‘Know thyself’ is not just silly advice: it’s actively dangerous

Knowing who you are can stop you from becoming who you want to be.


 

A man looks at the Love Forever room during a preview of the Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

There is a phrase you are as likely to find in a serious philosophy text as you are in the wackiest self-help book: ‘Know thyself!’ The phrase has serious philosophical pedigree: by Socrates’ time, it was more or less received wisdom (apparently chiselled into the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi) though a form of the phrase reaches back to Ancient Egypt. And ever since, the majority of philosophers have had something to say about it. 

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Hey Bill Nye! How Do You Reason with a Science Skeptic?

Whether it's palm reading, climate denial, or straight-up illuminati finger pointing, people all around us – and including us – have world views that are inconsistent with evidence.

Denial comes in all flavors. Some think the moon landing was staged, some think Tupac is alive, and others reject vaccines. If the United States learnt anything in the 2016 election, it's that social bubbles need to be broken down — so how do you reason with someone who ignores evidence or bends it to fit their worldview? This has been on Bill Nye's mind more and more since climate change denial has become a political issue rather than a scientific one. People can't change their minds instantly when their beliefs are ingrained, so it's not a matter of convincing them on the spot. Nye suggests working together towards scientific understanding by tactfully pointing out that perhaps this person is rejecting evidence because the alternative makes them uncomfortable. Understanding is a process, not a flip switch. Bill Nye's most recent book is Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World.

Motivation Escapes Us When We Don’t Understand Its Machinery

It turns out there's quite a bit of cognitive dissonance impairing our understanding of motivation and happiness. Duke University's Professor Dan Ariely fills in the gaps.

Motivation is a mysterious mechanism. It exists within all of us, but lays dormant unless unlocked. The 'how' is the difficult part, something business and individuals struggle with to varying degrees. Behavioral economist Dan Ariely has found that there’s a dissonance between what we think motivates people and what actually does. The most simple formula for motivation, and the one we reach for the most often, is that money = motivation. Luxury rewards are a powerful idea, but are they really what drive us?

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