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Self and Moral Responsibility

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Self and Moral Responsibility

Page 1 of 72
INTRODUCTION

We exist as a human being. As a human being we are different from animals. Since we are more rational, can ponder upon our past and manipulate our present and future. But is it sufficient to be human? To have a “self” is one of the most important elements of realizing human existence. This self has been called differently by different traditions according to the way they interpret it to be. For instance, in Indian philosophy it is taken as atman, and most of them make distinction between self (atman) and mind (chit). But this distinction does not exist in western philosophy. For most of them, mind or self or soul means one and the same, that is they do not make distinction between these. When we focus on individuals as sources of decisions, the ultimate locus of responsibility, the unity of thought and action, we come to think of them as self. A consideration of the concept of “self” involves an analysis of other concepts related to it, such as, “body,” “responsibility,” “agent” and “freedom.” The self can be defined as consisting of such qualities which make a person distinct from other persons. The self refers to the conscious, reflective, active personality of an individual.  The self is both, physical and mental, public and private, directly perceived and indirectly imagined. Moreover, self as an agent is responsible for both its thoughts and actions. By assuming self as an agent enduring through time, we attribute thoughts and actions that occur at different moments to the same self rather than different selves. Self-awareness is the understanding that one exists as an individual, separate from other selves.  This awareness is a personal understanding is important for one’s own identity.  Personal understanding refers to the mental and conceptual awareness and persistent regard that sentient beings hold with regard their own being. Ulric Neisser, in his essay “The Five Kinds of Self Knowledge,” has focused on the following aspects while...