What Is Self-Knowledge?


"There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond and to know one's self."

- Benjamin Franklin

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Chapter 2, Volume 1

Chapter 3, Volume 1

What is Knowledge?

What is Self-Knowledge?

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In Chinese Philosophy: 

"知足常樂"

The ancient Chinese proverb for self-knowledge, translated as "know yourself, know your limit, be content; and you shall achieve eternal happiness."

In Classical Philosophy:

E coelo descendit γνωθι σεαυτόν. – Juvenal, xi.27 

The Roman poet Juvenal quotes the ancient Greek aphorism γνωθι σεαυτόν "Know Thyself" in his Satire XI: On Dinner and a Moral.   The Satire lectures on self-knowledge and moderation, and Juvenal states that the Greek concept is descended from heaven (E coelo descendit). 

For the English translation of Satire XI, please go to The Tertullian Project.  

In Boethian Philosophy:

"Now I know," she [the Muse of Philosophy] said, "the further cause of your sickness. . . You have forgotten your own identity." - The Consolation of Philosophy

Sixth-century philosopher Boethius expatiates the above-mentioned Delphic injunction "Know Thyself" in  The Consolation of Philosophy.  In this pivotal work bridging Classical philosophy and medieval Christianity, Philosophy Muse attempts to rouse the prisoner's (Boethius') awareness of the "right" and virtuous course of life.  This awareness can be gained through the knowledge of one's own soul, thus the emphasis on self-knowledge. 

Work Cited: Boethius, Anicius Manlius Severinus. The Consolation of Philosophy. Ed. P. G. Walsh.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. 17, 121.    

In Romanticism -
"
Self-Knowledge," A Poem by S. T. Coleridge:

- E coelo descendit γνωθι σεαυτόν. – Juvenal, xi.27.

γνωθι σεαυτόν! - and is this the prime
And heaven-sprung adage of the olden time! -
Say, canst thou make thyself? - Learn first that trade; -
Haply thou mayst know what thyself had made.
What hast thou, Man, that thou dar'st call thine own? -
What is there in thee, Man, that can be known? -
Dark fluxion, all unfixable by thought,
A phantom dim of past and future wrought,
Vain sister of the worm, - life, death, soul; clod -
Ignore thyself, and strive to know thy God!

Complete poetry explication by Daisy Cho