Elementarily wrong, my dear reader!

By Theophilus Alawonde. Theophilus, 19, is a student at the University of Ibadan. He lives in Ogbomosho, Nigeria. Please read his article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

“I don’t feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.” – Michel Foucault

One of the best books I have read in my childhood and adolescence is the Sherlock Holmes series, mostly written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Holmes is a private detective, akin to a superhuman. He is an expert in the art of deduction, a man of many weird ways and a good friend to Dr. John Watson. Holmes’ methods and exploits have awed and inspired me so much so that when interpreting Foucault’s statement, I have tapped into his methods. “Elementary, my dear Watson!” is a celebrated interjection used in Holmes’ conversations with his doctor-friend, John Watson. With this approach in terms of discussing and resolving the problem evoked in the statement of discussion, I decided to borrow Holmes’ famous line, albeit with a little tweak. Hence, the birth of “Elementarily wrong, my dear reader!”

Having explained how my title came to be, what then is my stance? On which side of the divide do I stand? Elementarily is synonymous to fundamentally, as in basically. Consequently, to say elementarily wrong, that is fundamentally wrong, is to say a claim is wrong from its base to its last structured letter. Therefore, my stance is that Foucault is wrong in his claim that knowing what exactly one is (self-awareness) is not necessary when thinking about one’s development in life and career.

Bradberry and Greaves (best-selling authors of Emotional Intelligence 2.0) and other seasoned psychologists acknowledge self-awareness, which is the ability to know what exactly one is, as the first of the four pillars of emotional intelligence. They also acknowledge self-management, which is the ability to control or condition oneself; social awareness, which is the ability to know what exactly other people are and social management, which is the ability to control or condition others. One is then pre-disposed to ask: what correlation is there between emotional intelligence and “becoming someone else that one was not in the beginning”?

The first correlation is that the same way that one cannot ask auditors to audit one’s enterprise at the end of year if one does not know the opening capital, one also cannot tell if they have become someone else they were not in the beginning, if they do not know themselves exactly in the first place. Simply put, it is fundamentally wrong to not consider your starting point if your aim is to become someone better: how do you strive to be better than what you do not know? It would be a fruitless labour, tantamount to sprinting against the wind.

Furthermore, studies have shown that emotional intelligence, of which self-awareness is key, is an important factor in how well one excels in a career. 75% of hiring managers surveyed in 2011 by Career Builder said they would most likely promote an employee with high emotional intelligence. 59% of these managers further said they would not hire a candidate with high intelligent quotient and low emotional intelligence. What then does this prove? It proves that emotional intelligence, much more than we might think, goes a long way in influencing one’s development, or otherwise, in a chosen career. It goes a long way in determining whether you would be employed, do well, be promoted or fired. The truth is that interactions, brainstorming, a melange of ideas, suggestions, you name it, are always present in each organisation and a key part of these things are the people: the co-workers, the subordinates, and the bosses. Going by what Graves and Bradberry have argued, if one does not know what one exactly is, one would not be able to condition oneself, and this would ultimately lead to them not being able to condition others. In the end, one would be considered a poor worker by all, regardless of how good one is at the job and they would most likely not be selected to lead teams, new projects, and perhaps even receive a promotion. If becoming what one was not in the beginning at the work place is synonymous to advancement, promotion, and elevation, then it is fundamentally wrong to “feel” self-awareness is not necessary because knowing oneself is the bedrock of whatever advancement one wishes to make.

Life is a whole number, whose fragments are each day you live: each hour, each minute, each second. One of the best ways of improving your skill set in life is knowing where you were, where you are presently, and where you hope to be in the future. If one sits down and ask questions on the above statements, a recurring one would be “who am I exactly?” Hence, if the knowledge of what one is now is needed to compare with what one would be in the future, especially someone who they were not at the beginning, then it is fundamentally wrong to say this knowledge is not necessary in the resulting evolution of oneself.

A careful probe of Foucault’s statement would show its many loopholes. In light of this, I reinforce that it’s fundamentally wrong to claim that knowing oneself is not necessary in the process of becoming someone else they were not in the beginning because this is needed to track and compare one’s progress. Therefore, regarding Foucault’s statement, I would say it is elementarily wrong, my dear reader!

45 comments on “Elementarily wrong, my dear reader!

  1. Temitope on

    Dear Theophilus reading through your write up I have substantial reasons to agree that self awareness is necessary to achieve significant developments in ones life and career.

  2. Kareem Shamsudeen on

    Nice write-up. You have been able to argue straightforwardly on the indispensability of self-awareness or self-recognition, in relation to individual affairs.

  3. J.Dare Okafor on

    As usual, awesome write-up. Without emotional intelligence and self awareness, cohabitation with others becomes cumbersome, therefore leading to conflicts.

  4. Philip on

    A well set-out expostulation against Foucault!

    One of the greatest students of the human soul, the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, once said, Know thyself. This is one of the most important and basic pieces of advice to any man serious about self-development.

    As you have argued above, it is necessary to be a continuous student of self, for how else would one be able to manage self, to control it, to compare present self with past self? Furthermore, it is exactly what Foucault wants to focus on that one need not focus on, since eventually one would change, whether one does care about that or not.

    One might want to support Foucault, as though one were devil-advocating, by hammering that he was arguing specifically against a *precise* knowledge of self; but that is moot from the beginning and entirely begs the question since most of our knowledge is never exact in the first place — we can only hope to understand self and others as best as we can.

    Hence I agree that Foucault didn’t quite think this through before writing, and that it is fundamentally wrong to not care about self-knowledge, for if the foundation be nonexistent, what can we build?

    • Theo on

      Now that I think of it, you had a great influence on me, an influence spreading across multiple dimensions. 98% of the books I read then belong to you. Thank you for stopping by. Your comment shows I did a somewhat good job. I am grateful.

  5. Kolade Olawale on

    Reading through I remembered the days we read Holmes. You’ve grown… Very nice write-up, nostalgic for me and educating for all… Pinpointing the importance of self-awareness in such a simple and straight forward article shows how great you’ll become… Keep it up…

  6. Oyedele Cyprian on

    You’re absolutely right brother, if there is no knowledge of something, there can never be advancement in such thing. Self awareness is second to none, because its a bedrock for a future achievement. Good right up brother. I salute your courage.

  7. Ola Akintola on

    Dear writer, I agree: you are elementarily right while Foucault is elementarily wrong. I love the brilliance of the mind which manufactured this literary product. More light, writer!

  8. Williams Owoeye on

    Just like Oride will never take you to your desired destination if you can’t define your present location… Nicely articulated sir

  9. Ajik Elizabeth on

    Personally I can say that this piece is practically related to me because knowing whom I was has gone a long way in my emotional and intellectual career. Allawonder! Just continue to do the wonderful. This a piece I never expected in ages! I wish I could read on and on. It’s worth sharing. Bravo Boss!!


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