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Almost always when we try to answer to the question "Who am I?", we say about what we do or what we like, but how should we answering this question? If you can recommend me books or papers to at least try to understand the meaning of this question, I will preciate it.

  • It may help you to read biographies. Perhaps about people from your own country or region first, and then biographies of people from other parts of the world. I suggest you check them out from a library because you will be more likely to read a variety of them. Simply go to the Biography section of the library, and let the Library Spirit guide you. Trust me there is one, and I am very serious. Try it for yourself and see. – Gordon Aug 30 '17 at 19:21
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    Your life and who you are revolves around your most prominent thought, so I believe what ever description you make is ideal. Like since I am interested in the nature of nothing and how I find "nothing" to be more liberating than a "something", I would answer by saying I am an empty vessel full of characteristics. This defines my greatest thoughts and I truest believe it is your mind that defines you. – TheAutomaton Aug 30 '17 at 22:32
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    The question you asked--"Who am I?" is very a important one. But most often people do not ask this question sincerely. Some people may be asking when they become mature/old, suffering from ailments, deadly diseases etc. If one could find out the answer to this question all the sorrows would end there. Answer may vary when treating it in the intellectual level. It depends one's comprehension, beliefs etc. If the answer (true knowledge) can cure sorrows that question must have great importance. – SonOfThought Sep 1 '17 at 12:05
  • Taking Descartes' approach, you are the consciousness that thought the question. If you want something more meaty, you'll need to first ask yourself why you want to know. Identity, self-analysis and ancestry are some reasons, each of which yields a different type of answer. – Lawrence Sep 1 '17 at 13:57
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I suggest reading at least a chapter or two of Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self (1989). He aims to "[trace] various strands of our modern notion of what it is to be a human agent, a person, or a self." (3) On your "what we do", see:

Much contemporary moral philosophy, particularly but not only in the English-speaking world, has given such a narrow focus to morality that some of the crucial connections I want to draw here are incomprehensible in its terms. This moral philosophy has tended to focus on what it is right to do rather than on what it is good to be, on defining the content of obligation rather than the nature of the good life; and it has no conceptual place left for a notion of the good as the object of our love or allegiance or, as Iris Murdoch portrayed it in her work, as the privileged focus of attention or will.[1] This philosophy has accredited a cramped and truncated view of morality in a narrow sense as well as of the whole range of issues involved in the attempt to live the best possible life and this not only among professional philosophers, but with a wider public. (3)

On your "what we like", Taylor goes on to talk about what he terms 'strong evaluation', which

involve[s] discriminations of right or wrong, better or worse, higher or lower, which are not rendered valid by our own desires, inclinations, or choices, but rather stand independent of these and offer standards by which they can be judged. (4)

Taylor spends the first part of Sources in critique of naturalism and reductionism; he contends they obscure our understanding of ourselves by depriving us of the ability to make important distinctions—chiefly, about what does and does not constitute a worthy life. Whether or not you agree with him, Taylor should help you see aspects of your question which lie in a blind spot of much modern, Western thinking.


For more, see Christian Smith's What is a Person? (2010); from the introduction:

Yet it is not obvious that we humans actually do understand ourselves as beings very well. I am not the first to observe that, of the many mysteries in the universe, we humans are perhaps the most mysterious of all to ourselves.[1] Even the social sciences, for all their sophistication in certain ways, have not helped us much to understand clearly the nature of our own species, humanity as such. Or so I believe. The social sciences are good at describing and analyzing human activities, cultures, institutions, social relations, and social structures. But that is not the same thing as actually understanding human beings per se, what we are, our constitution and condition. (1)

Note that Smith cites Sources sixteen times; he explicitly endorses Taylor's stance on 'strong evaluation'. Where Taylor picks out philosophical blind spots, Smith picks out sociological blind spots. The naturalist, of course, may claim that both are seeing what just isn't there. If so, perhaps they explain in better terms than the naturalist, how they came to see whatever it is they see.

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"Know thyself."

Ancient Greeks touched on this question 2,400 years ago. The idea may date back to ancient Egypt (Temple at Luxor). Insofar as you mean "what is this experience?" - the cave allegory provides ideas.

