Wednesday, April 19, 2017

--- Notes on selves ---

Selves are, indeed, about the strangest inhabitants of nature that one can imagine - except that, as sometimes described in philosophy, they are not even imaginable in the first place, being quite nonphysical. You cannot poke a self with a stick; the nearest you can come to that is to poke his body.

Richard Taylor

My naive conception of a self is that my self is me. That very simple and obvious construction is surprisingly fraught with all kinds of holes.

What part of myself is my self? Is my body actually a part of my self? Many people hold that the body is just a vehicle for the real self - something they call a "soul" - sorta like a car. I'm not so sure my van wasn't part of my self. I had much more "self control" over it than I had over many parts of my own body and, certainly, over many parts of my own mind. And when I let go of it, it felt a little like an amputation.

There are certainly boundary issues. Other people affect me as though they were part of me. The phrase, "You are my heart," is more than allegory. A loved one can do strange things to your heart, literally.

Many philosophical people have said some variant of "when other hurt, I hurt; when others rejoice, I rejoice." Have you ever seen someone else be injured and feel your skin crawl, your solar plexus twich, or your testicles draw up. It's a sympathetic reaction but it's quite real. You are affected by someone else's injury. Are you sure they aren't part of you? If not, how could their injury be communicated to you?

Wouldn't the world be a better place if we realized (not just "understood" but also "made real") that others were parts of us and vice versa. Would we be more careful of the damage we do?

And how do we even know that a "self" exists? That's epistemological and a topic for later consideration.

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