Class Central is learner-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

University of Edinburgh

Know Thyself - The Value and Limits of Self-Knowledge: The Examined Life

University of Edinburgh via Coursera


According to legend, inscribed on walls of the temple on the sacred site of Delphi in Ancient Greece were two premier injunctions: NOTHING IN EXCESS, and KNOW THYSELF. This course will be an examination of the latter injunction in an effort to discover what self-knowledge is, why it might be valuable, and what, if any, limitations it might face. What is missing from a person lacking in self-knowledge that makes her less wise, virtuous, or competent in certain areas than others who have this capacity, and what if anything might she do to fill that gap? Historical sources as well as recent research in philosophy, experimental social psychology, and neuroscience will inform our investigation, in the course of which we will become students of our own dreams, and cultivate some meditative practices. Learning Outcomes: Learners will gain familiarity with prominent themes from Western, classical Chinese, and Buddhist approaches to our knowledge of ourselves. In the course of doing so, they will gain an appreciation of the relation of self-knowledge to wisdom, of the value of intellectual humility, as well as of methods of learning about oneself that do not depend on introspection. Learners will also become familiar with contemporary research in experimental social psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience into the emotions, the unconscious, the role of affect in decision making, and self-deception. They will also gain an appreciation of a challenge to the assumption of a coherent, unified self that derives from the Buddhist tradition. --- This course was created by a partnership between The University of Edinburgh and Humility & Conviction and Public Life Project, an engaged research project based at the University of Connecticut and funded by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation.


  • Getting started
  • Socrates and the Examined Life
    • At his trial, charged with corrupting the Athenian youth, Socrates isn't exactly apologetic. He tells the jury to their faces that they only charged him because they don't like that he forces them to confront uncomfortable truths. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the jury sentences him to death. Socrates accepts the sentence unfazed, famously stating that he'd rather die than stop making people think, as 'an unexamined life is not worth living'. In this module we will examine this dictum and ask: was Socrates right to throw shade on the unexamimed life?
  • Descartes' Essence
    • Are you dreaming right now? How do you know you're not? Rene Descartes set himself a pretty titanic task: to doubt absolutely everything he cannot be certain of - even that the world exists! - and then try to see if we can rebuild our knowledge of ourselves and the world only from what we can be really certain of. In the process, he formulated some provocative thoughts on the radical separation of the mind from the body.
  • A re-casting of the Mind/Body problem
    • Descartes' dualistic picture of the mind-body relation was highly influential for centuries. A vocal minority of thinkers challenged dualism, but only in the Twentieth Century did Gilbert Ryle manage to discern how Descartes' dualistic reasoning went wrong. In understanding Ryle's approach, we will also gain an appreciation of how know-how is a legitimate form of knowledge, and of how one way of gaining self-knowledge is by looking outward rather than looking inward.
  • MIND AND SELF: Some Aspects of Human Nature
    • Is there such a thing as a human nature? And if there is, how can we know what it is? In this module we will look at how the concept of human nature is used and potentially misused, and what can all this tell us about ourselves. And finally: can human nature be changed?
  • Final assessment

Taught by

Mitchell Green


4.7 rating, based on 30 Class Central reviews

4.6 rating at Coursera based on 559 ratings

Start your review of Know Thyself - The Value and Limits of Self-Knowledge: The Examined Life

  • This is an extremely insightful course, and it made the cited ancient philosophical texts much more accessible for casual philosophy learners like me. The unexamined life, truly, is not worth living - and I do think that this parallels with psychological essence of finding purpose.
  • Olena Bosenok
    Amazing course! Prof. Green is an exceptional teacher who knows the subject and delivers it with love! It didn't feel like an academic course but rather like an interesting discussion. Great philosophers Ryle, Freud, Descartes were sharing their poi…
  • Boring Wood
    Good Afternoon. It's with some sadness that I verified that I have no longer access to this course. I got to know about coursera some weeks ago and immediately engaged in this course (even though it was finished already). I was following it very passionately, I just started with week 2, reading Descartes, and was dedicating this hours to seeing some more video lessons. Unfortunately I can't keep going...

    Does anybody here have an archive of the course videos and readings links? I wanted it very bad for my days have been super entertaining with this studies. So I ask you students and you the professor for help.

    Hope to get an answer.

  • Anonymous
    Prof.Green is an amazing story-teller. I never understood or enjoyed reading ancient texts, but with M.Green's "translation" they became as current as modern literature. Socrates' or Descartes' questions about meaning of life remain open and as applicable to our times as they were centuries ago. I think the journey of knowing thyself is reconciliation and finding peace with thyself. This class is just about it.
  • It's the course about the last statement of Socrates : "know yourself". I learned a lot about philosophy and myself. I recommed it.
  • Anonymous
    Know Thyself is a fantastic course! The materials covered are varied and enlightening. The videos, readings and meditations set the stage to really learn a great deal about oneself. Mitch Green is a great teacher.
  • Agnieszka Flisowska
    I'm dying to watch these videos, please anybody can share them with me?by google drive or oder way? i don't have faith no more in finding better teacher.

    i'm waiting for miracle, which is you good person, please

    write to me here

    [email protected]
  • Anonymous
    The course was awesome as well as Prof. Mitch Green. I would recommend it to anyone who may wish to look within and question some of the conditionings of his/her life.

    YOu will certainly know stuff about you!
  • Natalie K.Y. Ng
    This is probably the best MOOC class I have ever taken! Sad that it is not available for the public now, but really hope Dr. Mitchell Green would teach this class again!!
  • Anonymous
    I´ve taken 17 courses (Coursera and Edx) in the last two years.
    This one is one of the three best so far.
  • Anonymous
    My first MOOC which set the highest standard for all the other courses I've taken. Highly challenging, insightful, profound and deep. Remember and cherish it.
  • Anonymous
    Fantastic Class. The material was varied, interesting and relevant. Professor Green is an excellent teacher.
  • Anonymous
    Professor Mitchell Green is a great teacher..He explained difficult notions very understandable ways.
  • Anonymous
    Unusual course.

    Can be made much more effective using the fast-forward button :)
  • Anonymous
    The best MOOC I've ever taken, its a great shame it hasn't ran again as I'd love to revisit it.
  • Anonymous
    Loved it! Prof Green is engaging and passionate and knows his work.
  • Anonymous
    This is easily the best Coursera course I've done so far!
  • Anonymous

    All credit to Professor Mitchelll Green.
  • Anonymous
    The course is philosophical and educating thy self. Needs lots of patience and deep understanding. To know about many philosophers and their view is amazing. Speaker is great. Lots of research and presentation to take us through a journey to know oneself.
  • Anonymous
    I loved the know thyself course by Prof Mitchell Green !!!! If anyone has a copy of the videos please send to me . Thank You email [email protected]

Never Stop Learning.

Get personalized course recommendations, track subjects and courses with reminders, and more.

Someone learning on their laptop while sitting on the floor.