The “Self” According to Plato and How to Take Care of It

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At the mention of Atlantis, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

Utopia?

Power?

Well, how about Plato? He was, after all, the mind behind the legend.

Plato is considered to be one of the greatest philosophers to have lived on Earth, alongside Socrates, his teacher, and Aristotle, his student. Plato’s profound political and intellectual viewpoints are manifested through his written dialogues that have significantly influenced Western political philosophy.

Plato also founded his own philosophical school called the Academy that is presumed to be the world’s first university (and mainly the reason why we call higher education as academics).

One of Plato’s most famous doctrines involve the Theory of Forms or Ideas, where he theorized that the world we have come to know through our senses is merely an inferior and imperfect representation of a perfect, eternal, and changeless realm occupied by perfect existences called Forms. 

Take for example your smartphone, laptop, or whatever device you’re using to read this blog post, Plato says that this device of yours is imperfect (well, of course, because it almost always runs out of battery every eight hours or so), and that in the world of the Forms, there exists a perfect and ideal Device that, perhaps, has no need for charging. 

This theory of Plato is actually the very basis of his definition of the Self.

What is the "Self"?

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With great thinking capacity comes great questions. I’m just thankful Plato got us covered. Now, Plato believes that the Self exists in two forms: the physical self and the immaterial mind

The Physical Self

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The physical self is the part of the Self referring to our physical bodies.

This is the one that is subject to changes; the one that can be identified through the senses; the one we invest too much money and effort to improve. But according to Plato, this is the part of the Self that dies.

In Plato’s Theory of forms, he believes that the physical part of the Self exists in the flawed and imperfect realm because it is always changing. Only changeless existences can transcend through the realm of Forms and that is the second part of the Self.

The Immaterial Mind

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The immaterial mind is the part of the Self that knows the Forms. It is alive in both the physical realm and the ideal realm. We sometimes refer to it as the soul.

Plato believed that when we are in the physical realm, we exist both in body and soul, making both parts of our Self alive in the physical realm. But upon death, our physical body remain in the physical realm and only our soul moves to the ideal realm. That’s why it is regarded as immortal.

Since it is our soul that gains knowledge of the Forms, it is crucial that we alter our priority and pour considerable effort in taking care of our souls.

Is Self-care Selfish?

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Before jumping right into the hows of self-care, it is important for you to understand that taking care of yourself is not selfish. Instead, it says you are mature enough to take on the responsibility of managing yourself.

It is also important to acknowledge that self-care is not just limited to rewarding yourself after having a couple of shitty days. Self-rewards can be a part of your self-care regimen but that’s not the only way of practicing self-care.

Self-Care for the Physical Self

woman in bathtub while reading a magazine

Despite it being branded as the lesser existence of the two forms of the Self, it is still vital to take care of our physical bodies because it helps our souls achieve more things.

Here are two effective ways of taking good care of your physical self:

1 | Learn Biology

There’s a reason why we were obligated to memorize the different organ systems of the body and were lectured about Punnett’s square of X and Y chromosomes. And I know you already know why.

Biology tells us everything that we need to know about our own bodies and in doing so, we are able to understand how to meet our bodily needs and identify what allows us to live.

How it has become a very underrated subject is a mystery to me. I mean, how could one not enjoy knowing about how our hearts are able to pump blood 24/7 without rest? Or about what happens to our cells when we inhale oxygen?

At our age and time, it is vital that we revisit Biology because if we do not, it could be a challenge to distinguish whether or not eating raw garlic everyday can fend off corona virus.

Begin Your Biology Learning Here:

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READING BOOKS

If you enjoy reading books, you can start by reading general Biology books.

Here’s a website of openly-licensed textbooks you can download for FREE: https://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks

YOUTUBE

Youtube is undeniably a good source of knowledge if you choose the appropriate kind of channels. Here are a few of my recos for learning Biology:

  • CrashCourse
  • Bozeman Science
  • SciShow
  • Khan Academy
  • Armando Hasudungan
cellphone showing youtube icon
laptop on a desk with coffee and a glass of water

ONLINE COURSES / WEBSITES

This is perhaps my favorite FREE learning website on the internet. It offers a wide range of course materials that you can use for your own learning, including Biology.

MIT Open-courseware: https://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm

Whatever your learning style is, be sure to check out my recommendations and have fun learning about your physical self.

