Talk:Know thyself

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References and 'Temet Nosce'[edit]

In researching the validity of 'temet nosce' I came across the following Language Log post describing an unfortunate tattoo. The deconstruction of the phrase on that site leads me to believe that 'temet nosce' is a dubious translation, and it has been very difficult (for me) to find any non-Matrix references to that phrase.

I further noticed that the edit that introduced that translation was made a while ago and the referenced source is UrbanDictionary, which to me is less than an authority. The diff can be found here.

Apologies for the IP signature. I will create an account if necessary. (talk) 07:57, 31 December 2012 (UTC)

Removed the Temet Nosce line, Urban Dictionary is not a reliable citation for a Latin phrase. This needs Scholarly consensus which I am not seeing. If someone can find a suitable citation it should be put in as quick as a flash, but at this moment in time, the only mention of it is since the Matrix, which is not something that alone defines a traditionally valid Latin phrase. GQsm Talk | c 23:28, 14 February 2013 (UTC)

There are other sources on the web that consider both translations as correct. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:56, 17 February 2013 (UTC)


I have usually seen it spelled "gnothi seauton" and not "gnothi sauton". Should we change it? Haiduc 13:03, 31 January 2006 (UTC)

Yes. The Greek contains the letter epsilon, which should be transliterated as "e". Incidentally, does anyone know how to pronounce it? 20:35, 19 March 2006 (UTC)
Pronounce gn'o:thi sɛɑwt'on classically, or you could fricativize the theta, as gn'o:θi sɛɑawt'on, but that was a relatively later pronunciation, end of the classical era. Rusco 14:16, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

"gnothi seauton" would be an Attic rendering. As it was written at the temple, the epsilon was probably contracted into into the 'au' diphthong, for "sauton" rather than seauton. -- (talk) 03:30, 6 February 2008 (UTC)

Sentence in question[edit]

This sentence, needs a citation, otherwise it reads as an opinion bt without attribution to a notable source. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 18:15, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

Apollo was often portrayed as a god of apportionment, who from his vantage point could see what was coming to everyone. More than a statement encouraging self identity, this phrase originally meant something more akin to "Know your place", reminding visitors that neither they nor the temple staff were gods, the true god was Apollo.
Further, Know Thyself was also meant to remind us that we are mortal and will die.

peace and love[edit]

I don't see it referenced, but isn't the prevailing view among classicists that the meaning was not New Age self-awareness, but something closer to 'remember who you are' - ie you are not gods, but men. So it has something like the opposite meaning; not personal expansion, but restraint. I think we need an expert opinion. Hakluyt bean 12:23, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

The references from Plato evince some range of meanings even then, but the weight of Socrates' comments in general are not regarding "restraint" (behave yourself) as much as self-knowledge: that first knowledge of Being is via consciousness of Self, as per Veda. This is not "New Age". This is also explored in at least one, maybe two, of Heidegger's essays on the notions of being and becoming in the Pre-Platonic Greeks. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:50, 26 April 2011 (UTC) quotes[edit]

I removed these because they seemed tacked on and just copied from another site. Besides, the view expressed was not in keeping with wikipedia's NPOV policy. Here's the text block for reference:

Know yourself refers to the ability of the human to know who, what and where he came from. At this point of knowledge we loose all desire for living for the truth becomes a self awareness of our evil origins as a life form. Once one can "comprehend the human spirit and thought thoroughly" and becomes all knowing the reality of life along with the joy leaves the human spirit thus to "know yourself" is a biblical and philosophical term used to describe the awareness of the reality of life itself.

Hope no-one minds. Caligari 87 (talk) 23:47, 26 July 2008 (UTC)

the biblical meaning[edit]

I was tempted to put this into the article but something got the better of me... so just for the contributors: the biblical euphemism 'to know somebody' is used as a curse in "Jephthah (Judges 11)" by NonStampCollector on (time: 3:48). Arakrys (talk) 14:25, 29 May 2009 (UTC)


"It may also have a mystical interpretation. 'Thyself', is not meant in reference to the egotist, but the ego within self, the I AM consciousness."

