The Examined Life

Know Thyself

The Value and Limits of Self-Knowledge
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About this Course

According to legend, inscribed on walls of the temple on the sacred site of Delphi in Ancient Greece were two premier injunctions: NOTHING IN EXCESS, and KNOW THYSELF.

This course will be an examination of the latter injunction in an effort to discover what self-knowledge is, why it might be valuable, and what, if any, limitations it might face. What is missing from a person lacking in self-knowledge that makes her less wise, virtuous, or competent in certain areas than others who have this capacity, and what if anything might she do to fill that gap?

 Historical sources as well as recent research in philosophy, experimental social psychology, and neuroscience will inform our investigation, in the course of which we will become students of our own dreams, and cultivate some meditative practices.

Learning Outcomes

Learners will gain familiarity with prominent themes from Western, classical Chinese, and Buddhist approaches to our knowledge of ourselves. In the course of doing so, they will gain an appreciation of the relation of self-knowledge to wisdom, of the value of intellectual humility, as well as of methods of learning about oneself that do not depend on introspection. 

Learners will also become familiar with contemporary research in experimental social psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience into the emotions, the unconscious, the role of affect in decision making, and self-deception. They will also gain an appreciation of a challenge to the assumption of a coherent, unified self that derives from the Buddhist tradition.

Our students love us

This course was amazing! I loved the extracurricular activities (readings, assignments and the meditative moments) which helped to contextualise the material learned in an interdisciplinary context.
This has been a stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable course. 
Really in depth and easy to follow information on a great array of topics, philosophers and philosophies. I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest of learning new knowledge.
This is a well put together course. It is beneficial to borrow or purchase the course textbook. I enjoyed the course instructor and his use of meditation breaks every so often was great.
This course has helped me to reflect on what wisdom is, what I can know about myself from introspection, what I can know about others by observation, what human nature is and how to formulate and express my own opinions. 
An excellent course encompassing theory, story, learning and tools from many historical and contemporary sources. Really well explained, flowing smoothly and yet provocative in helping you think about the topics yourself. The meditative videos are very useful too. 

Meet the Instructors

Mitchell Green

Mitchell Green is Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut. He holds degrees from UC Berkeley, Oxford University, and the University of Pittsburgh. Professor Green conducts research on topics within the Philosophy of Language, Pragmatics, the Philosophy of Mind, and Aesthetics.

He is also interested in the evolution of communication, and in self-knowledge and self-deception. Green sits on the Steering Committee of UConn's Cognitive Science Program, and is an Affiliate of the Connecticut Institute of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and of the Expression, Communication and Origins of Meaning Research Group. 

Dr. Simon Fokt

Simon Fokt is a philosopher and learning technologist based at the University of Edinburgh. He graduated with a PhD from University of St Andrews and holds two Masters degrees from St Andrews (philosophy) and Adam Mickiewicz University (culture studies).

Simon divides his time between academic research and design and support of online teaching. His research focuses on Aesthetics and Applied Ethics, while his teaching design and support work centeres around online Masters degrees, a number of MOOCs, and various knowledge exchange projects. 

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