1st Edition

Know Thyself The Value and Limits of Self-Knowledge

By Mitchell S. Green Copyright 2018
    160 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    160 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Know Thyself: The Value and Limits of Self-Knowledge takes the reader on tour of the nature, value, and limits of self-knowledge. Mitchell S. Green calls on classical sources like Plato and Descartes, 20th-century thinkers like Freud, recent developments in neuroscience and experimental psychology, and even Buddhist philosophy to explore topics at the heart of who we are. The result is an unvarnished look at both the achievements and drawbacks of the many attempts to better know one’s own self.

    Key topics in this volume include:

    • Knowledge – what it means to know, the link between wisdom and knowledge, and the value of living an "examined life"
    • Personal identity – questions of dualism (the idea that our mind is not only our brain), bodily continuity, and personhood
    • The unconscious — including the kind posited by psychoanalysis as well as the form proposed by recent research on the so-called adaptive unconscious
    • Free will – if we have it, and the recent arguments from neuroscience challenging it
    • Self-misleading – the ways we willfully deceive ourselves, and how this relates to empathy, peer disagreement, implicit bias, and intellectual humility
    • Experimental psychology – considerations on the automaticity of emotion and other cognitive processes, and how they shape us

    This book is designed to be used in conjunction with the free ‘Know Thyself’ MOOC (massive open online course) created through collaboration of the University of Connecticut's Project on Humility and Conviction in Public Life, and the University of Edinburgh’s Eidyn research centre, and hosted on the Coursera platform (https://www.coursera.org/learn/know-thyself). The book is also suitable as a text for interdisciplinary courses in the philosophy of mind or self-knowledge, and is highly recommended for anyone looking for a short overview of this fascinating topic.


    1. Socrates and the Examined Life

    2. Descartes’ Essence

    3. Ryle’s Re-Casting of the "Mind-Body Problem"

    4. The Freudian Unconscious

    5. The Adaptive Unconscious

    6. Self-Misleading, Empathy, and Humility

    7. Persons: Some Western Approaches

    8. No Thyself: A Buddhist Perspective

    Glossary of key terms


    Name and Subject Index


    Mitchell S. Green received a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, a B.Phil. from the University of Oxford and a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. He currently teaches at the University of Connecticut. In addition to approximately 50 journal articles and book chapters, he has also published Self-Expression, Engaging Philosophy: A Brief Introduction, and Moore’s Paradox: New Essays on Belief, Rationality and the First Person (co-edited with J. Williams).

    "A first glance at the problem of self-knowledge often yields a first answer: we simply turn our gaze away from the outside world to the inside world and see what we have within, immediately and transparently. But as this absorbing book shows, matters are significantly more nuanced than that simple picture would suggest. Mitchell S. Green, combining razor-sharp acuity with a wonderfully lucid style, interweaves historical and contemporary work on this topic in a revelatory way, uncovering what it actually means to ask and answer questions of self-knowledge. And with chapter summaries, study questions, and further-reading lists, this concise volume will leave no reader behind. An enlightening and enjoyable guided tour through a matter of universal interest."

    --Garry L. Hagberg, Bard College


    "Mitchell S. Green is succeeding in bringing philosophy back to its proper historical place: Without presupposing any special background knowledge, this book is for anyone who is curious about living a good life and interested in the topic of self-knowledge. Know Thyself is written clearly and engagingly, is well-structured, and offers a lot of helpful further information—a both welcome and important contribution which I also recommend for classroom use."

    --Jan Michel, Bochum University