What the hell is that even supposed to mean? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:34, 10 June 2009 (UTC)

The Matrix Reference[edit]

OK, The Matrix was a cool movie and all, but is it really appropriate to mention it in an article about something as timeless as "Know Thyself"? It would be one thing if there was a section about popular references to "Know Thyself", but it just doesn't belong in the main article.

i second the above re the Matrix movie, and even more strongly question the inclusion of "Ho'oponopono (Self-Identity)" in the see also links. The latter is being heavily touted by self-styled New Age guru, Joe Vitale, a.k.a. "Mr. Fire" (see ref to him in the Ho'oponopono article). Clocke (talk) 12:11, 26 November 2010 (UTC)

I would like to differ, as I have seen a reference to "temet nosce" in a book entitled _Occult Phenomena in the Light of Theology_ by Alois Wiesinger. Its use there suggests that this Church or Medieval Latin, and as such its use could be expanded upon. --TheLastWordSword (talk) 17:12, 9 December 2010 (UTC)

What does this reference refer to? (Chilon I 63, 25)[edit]

From the wiki page: "Chilon of Sparta (Chilon I 63, 25)", which someone anonymously added. As far as I'm aware there are no writing by Chilon, so is this reference completely wrong? It isn't a reference to the section in Diogenes Laertius either, according to my Loeb edition.

Louis Wain (talk) 05:53, 5 November 2010 (UTC)

Supporting Citations for Chilon, Thales and Socrates.

Suda Online translated a 10th century Byzantine citation showing Chilon as a source of "Know Thyself." The Suda elsewhere also attributes the same saying to Thales. I added links to both of these english translations of the Suda "Know Thyself" citations as references. These Suda articles document the beliefs of the original collator/s of the Suda to the effect that Chilon and Thales are mentioned as sources of the saying in Attic literature. I also added reference links to the two uses which I remember of "Know Thyself" in Plato (Philebus 48c and Phaedrus 229e) using Perseus Site. Note: the Phaedrus 229e is formed as "know myself" replacing σαυτὸν [...thyself] with ἐμαυτόν [...myself]. Hope this is helpful. User:Jbonine —Preceding undated comment added 20:58, 15 February 2011 (UTC).

Oracle's statement[edit]

User:AJontheroad posted the following comment in the body of the article, so I've moved it here:-

May I just insert that no one here has related the Original Popular Story of where the term came from, only how it was LATER used. As explained to me personally MANY times including by book reference AND local, educated people and tour guides IN Delphi itself and even at the Temple Site itself, the term "Temet Nosce" (though they stories only reference "Know Thyself") was the result of a critically important interaction. As the story is told, the Oracle of Delphi in the Temple of Apollo was thee most revered Sage of all of Ancient Greece, and the rule was that every single person on Earth was allowed to visit the Oracle ONE TIME in their entire life and ask the Oracle ONE QUESTION to which the Oracle would give them an answer. Both peasants and Kings would make the pilgrimage, and each was given the same accord - One Question. As the story goes, one particularly insightful individual approached the Oracle when it was their turn and simply asked the Question, "Oracle, if you could Summarize ALL your Wisdom into one, single sentence, what would that one sentence be?" to which the Oracle replied very simply, "Know Thyself." That LATER became inscribed on the Temple.
As explained to me personally by the guides at the Temple in Delphi, modern archaeologists have found evidence that there was something of a natural gas vent directly beneath the Oracle's chair, and the positioning was quite intentional such that the gas fumes were inhaled producing a steady stream of visions. What kind of gas this could be that would not be toxic was not mentioned. Technically some gases merely replace oxygen so it could only be a matter of highly thinned out oxygen levels producing a mildly hallucinogenic state akin to the effects of NO2, or even more closely resembling the Air / N02 mix of the "laughing gas" in a modern dentists office which though thinned is safe to breath for an indefinite amount of time.

