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Self-reflection
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{{More citations needed|date=February 2014}}File:Admonitions Scroll Scene 11.jpg|thumb|300px|alt=A lady seated by herself|This penultimate scene of the Admonitions Scroll shows a palace lady sitting in quiet contemplation, presumably following the admonitions in the accompanying lines:{{Citation | last=McCausland | first=Shane | year=2003 | title=First Masterpiece of Chinese Painting: The Admonitions Scroll | publisher=(British Museum Press]] | page=78 | isbn=978-0-7141-2417-9 }} "Therefore I say: Be cautious and circumspect in all you do, and from this good fortune will arise. Calmly and respectfully think about your actions, and honor and fame will await you.")Human self-reflection is the capacity of humans to exercise introspection and to attempt to learn more about their fundamental nature and essence. The earliest historical records demonstrate the great interest that humanity has had in itself. More than 3,000 years ago, Know thyself, an ancient maxim by the Delphic oracle, Pythia, was inscribed on the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo when it was built over one of the oldest known religious sites in Ancient Greece. Human self-reflection is related to the philosophy of consciousness, the topic of awareness, consciousness in general, and the philosophy of mind. {{citation needed|date=July 2012}}

History

Early writings

Notions about the status of humanity may be revealed by the etymology of ancient words for humans. Latin homo (PIE *dʰǵʰm̥mō) means "of the earth, earthling", probably in opposition to "celestial" beings. Greek (mycenaean *anthropos) means "low-eyed", again probably contrasting with a divine perspective.{{citation needed|date=July 2012}}From the third-millennium Old Kingdom of Egypt, belief in an eternal afterlife of the human ka is documented along with the notion that the actions of a person would be assessed to determine the quality of that existence. A claim of dominance of humanity alongside radical pessimism because of the frailty and brevity of human life is asserted in the Hebrew Bible Genesis 1:28, where dominion of humans is promised, but contrarily, the author of Ecclesiastes, bewails the vanity of all human effort.{{citation needed|date=July 2012}}

Classical antiquity

Protagoras made the famous claim that humans are "the measure of all things; of what is, that it is; of what is not, that it is not". Socrates advocated the ancient adage for all humans to "Know thyself", and gave the (doubtlessly tongue-in-cheek) definition of humans as, "featherless bipeds" (Plato, Politicus). Aristotle described humans as the "communal animal" (ζῶον πολιτικόν), i.e., emphasizing society-building as a central trait of human nature, and being a "thought bearer animal" (, animal rationale),{{citation needed|date=October 2014}} a term that also may have inspired the species taxonomy, Homo sapiens.{{citation needed|date=July 2012}}

Middle Ages

The dominant world-view of medieval Europe, as directed by the Catholic Church, was that human existence is essentially good and created in "original grace", but because of concupiscence, is marred by sin, and that its aim should be to focus on a beatific vision after death. The thirteenth century pope, Innocent III, wrote about the essential misery of earthly existence in his "On the misery of the human condition" – a view that was disputed by, for example, Giannozzo Manetti in his treatise "On human dignity."{{citation needed|date=July 2012}}

Renaissance

{{see also|Renaissance humanism}}A famous quote of Shakespeare's Hamlet (II, ii, 115-117), expresses the contrast of human physical beauty, intellectual faculty, and ephemeral nature:
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?
File:Alfred Kubin - Self-Reflection, c. 1901-1902 - Google Art Project.jpg|thumb|275px|right|Selbstbetrachtung (self-reflection)pen and ink drawing by Alfred KubinAlfred KubinRené Descartes famously and succinctly proposed: Cogito ergo sumDescartes, René; Principia Philosophiae (1644), Part 1, article 7:"Ac proinde hæc cognitio, ego cogito, ergo sum, est omnium prima & certissima, quæ cuilibet ordine philosophanti occurrat." (French: "Je pense donc je suis"; English: "I think, therefore I am"), not an assessment of humanity, but certainly reflecting a capacity for reasoning as a characteristic of humans, that potentially, could include individual self-reflection.

Modern era

The Enlightenment was driven by a renewed conviction, that, in the words of Immanuel Kant, "Man is distinguished above all animals by his self-consciousness, by which he is a 'rational animal'." In conscious opposition to this tradition during the nineteenth century, Karl Marx defined humans as a "labouring animal" (animal laborans). In the early twentieth century, Sigmund Freud dealt a serious blow to positivism by postulating that, to a large part, human behaviour is controlled by the unconscious mind.{{citation needed|date=July 2012}}

Comparison to other species

Various attempts have been made to identify a single behavioural characteristic that distinguishes humans from all other animals. Many anthropologists think that readily observable characteristics (tool-making and language) are based on less easily observable mental processes that might be unique among humans: the ability to think symbolically, in the abstract, or logically, however, several species have demonstrated some abilities in these areas and neither is it clear at what point in human evolution these traits became prevalent. Such characteristics may not be restricted to the species, Homo sapiens, as the extinct species of the genus Homo, since Homo neanderthalensis and Homo erectus were adept tool makers and may have had linguistic skills.{{citation needed|date=July 2012}}In learning environments, reflection is an important processing part in order to maximize the utility of an experience. Rather than moving on to the next 'task' humans may review the process and outcome of a task and – with the benefit of a little distance (lapsed time) - may reconsider what the value of experience might be and for the context of which it was a part. {{citation needed|date=June 2011}}

See also

References

{{reflist}}

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