Undoubtedly everyone at some time in their life has posited the question”Who am I?” ,”what’s the purpose of life?” , and other apparently transient questions, has been a question that has puzzled philosophers through the ages. Cultures and individuals alike have attempted to render a verdict for the evidence that’s been presented. Even though the glut of answers that’s been given throughout history has varied tremendously both in nature and scope, they could be condensed into two basic perspectives: atheistic and theistic. From the atheistic perspective, which will be the leaning of most modern philosophers, is that we’re here, the same as everything else – by accident. Over the course of centuries of evolution, people, somewhere in the past few million years have developed a conscience – a self-realization. What it really is, is anybody’s guess, but it somehow puts us a bit over the plants and flowers, which although are living, growing, and reproducing, have in themselves no idea of being; they just simply exist, and nothing more. In this scenario, we actually don’t have any presence or purpose in life; we just have a couple overdeveloped brain cells which are firing erratically causing us to briefly become somewhat conscious of our existence. When we die, it’s all over and we, conscious of our being or not, only cease to exist.
Dr. Cooley set out to theorize human self-awareness by postulating three components that define our consciousness based on our relationships with people around us. He believed that we imagine how we look to those around us, then we interpret the responses of others based on their perception of us, and we create a self-concept based on how we interpret the responses of others. He called this theory that the”looking-glass self”. He believed that we perceive in our minds how we look or look to people around us. Irrespective of how we feel about ourselves, we often worry about how others respect us. In middle school, most of us expect that everyone will think we’re cool. In high school we can not fathom the notion that we will not be found appealing. We frequently evaluate the answers we get from people around us to ascertain how they feel about us based on how they view us. Do they think we are weak because we’re nice? Maybe they see us as cool since we speak condescendingly to other people. If we’re quiet by nature, do they perceive us as smart, or just unfriendly? After we’ve evaluated the responses of our friends and acquaintances, we’ll start to develop ideas about ourselves. He believed that the notion of self was a lifelong, always shifting, procedure.
George Herbert Mead also employed a three-step procedure to explain the growth of self, but his measures differed from those suggested by Dr. Cooley. The first of his measures was what he called fake. In this phase, which begins at a young age, we start to imitate the words and actions of those around us. We don’t actually have a genuine sense of being; we just view ourselves as an extension of those around us. In the next stage, known as play, we start the process of studying our self-identity by no more simply imitating others, but instead by pretending to be them. While we have not fully realized ourselves as being a complete and separate thing, we’re realizing a step in that direction by demonstrating that we know that others are people that are different from one another. In the last stage we start to undertake the roles of others once we play team sports. In such situations we must learn how to play as a team by not playing our role, but by also understanding the functions that other men and women play so that we may anticipate their moves. Sometimes we might also be asked to actively take on their function, like if a player is hurt and we have to substitute for them. It’s in these 3 measures, according to Dr. Mead, we each develop our own personal identity.
Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist who noticed that kids often make the exact wrong observations in similar conditions. He cautioned that all kids used the exact same justification when presented with a problem, no matter their background. In the conclusion of years of studying them, Dr. Piaget decided that kids go through four phases in the development of reasoning abilities. The first point, which he called the sensorimotor stage, lasts until about the age of 2 in many children. All our thoughts about self are limited to direct physical touch. We have yet to develop the concept of abstract thought or the ability to understand that actions have consequences. The preoperational stage, which lasts from about age two to age seven, is the time period where we start to learn about what he called logos. In other words, anything that we use to signify something different. This vocabulary not only applies to concrete symbols, like the male/female silhouettes on bathroom doors, but also to more abstract symbols like language and counting. Although children start to use and realize using these symbols, they do not always fully understand their complete meaning. By way of instance, a child may have the ability to understand the difference between a single cookie and two biscuits, but they would not have any idea of the difference between a car that cost $400 and another that cost $40,000. In the third phase, the concrete operational phase which lasts from approximately 7-12 years old, older children are starting to grasp the general meanings of concrete symbols such as numbers (even if they’re extremely large numbers), yet still have problems understanding abstract ideas like love and honesty. In the fourth and last phase of our development, the formal operational stage, we are now starting to comprehend abstract ideas. We are now able to answer not merely questions about who, what, where, and when, but we could also start to answer questions related to why something is right, wrong, beautiful, kind, etc..
Although Charles Cooley and George Mead differed in their approach to the development of self (Cooley’s was mental in facet, whereas Mead’s was physical), their thoughts were the same in their approach was the notion that people look to others to ascertain our idea itself. Irrespective of whether it’s our thoughts or actions which are based on those of others, we can not develop the thought of self without the existence of others. On the exact same hand though, those we’re looking at are also awaiting us to make their own determinations about them selves. These all, of course, differ from the theistic perspective which states that we need to look to God (Hebrews 12:2, KJV). The Bible recounts a story of the Apostle Paul debating with all the philosophers in Athens.