Schlagwort-Archive: Science

InSight: Making a Case for Self-Vigilance?

von Loredana Filip

Figure 1. The importance of vision. Source: Pixabay.

Insight – in sight – inner sight. When something is in sight, it is visible to the eyes. ‘Inner sight’ entails the use of imagination, having a vision in the mind. Used frequently in everyday language, the word insight carries meanings and connotations that shape the ways we make sense of the world. The juxtaposition of inner vision and eyesight is usually taken for granted. But it can be traced back to the origins of the word:

The comparison between the exterior faculty of sight, called corporeal vision, and the interior faculty of understanding, called spiritual or intellectual vision, is as old as Plato and Aristotle, who discussed both how the eye sees and how the visual process [is] consummated in the intellectual apprehension of the object seen. Thus, the Middle English word ‘insight,’ which appeared in 1200, had had a long heritage in Latin. As visio intellectualis or intuitus, it was viewed by the Church Fathers as both analogous and antithetical to eyesight.1

The word insight accumulated a bundle of additional meanings and metaphorical nuances once its use began to steadily increase in the 19th century. This rise can be explained in connection to the popularity of contemporary confessional culture. In American self-help culture, confessions are envisioned as windows into personal thoughts and feelings; they contain pivotal moments, or “insights,” that bring about self-knowledge and self-understanding, while they also raise self-vigilance. And confessions themselves function as insights for the reader or the audience, too – They should inspire them to improve themselves. As such, they rely on managing the self by increasing its self-vigilance.

Figure 2. Screenshots of “insight” and “vigilance” in Google Books Ngram Viewer
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  1. Neaman, Judith S. “Sight and Insight: Vision and the Mystics.” 14th Century English Mystics Newsletter, Vol. 5, No. 3, September 1979, 28. []