A philosophy of self-consciousnessby William McGaughey
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Because of self-consciousness, the social sciences are inappropriate for those phenomena whose explanation depends on knowing another person’s thoughts. Scientific principles cannot include within their structure of knowledge all the different thoughts that people have. Stories do that better. Ambitious, contentious individuals are continually scheming to move others into a subservient role, to judge them, or put them in categories which are easily controlled. On the other hand, complete openness may be ill-advised when events are moving towards an incomplete end. Human understanding depends on the order in which the various points of awareness become conscious.
Self-consciousness, functioning at a higher level than conscious thought, is like an animal higher in the food chain which eats the flesh of another species. Self-conscious thoughts take conscious thoughts into themselves as interior elements. Some persons are self-conscious much of the time. Intellectuals are occupationally prone to thinking of their own thought processes. They must stay in touch with primary experiences or the habit of thinking self-consciously will weaken their base of knowledge and erode their memory. Secondary projects, in which means become ends, threaten to throw life’s basic activities off course. Yet, self-knowledge does have a certain usefulness.
The natural, unselfconscious life represents a moral ideal that has been enunciated by several religions. People ought to have natural personalities. Good literature often has a simple quality. Even so, society develops toward patterns of increasing complexity as self-consciousness erodes the simple ways. There are reasons by people do not pursue the most direct means to an end. There is often a “catch” to what seems easy. Organizations tend to become bureaucratic with success. Purposeful activities tend eventually to move in the opposite direction. Self-conscious thoughts offer a causal explanation for much of what eludes reason.
Meet the Author
William McGaughey studied philosophy at Yale. He took courses from Robert S. Brumbaugh, a Plato scholar. During this period, he wrote down his ideas in a series of notes meant to compiled in a book. As a young man, he quit an accounting job to write this book but found the task beyond him at that point. He had to teach himself how to compile the notes and write a coherent work. He had to overcome self-consciousness or what is called “writer’s block”.
Much later, when he was sixty years of age, McGaughey finished what he had set out to accomplish many years years earlier. He had the satisfaction of revealing this project to Professor Brumbaugh shortly before the latter’s death. This e-book represents the third of three parts in the print version.
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