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Recognizing the Multiple Facets of the Human Self

Updated on December 13, 2015
Jenny Talaver profile image

Jenny is a Philosophy Major from Ateneo de Zamboanga University. She has been an online writer for three years now.

Who am I?

The most profound question that provoked our mind to seek wisdom is the quest for the Self. "Who am I?" has long been the query that every man has to answer in his lifetime.
The most profound question that provoked our mind to seek wisdom is the quest for the Self. "Who am I?" has long been the query that every man has to answer in his lifetime. | Source

Introduction

As phenomenologists have disputed, the human self does not merely have a dualistic nature. Yes, it is true that there is dualism in our humanity – man is both animalistic and rational; both corporeal and spiritual. Yet it is not what all is there in the human person. There is so much more facets of the human self that one has to consider in trying to understand and develop the human person. In essence, the Self is unpredictable because every human person is still in the process of discovering the truth of the human existence. In every day of our lives, it is a step-by-step towards finding our ultimate purpose for being here in this world. Inch by inch, we learn how to live the way we are created to be, both by the grace of God from our conception in our mothers’ wombs, and by the influences we receive from the environment we live in. As such, it is necessary that all of us should recognize the multiple facets of the human self and respect them well enough to utilize them to function as a well-rounded person. A man is truly and fully human when he accepts and understands the man that he is – abilities, limitations and all.

Realizing the Self

A man is truly and fully human when he accepts and understands the man that he is – abilities, limitations and all.
A man is truly and fully human when he accepts and understands the man that he is – abilities, limitations and all. | Source

Discovering the Self

Inch by inch, we learn how to live the way we are created to be, both by the grace of God from our conception in our mothers’ wombs, and by the influences we receive from the environment we live in.
Inch by inch, we learn how to live the way we are created to be, both by the grace of God from our conception in our mothers’ wombs, and by the influences we receive from the environment we live in.

The Self in the Hindu Perspective (mainly from the Upanishads)

Beliefs in Hinduism are mainly of realizing Atman (Self) and Brahman (the Greater Self) in every human person.[1] In this sense, I can correlate this to the multiplicity of facets in the human self since the Atman will always be in the process of discovering its way towards Brahman. Even the Hindu belief of reincarnation can be interpreted as the broad diversity of ways a man can live in this world. Not only by his choices does his life change but also by the actions that are effected to him by the people and events that surround his life. The Self is shown as diverse when the Hindu believers acknowledge that they could live lives that are different from how they are living now – they accept that they could live as an animal or a High Priest in their next period of existence in this world, based on how they live their lives in the present. Hence, the Self is not merely seen as dualistic nor a sole propriety, but an embodiment of subjectivity, a personification of all possibilities that can occur in human life.


[1] (Pradhvananda 1990)

Atman (the Self) towards Brahman (the Greater Self)

the Atman (Self) will always be in the process of discovering its way towards Brahman (the Greater Self).
the Atman (Self) will always be in the process of discovering its way towards Brahman (the Greater Self). | Source

Brahman, Atman and Self

Self, according to George Bernard Shaw

The Self is seen not only as what man sees himself in his day to day activities, but the reality of the Self is seen when the man acknowledges what he can or cannot be in his life. This is succinctly summed by the conversation between George Bernard Shaw and a reporter shortly before his death:

“Mr. Shaw, if you could live your life and be anybody you’ve known, or any person from history, who would like to be?” the reporter asked.

“I would choose,” Shaw replied, “to be the man George Bernard Shaw could have been, but never was.”[1]


[1] (Mihalic 1987)

George Bernard Shaw

The Self, in C.S. Lewis' Perspective

Furthermore, man as embodied subjectivity is described by Christian apologist C.S. Lewis when he said his sermon, The Weight of Glory: “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.”[1] The human self is unpredictable because life can change how it will become – in such a way that no man should underestimate his fellow man as the potential of greatness or infamy is at the heart of the Self itself.


[1] (Lewis 1942)

Religion Book Review: The Weight of Glory by C. S. Lewis

Conclusion

Relating the Multiple Facets of the Human Self to Education

It is for this very selfsame reason that society as a whole should recognize the multiple facets of the human self. This recognition and respect for the multiplicity of the characteristics of the Self should start in education wherein man learns how to develop himself as a functional social individual and strives to discover his true Self. It has been a shame for many in the education sector when they can see well-educated men and women who do not have good hearts to conduct justly their affairs after they graduate from college. It seems as if akin to beauty, intelligence, when used in excess amounts, give the person an attitude of vanity. This problem has mainly arisen because most of the school curriculum we have today focuses highly on the academics – intelligence. But it should have not been the end goal of the education system. Man needs education to develop and discover what he really is, what he needs to do in this world to fulfill the ultimate purpose of his existence – he should have a holistic education that nurture not only his intelligence, but also his heart and social world. Intelligence is not all there is to the Human Self. The education sector must be able to recognize the multiple facets of the Human Self. All of us should understand that the Self has many sides, many things to take in consideration before simply making a judgment in deciding how the human person should carve his life path. Instead of just focusing on fostering the brain, both educators and students should learn to be critical of the multiplicity of facets in the human self in such a way that they will incorporate areas of the heart and hands in the education system. Not only does man need to learn how to use reason, he also needs to discover his heart and emotions, whilst reaching out hands to others in solidarity, both in the ups and downs of human life.

Holistic Education: Learning with Your Whole Being - by Satish Kumar

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