1902 Encyclopedia > Psychology > Self as a Person

(Part 87)

(K) Presentation of Self, Self Consciousness, and Conduct (cont.)

Self as a Person

Passing to the higher level of intellection, we come at length upon the concept which every intelligent being more or less distinctly forms of himself as a person, M. or N., having such and such a character, tastes, and convictions, such and such a history, and such and such an aim in the formation of this concept, as of others, is language, and especially the social intercourse that language makes possible. Up to this point the presentation of self has comprehended by the projection of its characteristics. But now the order is in a sense reversed: the individual advances to a fuller self-knowledge by comparing the self within with what is first discernible in other persons without. So far avant l’homme est la société; it is through the "us" that we learn of the "me" (comp. p. 75 note 1). Collective action for common ends is of the essence of society, and in taking counsel together for the good of his tribe each one learns also to take counsel with himself for his own good on the whole; with the idea of the common weal arises the idea of happiness as distinct from momentary gratification. The extra-regarding impulses are now confronted by a reasonable self-love, and in the deliberations that thus ensue activity attains to its highest forms, those of thought and volition. In the first we have a distinctly active manipulation of ideas as compared with the more passive spectacle of memory and imagination. Thereby emerges a contrast between the thicker and these objects of his thought, including among them the mere generic image of self, from which is now formed this conception of self as a person. A similar, even sharper, contrast also accompanies the exercise of what is very misleadingly termed "self-control," i.e., control by this personal self of "the various natural affections," to use Butler’s phrase, which often hinder it as external objects hinder them. It is doubtful whether the reasoning, regulating self is commonly regarded as definitely localized. The effort of thinking and concentrating attention upon ideas is no doubt referred to the brain, but this is only comparable with the localization of other efforts in the limbs; when we think we commonly feel also, and the emotional basis is of all the most subjective and inalienable. If we speak of this latest phase of self as par excellence "the inner self" such language is then mainly figurative, inasmuch as the contrasts just described are contrasts into which spatial relations do not enter.

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