2 | Develop a Physical Self-care Plan

Initially, my plan was to give you a 5-step physical self-care routine that I have also been practicing but at the last minute, I decided against it.

Why?

Because I realized that just like happiness, self-care is subjective. You have to define what you are willing to do for yourself, instead of me telling you what to do.

How about that?

Worry not, of course. I will guide you through the process of developing your own physical self-care plan.

Begin Crafting Your Self-care Plan Here:

Step 1.

Set your intentions. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • “What do I hope to achieve with my self-care plan?”
  • “Am I willing to do the work to realize my self-care plan?”

Step 2.

Once you’ve defined your intentions and made it clear to yourself you’re going to work for your self-care program, it’s time to craft it.
Now, which among these self-care options would you like to focus on? Keep in mind you have to set a realistic routine.

  • Proper Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • 7-8 Hours of Sleep
  • Hydration
  • Meditation

(A/N: You can try doing all at once or you may mix and match, depending on what you think works best for you.)

Step 3.

Brainstorm and research ways on how you can incorporate your chosen self-care options into your lifestyle. Here are a few examples:

  • For proper nutrition, you could try swapping white rice for brown rice (which has more dietary fiber for better digestion, see how important Biology is?)
  • Squeeze in a thirty-minute walking routine into your daily activities.
  • If you have problems sleeping, do not just lie awake in bed, instead read or listen to music/podcasts until you feel tired.
  • Make it a habit to drink glass of water right upon waking up and before going to bed.
  • Try mindfulness meditation in bed.

Step 4.

Identify possible roadblocks in your chosen self-care route.
Ask yourself:

  • “What could hinder my self-care progress?”
  • “How can I remove them?”

Be honest with yourself. If your chosen route is hard to attain, adjust your strategies.

Step 5.

Write down your self-care program, set schedules, and stick to it!
Remember, only you have the power to turn your goals into reality.

And don’t forget to assess your progress every week to see what worked and adjust what didn’t.

Self-Care for the Immaterial Mind

abstract night sky

1 | Journaling

If you haven’t already, this is a sign from the universe to start one!

Journaling is a very effective tool in helping you sort out all the chaos that’s in your mind. If you don’t believe me, then believe in Marcus Aurelius, a great Roman emperor and philosopher who used journaling to help him lead one of the world’s greatest empires. More on this here.

2 | Less Media Consumption

I am not saying you give up movies and TV shows entirely. What I’m saying is, try as much as you can to consume less entertainment media. Limit your Netflix binge-watching to two/three hours a day.

Here’s the reason why: too much entertainment media decreases our sense of gratitude. It makes us want to strive for idealized situations that are sometimes actually beyond reality that we fail to see the meaningful little miracles in front of us.

Growing up immersed in TV shows and movies, I watched different kinds of beautiful people achieve the perfect life. It made me feel helpless as I compared their flawless lives to my own normal life. It’s counterproductive. I always forget that their lives are designed and scripted to work out perfectly.

Here's what to do instead:

  • Cultivate your imagination and create your own content.
  • Instead of spending your hours getting entertained by screenwriters, why not try creating your own? You can write a book, if that’s your inclination. Or perhaps create your own movie and upload it on YouTube.
  • You can also learn a new musical instrument or try a new language. Also try taking up courses on Finance and Economics.
  • How about some reading? Find books that help you visualize the world in a different perspective.

3 | Virtue

This is, hands-down, the best self-care step ever that it confuses me why this is rarely emphasized in self-care tips.

Just like many ancient philosophers, Plato believed that the only way to attain happiness and societal well-being is through practicing the virtues. He believed in the traditional virtues of courage, justice, moderation, and piety.

Practicing these virtues is the best self-care path that ultimately leads to self-growth. It focuses on the deepest part of your soul and makes you think of the kind of person you want to be.

  • Do you want to be the kind of person who’s afraid but tries anyway?
  • Do you want to be the kind of person who treats everyone fairly regardless of gender, race, and religion?
  • How do you define a good person? Are you that kind of person?

There’s a reason ancient philosophers preached about the importance of virtues, it helps us gain a sense of over-all happiness and peace of mind that not many material things can give.

To end, let me leave this valuable quote from Eckhart Tolle:

You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.

You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.

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