--McGeddon (talk) 09:37, 17 March 2011 (UTC)

In summary, no one is certain of the identity of the original author of the adage, γνῶθι σεαυτόν, "Know thyself"; all we can do is talk about documented beliefs of its authorship.

I wonder how we should best treat the modern folk belief reported by User:AJontheroad, which reports that the Oracle of Delphi itself was the source of the saying "Know Thyself." Which text would we point to to document that modern belief? If a textual reference can be supplied for the reported modern belief, I would add a sentence: "Some modern Greek folk beliefs attribute the saying, "Know Thyself," to the Oracle of Delphi itself."

As to the ancient beliefs on the origin of the phrase, the article states and documents an ancient belief of human authorship of "Know Thyself" as described by Plato:

"Such men were Thales of Miletus, Pittacus of Mytilene, Bias of Priene, Solon of our city, Cleobulus of Lindus, Myson of Chen, and, last of the traditional seven, Chilon of Sparta. All these were enthusiasts, lovers and disciples of the Spartan culture; and you can recognize that character in their wisdom by the short, memorable sayings that fell from each of them they assembled together and dedicated these as the first-fruits of their lore to Apollo in his Delphic temple, inscribing there those maxims which are on every tongue—“Know thyself” and “Nothing overmuch.” To what intent do I say this?" (Plat. Prot. 343a, tr. B. Jowett)

Some modern lore may indeed "reverse" the authorship of the saying, so that the Oracle of Delphi gives the saying to 'humanity', instead of having a human author give the saying to Apollo as a sacrificial gift. If a textual reference can be provided to support the modern folk belief that the author of the saying 'Know Thyself' was the Oracle, then I would extend the current text which says:

"The authenticity of all such attributions has been doubted; according to one pair of modern scholars, "The actual authorship of the three maxims set up on the Delphian temple may be left uncertain. Most likely they were popular proverbs, which tended later to be attributed to particular sages."[17] by adding: "Some modern Greek folk beliefs attribute the saying, "Know Thyself," to the Oracle of Delphi itself."

The details behind the report, as given above, are not helpful as given: the Oracle's original ancient utterance of the phrase would not be in Latin (Temet Nosce): the Sages of Ancient Greece were seven named individuals and not the oracular speakers at Delphi: the protocol of only visiting Delphi once is contradicted by Xenophon in Xenophon.Mem.4.2.24 ... Jbonine (talk) 01:40, 20 March 2011 (UTC)

Linnaeus used it to define the word "human"[edit]

Please look at this: Anthropomorpha Detail form Systema Naturae 1735.jpg.

As you can see, the man who invented the term "Homo sapiens" used "Nosce te ipsum" to define the term. This is notable and significant, and should be added to the article, perhaps between Franklyn and Emerson, or even in a more prominent place. Chrisrus (talk) 16:44, 2 July 2011 (UTC)

It seems to me that he was saying to the reader "for a description of this referent, look away from this page and at yourself". I guess he assumed it would never be read by aliens or some such. Chrisrus (talk) 16:48, 2 July 2011 (UTC)

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Ancient Egypt? Says who?[edit]

As was noted by a former editor, this sensational attribution is drawn, as referenced in the notes, from two novels by Isha Schwaller de Lubicz. She's not an egyptologist, and her husband's claim to be so was hotly disputed in the field, to say the least:( Were she a respected scholar, this wouldn't make esoteric fiction encyclopedic stuff:(( If these inscriptions are to be found in the Luxor Temple, they have been published. Where?--Leofil2 (talk) 16:33, 2 August 2017 (UTC)

This is Questionable... It is part of Afro-centric Dogma... Wild claims are made without actual factual basis... There is NO scholarly evidence or source for this bald claim... It is NOT up to Wikipedia standards. Here is a link to such mythologizing: Emyth (talk) 01:29, 22 August 2017 (UTC)