It’s tempting to imagine that self-knowledge is easy to come by. All you have to do is introspect. The idea is that the mind is kind of like a clear glass fishbowl. If you want to know what’s going on, all you’ve got to do is take a look. But there are problems with this idea.
Most people seem think that knowing themselves is a good idea, or at least say that that’s what they think. “Know thyself,” is uttered reverently—as though it’s self-evidently a wonderful goal. I’m going to put self-knowledge on trial, and I’ll say up front that the case for the defence looks pretty thin.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco was my favorite film at Sundance this year. It explores critical questions about whether respect for persons requires addressing erosion of the conditions on which identity claims rest—erosion that so clearly has been and is continuing to occur for some communities in San Francisco.
Research shows both that increasing people’s knowledge of climate science does not increase acceptance of human-caused climate change, but teaching the mechanisms of how global warming works does strengthen acceptance. Is there a way to reconcile these seemingly conflicting results?
How much should we care about our reputation? One can easily imagine a Stoic telling us not to care at all: it’s not something that is under our control, and so our job is simply to learn not to worry about it. But it’s not clear that reputation is something that is entirely out of our control.