Knowledge gives us a sense of who we are. To what extent is this true in the Human Sciences and Ethics?

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“Knowledge gives us a sense of who we are.” To what extent is this true in the Human Sciences and Ethics?

Socrates once said, “” [1]. In similar vein, Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Knowledge is knowing that we cannot know” [1]. A great Indian master, Nisargadatta Maharaj once quoted, “To know what you are, you must first investigate and know what you are not” [2]. What were Socrates, Emerson, Nisargadatta hinting at?

Is there any such thing as ‘knowledge’ and if so, can this knowledge ever give us a sense of who we are? Is there one concrete sense of ‘who we are’ that persists all throughout our lives or is our sense of identity a montage of ever-changing psychological and behavioral dynamics? Is the knower even capable of using ways of knowing to grasp a sense of who he/she is? If so, which way of knowing is more trustworthy and which area of knowledge should these ways of knowing be applied to, to get a better sense of who one is?

Human sciences provides a sense of how we behave in the social context but not a sense of who we are at a personal level while Natural sciences  while Thesis (….) I will be limiting my areas of knowledge to Human Sciences and Natural Sciences.

Human Sciences, Psychology in particular, does attempt to answer questions about why and how people think, feel, and behave as they do. In a sense, it does attempt to give humans a ‘sense of how they behave’ but it doesn’t really give us a sense of who we ‘are’. Let’s consider Stanley Milgram’s famous experiment on obedience to authority. Stanley Milgram was a Yale University Psychologist who, in the 1960s, conducted a series of obedience experiments to test that if an authority figure ordered one to deliver a 400-volt electrical shock to another person, would one follow orders? [3]. When the same question was posed to random Yale University students, it was predicted that only 3 out of 100 would deliver the maximum shock. In reality, 65% of the participants in Milgram’s study delivered the maximum shocks [4]. ‘Bystander effect’ is another monstrous revelation of abnormal human behavior in social circumstances. The bystander effect occurs when the presence of others hinder an individual from intervening in an emergency situation [5]. A recent case of the bystander effect was the running over of 2 year old Chinese toddler twice as dozens just watched her succumbing to her injuries without offering any help [6].

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Many other startling revelations from the world of Social Psychology demonstrate ‘how we behave’ in society but does this knowledge really give us a sense of who we are as individuals? Although these experiments and many others, to a large extent, do accurately provide a sense of how humans behave in public, I feel that such studies erroneously generalize human identity in terms of how they behave in society but this doesn’t provide a concrete sense of who one really is at the core. Just because one, under the multifarious dynamics of public pressure, behaves in a certain way might ...

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