‘Know thyself’ is one of the most successful slogans in history.
Thales of Miletus — a philosopher, who flourished in the 6th century before Christ, is credited with having coined the phrase, and Plato tells us that it was inscribed at the entrance to the temple of Apollo at Delphi, and it is still popular today, over 2500 years later.
‘Know thyself’ sounds terrific in theory, but how feasible — or desirable — is it in practice?
On the face of it, there is something puzzling about the idea that self-knowledge is difficult to attain. After all, we are more intimately related to ourselves than we are to anything else in the universe, aren’t we?
We have to live with ourselves day in and day out, so shouldn’t it follow that we know ourselves better than we know anything else?
And you and I cannot afford to see through the innumerable deceptions that we unwittingly perpetrate in our daily lives.
Our lives are awash with deceit, but becoming aware of it would be to sip from a poisoned chalice, because it would undermine the foundations on which our lives are built.
Self-deception is not a pathological state, a deviation from the norm of truthfulness. It is normal, ‘healthy’ and adaptive.