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Know Thyself: Three Steps to Understanding

Inscribed on the forecourt of the Temple at Delphi is the Greek maxim, Gnothi Seauton. In English, that maxim means, ‘Know Thyself.’ It’s an aphorism used numerous times in the dialogues of Socrates by Plato.

I’ve encountered the phrase in other places. Years ago, as I was working my way through a master’s program in International Relations, I encountered the phrase in an academic text examining the intricacies of world governments, nations, and cultures. That maxim, ‘Know Thyself’ was a call to action by the author. He posited that before we can really understand others, we must first know ourselves.

So, what does it mean to know thyself? Sounds simple enough. At first thought, I’m sure most people think, ‘I know myself well–I’ve been living with myself for years!’

But on an existential level, do we really know ourselves? And is it fact that, as an end, it really justifies the means? Is there actual benefit in knowing myself or is it philosophical gas? And to what degree must I know …

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