Self and Moral Responsibility

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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 characterizing the self: The ecological self: is the self perceived with respect to the physical environment: I am the person here in this place, engaged in this particular activity. The interpersonal self: appears from earliest infancy just as the ecological self does, is specified by species- specific of emotional rapport and communication. The extended self: is based primarily on our personal memories and anticipations: I am the person who had certain specific experiences, who regularly engages in certain specific and familiar routines The private self: appears when children first notice that some of their experiences are not directly shared with other people: I am, in principle, the only person who can feel this unique and particular pain Conceptual self: or the self concept draws meaning from the network of assumption and theories in which it is embedded. Though Neisser talked about only five type of self but, this list is inexhaustible. Our role of selves keeps on changing with respect to the situations. It does not mean that the self does not have stability but that it accommodates itself with the change. That is when “A” is a father to his kid, brother, husband, friend, son, boss, employ etc. So the person is same but playing different roles and in doing so even his self changes. But if he is an honest person, will remain so but the way he will deal with them will change. These selves are not experienced in isolation from each other but rather as coherent and unitary experience. Experience helps us knowing ourselves. We are different entities as we conceive ourselves enlightened by various views. Our actions, our relation, our properties, our characteristic, our success and our defeats, our conception of society etc. vary with conception of ourselves or vice versa. Whatever we think influences our actions, our action in turn, the society we live in. Since our actions affect the society so it makes us responsible towards the society. As this self is not...
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