See also Hillel:

"If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am 'I'? And if not now, when?"

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There is a vast literature explaining how to study your own consciousness and essential nature. A recent gem is Rupert Spira's 'The Nature of Consciousness'. He specifically addresses the issue of how to learn who we are, as does the entire Wisdom literature. The secret is not to rely on books but to approach the question as a scientist and study the nature of mind 'empirically', by way of apperception. This is the only method that could ever work. But reading may help this process considerably and save a lot of time.

What you will find, so they say, is that you are not at all who or what you think you are but something far more wonderful. The Oracle at Delphi clearly knew her stuff.

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You are a description (authored by you or another) of the imprint/shadow left by the thoughts you've had, choices you've made, things you've done across the arc of your life. Note, however, that only the first element belongs to you exclusively. For, despite what solipsism may promise, you have an audience, a conversational partner/community composed of critics and admirers. And their opinion of who/what you are (their interpretations of your words and descriptions of your actions), particularly in the age of social media, to some extent regrettably, also merit increasing consideration in answering this query.

Start by Reading Book I, Part 4, Section 6 of David Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature: OF PERSONAL IDENTITY, and portions of Appendix A (see here: http://www.anselm.edu/homepage/dbanach/pi.htm):

“There are some philosophers, who imagine we are every moment conscious of what we call our self ; that we feel its existence and continuance in existence; and are certain, beyond the evidence of a demonstration, both of its perfect identity and simplicity. . . . [But] from what impression could this idea be deriv’d? . . . For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself , I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe anything but the perception. . . . I may venture to affirm . . . that [persons] are nothing but a bundle or collec- tion of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in perpetual flux and movement.”

Then read Chapter 2 of Richard Rorty's Contingency Irony and Solidarity*, The Contingency of Selfhood (or maybe the whole book).

  • No offense meant, gonzo, but Hume and Rorty would be authors I would suggest the OP avoided. Best to read people who have actually done the work and can answer the question. . – PeterJ Sep 1 '17 at 15:14
  • Have you read Hume's and Rorty's vast opuses (even Hume's Treatise, or the chapter of Rorty's that I site). If there is one thing they cannot be accused of is failing to do the "work." You may disagree with their conclusions, but they certainly cannot be said to have failed to "answer" the question or painstakingly provide support for it. – gonzo Sep 1 '17 at 16:26
  • @PeterJ 1 (please read prior comment first) Remember this is primarily a community of philosophers, that is,practitioners of an evidence based endeavor whose tools are concepts, reason, language, argument, etc., not of religion, mysticism or theology, whose tools 9if they exist, are very different. In the language game of THIS community the meaning (use) of the terms "work" and "answer" are more consistent with the efforts deployed and conclusions reached by Rorty and Hume, than, say, Ruprt Spira, to address the query. – gonzo Sep 1 '17 at 17:06
  • @PeterJ 1 This is not to say that religion/mysticism' take on the matter should not be considered in answering the question, but only that traditional philosophy's take should not be ignored as you suggest, or belittled/derided, as you have done. The difference between you and I here manifests in the fact that I presume you voted my answer down, whereas I simply left you with the 0 that your answer deserves (on THIS site). – gonzo Sep 1 '17 at 17:12
  • I would not endorse a view that is not evidence-based. It would be a basic mistake to assume that a system of practice designed with the single purpose of understanding who we are by examining the facts is less able to know what they are than philosophers who try to understand this by working it out as a speculative theory before establishing any facts. (Byw. I don't think I voted your answer down- not sure). Rorty and Hume are not expert in the is area of knowledge and nor is the Academy as a whole. It does not study these things but just talks about them. – PeterJ Sep 2 '17 at 11:10
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Even if so many changes are taking place in each of our body cells in every moment, when we say 'I' we often relate it to a changeless thing. And sometimes we feel that the 'I' is something 'beyond' all the bondages.

You will get valuable information from the teachings of Ramana Maharshi.

See this video also.

  • If the answer to the question were completely subjective great men wouldn't have answered it. – SonOfThought Sep 1 '17 at 12:15

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