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Saturday, 12 December 2015

THE COGNITIVE SELF

20th century philosopher Michel Foucault was particularly unusual in his methodology. Rather than concentrate on one subject he sought to gather wisdom from the study of, well, everything. History and more specifically Genealogy were his means to find answers to the concept of the self and the direction of knowledge, which can be structured by the diversification of themes:
"... [Genealogy examines] the constitution of the subject across history which has led us up to the modern concept of the self."
He viewed genealogy as an inquiry into the seemingly not important, but eventually crucial, parts that constitute a subject and not into the timeless condition of being. Each of these elements are indivisible from the fabric weaved into the current self.

An analogy for this could be the paradox posed by a time machine. If we were to travel back in time, our very presence would provoke infinitesimal, nanoscopic disturbances in the particles around us. This in turn would trigger a new set of events, a butterfly effect of change, resulting in us not being there in the first place. Ergo the significance of very small, peripheral events in the making of history just as much as notable ones.
Why this prompted my curiosity is because I don't have an extensive family line. From my father's side, history stops with my grandfather. His father wasn't know as my great-grandmother married when already pregnant from a previous relationship of which nothing is known.
This gap, this peculiarity, has played a major role in shaping who I am and my interests. Not just with history or philosophy, but in striving to understand, through a multifariousness of connections, what being me is.
In the words of historian Yuval Noah Harari:
"We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine."
While others were grounded in their origins, be it geographical or ancestral, I endeavoured to find material to set my roots. This hankering for a point of reference is a helpless exercise in terms of answers but a valuable tool for curiosity, knowledge and ambition of intent.
The direction of the cognitive self can be construed once all the facets of human knowledge are explored.
Looking for answers completes the essence of who we are.

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