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Introspection is the examination of one's own thoughts and feelings.


Antiquity through seventeenth century[edit]

  • Those who do not observe the movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy.
  • Be vigilant in attending to yourself, ... that you may set God before you at all times.
  • Learn to know thyself, it shall profit thee more than any craft.
  • I can't as yet "know myself," as the inscription at Delphi enjoins, and so long as that ignorance remains it seems to me ridiculous to inquire about extraneous matters.
  • When one intends to move or when one intends to speak, one should first examine one’s own mind and then act appropriately with composure. When one sees one’s mind to be attached or repulsed, then one should neither act nor speak, but remain still like a piece of wood. When my mind is haughty, sarcastic, full of conceit and arrogance, ridiculing, evasive and deceitful, when it is inclined to boast, or when it is contemptuous of others, abusive, and irritable, then I should remain still like a piece of wood. When my mind is averse to the interests of others and seeks my own self-interest, or when it wishes to speak out of a desire for an audience, then I will remain still like a piece of wood. When it is impatient, indolent, timid, impudent, garrulous, or biased in my own favor, then I will remain still like a piece of wood.
    • Santideva, A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life, V. Wallace and B. Wallace, trans. (1997), § 5.47.

Eighteenth century[edit]

  • The great duty ‘know thyself,’ which sounds so important, has always seemed to me suspect, like a trick of priests in secret conspiracy who would like to confuse man through unfulfillable demands and lead him away from his proper activity in the external world to a false interior contemplation. A man knows himself insofar as he knows the world, which he perceives only within himself, and himself only within it.
    • Goethe, Bedeutende Fördernis durch ein einziges geistreiches Wort, cited in Karl Löwith, From Hegel to Nietzsche, D. Green, trans. (1964), p. 10.
  • Wouldst thou other men know, look thou within thine own heart.
    • Friedrich Schiller, Tabulae Votivae (Votive Tablets) (1796), "The Key"; tr. Edgar Alfred Bowring, The Poems of Schiller, Complete (1851).
  • It is in our own mind and not in exterior objects that we perceive most things; fools know scarcely anything because they are empty, and their heart is narrow; but great souls find in themselves a number of exterior things; they have no need to read or travel or to listen or to work to discover the highest truths; they have only to delve into themselves and search, if we may say so, their own thoughts.
    • Vauvenargues, Reflections and Maxims, E. Lee, trans. (1903), p. 186.

Nineteenth century[edit]

  • We are able to discern not only what we already are, but what we may become, to see in ourselves germs and promises of a growth to which no bounds can be set, to dart beyond what we have actually gained to the idea of perfection as the end of our being. It is by this self-comprehending power that we are distinguished from the brutes, which give no signs of looking into themselves. Without this there would be no self-culture, for we should not know the work to be done; and one reason why self-culture is so little proposed is, that so few penetrate into their own nature. To most men, their own spirits are shadowy, unreal, compared with what is outward. When they happen to cast a glance inward, they see there only a dark, vague chaos. They distinguish, perhaps, some violent passion, which has driven them to injurious excess; but their highest powers hardly attract a thought; and thus multitudes live and die as truly strangers to themselves as to countries of which they have heard the name, but which human foot has never trodden.
  • I can find Greece and Palestine and Italy and England and the Islands, the genius and creative principle of each and of all eras, in my own mind.
  • Other men are lenses through which we read our own minds.


  • There is no feeling so simple that it is not immediately complicated and distorted by introspection.
    • André Gide, “An Unprejudiced Mind,” Pretexts, J. O’Brien, ed. (1964) p. 317.


Introspection and preserved writings give us far more insight into the ways of past humans than we have into the ways of past dinosaurs. For that reason, I'm optimistic that we can eventually arrive at convincing explanations for these broadest patterns of human history.- Eliot Spitzer.
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holy of holies of Jewish time. It is that rarest of phenomena, a Jewish festival without food. Instead it is a day of fasting and prayer, introspection and self-judgment when, collectively and repeatedly, we confess our sins and pray to be written into God's Book of Life. - Jonathan Sacks.
When I look in the mirror, I am slightly reminded of self-portraits by Durer and by Rembrandt, because they both show a degree of introspection. I see some element of disappointment; I see a sense of humour, but also something that is faintly ridiculous; and I see somebody who is frightened of being found out and thought lightweight. - Robert Winston.
  • In philosophical anthropology, … where the subject is man in his wholeness, the investigator cannot content himself ... with considering man as another part of nature and with ignoring the fact that he, the investigator, is himself a man and experiences this humanity in his inner experience in a way that he simply cannot experience any part of nature.
    • Martin Buber, “What is man?” Between Man and Man (1965), p. 147
  • Introspection and preserved writings give us far more insight into the ways of past humans than we have into the ways of past dinosaurs. For that reason, I'm optimistic that we can eventually arrive at convincing explanations for these broadest patterns of human history.
  • The mind sent outside is the origination of suffering.
    The result of the mind sent outside is suffering.
    The mind seeing the mind is the path.
    The result of the mind seeing the mind is the cessation of suffering.
    • Ajaan Dune, Gifts He Left Behind, The Dhamma Legacy of Phra Ajaan Dune Atulo (Phra Rājavuḍḍhācariya), as compiled by Phra Rājavaraguṇa, as translated from the Thai by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu
  • Your introspection may lead you to realize that you cannot take care of your problems on your own. This is not a defeat. This is introspection serving you well.
    • P. M. Forni in: "The Thinking Life: How to Thrive in the Age of Distraction", p. 48.
  • Today the child is much more directly thrown upon society, childhood is shortened, and the result is a human being cast in a different mold. As interiority has withered away, the joy of making personal decisions, of cultural development, and of the free exercise of imagination has gone with it. Other inclinations and goals mark the man of today: technological expertise, presence of mind, pleasure in the mastery of machinery, the need to be part of and to agree with the majority or some group which is chosen as a model and whose regulations replace individual judgment.
    • Max Horkheimer, “The concept of man” (1967), in Critique of Instrumental Reason (2013), p. 12.
  • Introspection is the process of self-examination. It occurs naturally over the life span, although some people are naturally more introspective than others. Some theorists in the field of psychology have historically seen introspection as a trait, an element of the personality itself'
  • We tend to treat our own introspections as something of a gold standard in assessing...whether judgments have been tainted by bias. By contrast we treat the introspections of other actors as merely another source of plausible hypothesis – to be accepted or rejected as a function of their plausibility in light of what we know.... We refer to this asymmetry as the introspection illusion because the faith people have in the validity of their own introspections is misplaced. Although people cannot report accurately on the contents of their thoughts...the psychological processes and the true determinants of their behavior are often inaccessible to introspection.

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External links[edit]

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