“The unexamined life is not worth living” said Socrates and few would doubt the wisdom of his belief. But is self awareness enough?
What good is self awareness without change? And can we change? Does the brain have true plasticity and if so do we have the free will necessary to change who we are and how we behave?
Well I can not answer these deep questions and nor it seems can our brightest scientists or philosophers. They have beliefs, that is true, but they have no “proof”. No way of experimenting on themselves – or at least no way of proving that such change which may occur has done so by virtue of free will rather than the dead hand of determinism.
Why am I perplexed and troubled by this question this evening? Partly because I am always troubled by my own motives, behavior, actions and thoughts and partly because I was reading some philosopher’s view that morals are relative and not absolute. I don’t care what the professor says or believes. I believe that morals are absolute and that we are grasping our way towards a better society. Hard as that may be to believe sometimes.
But it all comes back to the personal eventually. And indeed what is society if not a collection of persons? And if those persons are not self aware we have one problem: they will undoubtedly pursue one or more (perhaps all) of the seven deadly sins and not realize they are being naughty boys. They may not realize that morals are most assuredly not relativistic and that their behavior therefor sucks and they should change it.
Ah, but therein the rub. Can we change even if we realize and accept that we ought to? I can only speak personally and subjectively – and I suspect that is all any of us can do.
And I can come to no firm conclusion. I know what I ought to be. I know how I ought to behave. I know what I ought to do. And in general I make the attempt to follow the conclusions of my self analysis and my view on morality.
But I am not at all sure I have ever managed to wreak real or lasting change. I am irritable. I do not wish anyone any real harm but I tend towards petty loathings ( see Pig, Salesmen) which I can’t seem to shake. Some people may indeed be loathsome but why not just let them get on with it and walk the other way? And there are many other things I would like to change about my behavior and my life.
Oh well – at least I am self aware! Perhaps that is better than nothing. Tries hard said the headmaster.