October/November 2011

To Thine Own Self Be True

Written by Rob Mason

But what did Shakespeare mean he wrote these words? He seems to imply that we have a permanent self, something to which we should always be faithful. In a recent article in the Economist, Will Wilkinson commented that he believed that “the sense of the self is an evolutionary construction with a certain social function.” he enlarged upon this by then saying, “ so we build a sense of self upon the shared moral ideology of our local culture.” Is this a true interpretation of Shakespeare’s words. We decided to ask some philosophically minded Auckland café patrons and find out what they thought about it.

First we went to the ‘Shaky Isles Café’ in Quay Street and met Victoria and Clare. Victoria (left) said she believed she was not only a physical body but also a self. She mentioned personal values as a justification for believing in a self and said she always acted in accordance with those values, adding that they made her feel more of an individual. Clare (right) was also sure she had a self and mentioned that people are all different, not the same, and considered this as proof that individual selves existed. In summary they both believed that being different from others was attributable to one’s own individual self.