest sayings of Socrates and most probably a memorable one is,”To know thyself.” During his time, Socrates was one of the first few who pondered on a difficult philosophical or psychological challenge that a person has to hurdle in this life, which is to search for oneself. As I also tried to philosophize the answer on the said query, I came across the article entitled,” In Search of the True Self,” written by Joshua Knobe published through the New York Times dated June 5, 2011.

Through the said article, the author took the challenge of Socrates and contemplated on the said philosophical inquiry as he discussed and dissected the idea of authentic self, whether or not there is such a thing as a true self. In his effort to critically examine the said concept in philosophical and psychological manner, Knobe (2011) premised on the advocacy of popular evangelical Christian named Mark Pierpont. Incidentally, Mark Pierpont was very active in advocating anti-homosexuality by distributing leaflets to customers in gay bars just to help them suppressed their homosexual tendency. Ironically, Pierpont was a gay himself, which made his intent questionable from the point of view of Knobe (2011). In short, for someone who is gay, Pierpont should not promote anti-homosexuality. For Knobe (2011), Pierpont should first settle his internal conflicts before strongly championing to the public his anti-homosexual beliefs whereas boasting his Christian faith.

Indeed, the Christian faith and the homosexual desires of Pierpont are in complete contradiction. The Christian Church doesn’t promote homosexuality and even denies its existence, which Pierpont has to confront to himself. In reality, homosexuals still suffer from some form of discrimination especially coming from the church. Though Pierpont is obviously committed to the values of the church, his own homosexual desires would continue to grow if not treated properly or psychologically.

For that matter, Knobe (2011) advices Pierpont to search his true self and settle his own conflicts before presenting to the public a certain façade of his personality. To clarify the said issue, Knobe (2011) raised an important question,” How is one to know which aspect of a person counts as that person’s true self?” Pierpont has to answer this question in order to solve his own conflict and eventually ascertain his own true self. But, before he achieved the said philosophical and psychological question, he has to wrestle and accept the truth that he has two conflicting selves, the Christian and the homosexual. Knobe’s argument is somewhat reasonable that Pierpont has to choose which of the two selves really count for the latter since they are in complete contradiction.

In reflection, I think Knobe has a point regarding Pierpont’s hypocritical behaviour of going against homosexuality in public because of his Christian faith while he himself is a gay. Along the way, Pierpont and people like him would encounter serious dilemma that would adversely affect their decisions, actions, and lives. As the wise Socrates advices us all, ”Know thyself.” This is the greatest task that we have to accomplish in this life since knowing oneself leads to inner peace and tranquillity, which Pierpont would find it very difficult to achieve. Simply put, pretending to be someone in public, which you are not, tends to lead to anxiety and disorders.

Psychologically speaking, we have two sides, which are the persona and anima. The public self is the persona or the mask. These are qualities that we exhibit in front of people, which are usually socially acceptable. Persona is adjusted to the culture or the norms of the group or society at large. So, this is somewhat our conservative side in most social situations since this part of our self is inclined to agree with people’s expectations. On the contrary, the anima is the shadow or the hidden part of personality. Things that are not socially accepted are kept in this part of our self. Some psychologists like Freud consider this as the private self and perhaps our true nature.

Thus, Pierpont is a classic case of person not accepting his true nature while pretending to be “good” in public. His persona is his Christian demeanor as opposed to his anima, which is his homosexual desire. Now, I have to emphasize that acceptable and unacceptable behaviours would, most of the time, depend on the culture of the society. In some countries, homosexuality is tolerated while in some it is rejected. But, whether it is cultural or not, Pierpont has to settle his internal conflicts and ultimately accept his true self, which totally coincide with the argument of Knobe.

Work Cited

Knobe, Joshua (2011). ”In Search of the True Self.”

Web.16, July 2020.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Frederick V Rael


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