Knowing yourself

I would never hit anyone.

You may not be very impressed. When someone says I would never hit a woman I am perturbed, as such people might not include me in that. It’s a claim to a minimal moral stance which most people in society would make. Some would make it when it is not true, and more quietly many might imagine a situation where they might hit someone, or think that desirable.

People do not know themselves, and make such statements with an air of complete confidence though they are belied by later circumstance. I read that this may be an evolutionary advantage: we say what will make ourselves look good, even though it is not true, and because we believe it completely we show no visible sign of lying, so are more convincing to others. As so often, evolution shows it is not there to make you feel good. This is just one kind of blind spot which makes my question Who am I really? so fascinating, and frustrating. The point of a blind spot is I don’t know it’s there. I would say “I would never hit someone” with perfect confidence, with no inkling that there was another reality behind it, or anything to go looking for. So I can’t give current examples of such untrue moral claims I make now, because when I realise I stop claiming them.

However, I know I would never hit anyone because I have been in situations where I have been hit or attacked, and not hit back. I know myself because I have observed how I react. Aware how one might make such a statement with unjustified confidence, I make it from experience.

I find it hard to claim virtue for this: pacifism, restraint, civilisation perhaps. I find it easier to acknowledge if I see it as a bad thing- cowardice, or perhaps confusion as the Rules I rely on don’t seem to be working, the framework for my world has broken down and I am bereft. I can see situations where self-defence or defence of another is the virtuous thing to do, and other situations where the ability to defend myself might reduce a threat, and took karate for over a year because of that.

Seeing where I lack self-knowledge, and caring about that, I might have greater self-knowledge than a person who simply makes the moral claim with self-confidence and does not dig any deeper. Then he hits someone, and says “I was provoked!” No, he was not a hypocrite or fibber, that is not what he meant, there was always a qualification in the phrase. I would never hit anyone first; or, unless I obviously ought to. With my conservative background I would feel (rather than rationally calculate) that there would be times where you ought to.

My uncertainty makes me give energy to it, so that I have greater self-knowledge. The qualities you most doubt in yourself may be the ones which you have devoted most time to developing, because you care about them.

5 thoughts on “Knowing yourself

  1. I cannot make a claim to pacifism, for I am aware that I would hit someone in order to protect those I love. It would be over-riding I suspect. I’m sure. Restraint would be the aim well before actual physical force in any form of course. But it is as it is, and I cannot honestly claim anything else. If someone however attacks me, I walk away, diffuse, but will not engage unless in fear of my life.

    esme considering the violence in the world sadly upon the Cloud

    Like

  2. To understand ourselves through experiences and accepting the reality as it is, a unique method to work on our belief system.

    Wonderful article, I have myself experienced that my responses were dependent on the situations.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome, Avinash. Thank you for commenting. It is lovely to have you here.

      We often believe things about humanity which are merely conventional. There are depths to people we do not easily understand but imagine that we do. There are “unknown unknowns”.

      Liked by 1 person

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