Difficulty of Mastering Total Understanding of Self

Subject: Philosophy
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 5
Word count: 1340
Topics: Humanism, Book, Human Nature, Individualism

The idea of one’s self-has dependably been a noteworthy subject among rationalists. The “self” can be depicted as the collection of extraordinary qualities, identity attributes, and convictions about one’s temperament and average conduct that makes them unique from other individuals. The idea of controlling one’s self, as basic as it might appear, experiences numerous obstructions that make it fairly hard to fulfill. Two works, Michel de Montaigne “Essays” and St. Augustine’s “Confessions” investigate these ideologies and the complications that might arise while trying to achieve total knowledge of self. The works demonstrate that it is quite difficult for an individual to obtain a complete understanding of the self.

Both works focus on the nodal self. They express the desire of human beings to understand their personality and attain an ultimate understanding of themselves. Various illustrations and analogies used in the books demonstrate that multiple powers or people hinder the achievement of this total knowledge of self. St. Augustine attributes the weakness to weak human nature while Montaigne attributes it to different people. Despite these diversities, these works demonstrate various irrational desires of individuals for unproductive pleasures. They focus on the very base of human weakness: his limitation in achieving total understanding of self.

The “St. Augustine “Confessions,” when it was composed could have conveyed two implications, confessions in those days implied both making expiation for your transgressions and announcing your affection for God. Throughout the book, St. Augustine confesses his sins and declares his devotion to God. He recounts the tale of his life and the majority of the battles he needed to persist in his mission to come back to God. Further, he clarifies that he trusted the reason individuals are how they are and settle on the choices they make is trying to pick up control over one’s self as well as to come back to God as he is at last their maker and the principal place that is unadulterated. On the other part, Michel de Montaigne essays were written during the renaissance era and focused on the description of human nature. These articles provide a manifestation of contemporary approach in reflecting about your personality. 

At the start of Augustine’s contention, Augustine summons God, asking him: “How should I call upon my God, my God and Lord?” and proceeds to state: “Surely when I call on him, I am calling on him to come into me” (Augustine). This summon takes after the beginnings of Greek works, for example, the Iliad, or Roman works, for example, Ovid’s Metamorphoses in which the writer conjures their particular divine beings to help them in narrating, with the expectation of picking up validity among readers. Augustine “calls” God to come to him. By requesting that God come to him to enable him to recount the account of his life, Augustine likewise accomplishes believability for his stories. Augustine proposes that God specifically upholds his stories and contentions, and God may even be acting through Augustine to tell his precept. Augustine can solidly use his particular encounters and recollections on his way to God in his contentions because, as recommended to his readers, he has God’s endorsement. Augustine’s perspectives on memory are unequivocally characterized: “Surely memory is where you dwell because I remember you since. First I learned from you, and I find you there when I think about you” (Augustine). St. Augustine extends his usage of memory from merely utilizing cases from his particular mind to making memory an instrument by which his readers would accomplish enlightenment. His contention, indeed, is that God is inside memory; however, one should be illuminated to discover him there. Augustine encourages this claim through his utilization of self-portraying cases and structure to gain understanding from the reader’s perspective.

Montaigne’s perspectives and usage of memory are starkly different to Augustine’s, in this manner Montaigne’s Essays looks substantially less like the customary origination of self-portrayal. Montaigne’s contentions tend to go up against the qualities of sound research as in Montaigne sensibly thoroughly considers every one of the likely outcomes of a given inquiry, and uses undoubtedly understood trustworthy sources, from history or writing, as illustrations and defenses for his decisions. Montaigne’s affirmation can clarify this perception that experience is “certainly sufficient to instruct us in all that we need” (Montaigne), and his threatening vibe to embracing other’s thoughts and sentiments. Montaigne’s less-customary way to deal with personal history can be disclosed by his letter to the reader. He states “I am myself the substance of my book “(Montaigne). Instead of his history is the substance, his real individual is recorded in the pages. In this sense, this book is a portrayal of his points of view, which is undoubtedly bolstered by the haphazardness of the topics.

St. Augustine approaches the human nature from a religious perspective. In his view, beings have innate weaknesses. Due to this deficiency, individuals cannot attain the ultimate understanding of self. They require divine intervention to enhance their self-understanding. In the book, he recounts, “As I was saying this and weeping in the bitter agony of my heart, suddenly I heard a voice from the nearby house chanting as if it might be a boy or a girl. (I do not know which), saying and repeating over and over again ‘pick up and read, pick up and read’” (Augustine). In this extract, St. Augustine was crying and all of a sudden he heard a voice. However, he did not know which gender uttered that particular voice. Nevertheless, God said pick and read the book of scriptures as he did and he began to read. St. Augustine goes on to recount that he was directed to read, “….not in riots and drunken parties, not in eroticism and indecencies, not in strife and rivalry, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in its lusts” (Augustine). The scriptures were focusing on his weaknesses as a human. These scriptures were pointing out his failings and the need for divine help to overcome these deficiencies. Thus, they pointed the weak nature of individuals in understanding themselves and their need for supernatural powers to understand their personality.

On the contrary to St. Augustine’s views, Montaigne illustrates that it is possible for an individual to achieve total understanding of self. In his discourse, he notes that “When King Pyrrhus passed over into Italy after he had inspected the formation of the army that Romans were sent to meet him. He said: I do not know what barbarians these are (for so the Greeks called all foreign nation), but the information of this army that I see is not at all barbarous” (Montaigne). In this analogy, the Romans and King Pyrrhus did not come into contact because Pyrrhus learned and understood how the Romans assembled the troops. Montaigne demonstrates that Pyrrhus has mastered the total understanding of self and thus can avoid the Romans. Therefore, Montaigne is convinced that there is a possibility of learning complete knowledge of self.

Overall, individuals often face challenges when trying to master a total understanding of self. These problems emanate from the weak human nature. Although Montaigne in some instances has seemed to refute this assertion, in most of his works, he has demonstrated that it is quite hard to master self-understanding. As shown in the works of St. Augustine and Montaigne, the argument being presented in a text influences the structure of that book. If the author demonstrates conflicting ideologies within the book, that work loses its credibility. These authors have applied diverse approaches to autobiography structure to acquire credibility and fortify their argument. Despite these varied strategies, they have maintained that it is difficult for individuals to achieve complete mastery of self.

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  1. Augustine. “Confessions.”The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Martin Puchner et al., 3rd ed., New York, W.W. Norton, 2012.
  2. Montaigne, Michel de. “The Complete Works of Montaigne.” The Norton Anthology Of World Literature, Martin Puchneret al., 3rd ed., New York, W.W. Norton, 2012.
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