Sunday, August 3, 2014

Knowing Yourself

How do you have true self-knowledge about your moral standing? Prof. Eric Schwitzgebel philosophizes his way to a tentative and partial answer:
So here's another approach to add to the stock -- an approach that is also flawed, but which deserves attention because its potential power hasn't yet, I think, been widely enough recognized. Look at the faces of the people around you. Central to our moral character is how we tend to view others nearby. The jerk sees himself as surrounded by fools and losers. The sweetheart vividly appreciates the unique talents and virtues of whomever he's with. The avaricious person sees the people around her as a threat to her resources (time, money, but also possibly space in the subway, position in line, praise from her peers). The person obsessed with social position sees people who vary finely in their relative social standing. Or consider: What do you notice about others' physical appearance? This reveals something morally important about you -- something not directly under your control, a kind of psychological tell.
How do you know if you're a truly moral person? How do you know if you're a good teacher? How do you become a better brother, husband or teacher? Maybe it's just me, but it doesn't take long for all these questions to start bleeding together.


  1. What do we consider "moral"? I feel that our view of those around us play a significant role in our moral fiber, but in order to fully answer that question we may need to try to define "moral." Although, I think that's a question for another day.

    To try and get at your questions, I certainly feel that they all stem from the same root. In relation to your quote, maybe, just maybe, we can determine if a teacher is moral or not by examining how they view their students and colleagues. But would this translate into who they are as a person and how moral they are? I definitely think so. Our moral character doesn't change just because we step in school. Teacher or not, we are who we are.

    How do we become better? By having discussions like this.

    Thanks Mike.


    1. I'm less interested in "Am I a moral teacher?" and more interested in "How do I know how well I'm teaching?"

  2. Morality is definitely a complex topic. It's one that can be both subjectively and objectively defined (or undefined), and for some defined by a deity.

    Re: "How do you know if you're a good teacher? How do you become a better brother, husband or teacher?"

    I just made this comment to my mother-in-law yesterday:
    Having a child has helped make me a better teacher. Being a teacher has helped me be a better father.

    Yes, they bleed together. And I'm totally happy with that.