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What is the self?

Posted Sep 4, '14 at 6:34pm

09philj

09philj

2,585 posts

@HahiHa Brain theory is actually closer to soul theory than memory theory, in that it suggests that it is the brain itself that houses our self, and a brain with replaced memories is the same self as before.

 

Posted Sep 4, '14 at 7:02pm

Moegreche

Moegreche

3,385 posts

Moderator

Although this is some technical ground (as I mentioned previously) there are some important notions to keep distinct.

So when thinking about this question (besides the considerations I listed earlier) consider this: is this 'self' just the same things as consciousness?

Many of the comments here I'm reading as a straightforward 'yes' to that question. But things may not be so simple. Though it does seem that the OP's three theories under consideration fall within the ambit of philosophy of mind. This further complicated things as it questions what the mind is and what it means for an entity to have a mind.

So to further complicate things: is having consciousness just having a mind?; is the self just this stream of consciousness, or is it equivalent to an agent's mind? These are all interesting and difficult questions, but it's important to just focus tightly on one of them.

EDIT: It's also worth noting that (again, from a technical point of view) this brain theory you mention is, in fact, closer to what you call memory theory. The reason for this is that they are both compatible with physicalism - whereas soul theory (or dualism) is not.
I don't mean this as a criticism or that you're wrong. Instead, I just intend it as an invitation for us to be a bit clearer about what we're talking about. Plus, it's a nice example of how treacherous this terrain is!


last edited Sep 04 2014 07:06 pm by Moegreche
 

Posted Sep 4, '14 at 10:22pm

MageGrayWolf

MageGrayWolf

9,813 posts

Knight

Maybe a bit of wiki will help pin down some of these ideas.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self

So when thinking about this question (besides the considerations I listed earlier) consider this: is this 'self' just the same things as consciousness?


Consciousness would at the very least be a component of it.
 

Posted Sep 5, '14 at 5:37pm

HahiHa

HahiHa

5,727 posts

Knight

So to further complicate things: is having consciousness just having a mind?; is the self just this stream of consciousness, or is it equivalent to an agent's mind?

Soooo. Now we have different terms: consciousness; mind; self; and maybe also agent. And we have to find out how they are defined and whether they are the same or not?

I'll follow an intuition and ask a question: If two separate people have an identic consciousness, are they the same self or do they have individual selves? If one were to choose option two, one would have to explain what justifies the different selves.
 

Posted Sep 9, '14 at 10:49am

Kennethhartanto

Kennethhartanto

248 posts

Anyway, after reading the wiki, if we are talking about definitions i kinda agree with the psychological notion of "self", which is a vessel of ones's identity and it's "soul".

is this 'self' just the same things as consciousness?


In my opinion, it is a no, In my opinion, in order to become a "self", one must have an "identity" that can be distinguished from others. An entity does not need to be wide awake or conscious to be a "self". This is where i got this idea. So, I believe that consciousness is a part of self, but self is not consciousness

is the self just this stream of consciousness, or is it equivalent to an agent's mind?


equivalent to it's identity and perhaps, its "mind"?

If two separate people have an identical consciousness, are they the same self or do they have individual selves?


different selves, because even if they have the same consciousness, they have different identities because of them being two different ( not exact copies ) entities. these identity sets them apart from each other, and cause them to become different selves.
 

Posted Sep 12, '14 at 5:36am

HahiHa

HahiHa

5,727 posts

Knight

According to the first philosophy definition in Kenneths link, that it is the 'ego', that would coincide with the brain origin, because desire and all that originate form the brain.

But the idea of individuality is also interesting because it encompasses more than what is in all three theories mentioned in the OP; it involves also the whole body, if I understand you right. And it's true; your body is part of your identity, and the way you perceive yourself can even influence certain traits of your consciousness, so it at the very least is part of the equation.

 

Posted Sep 15, '14 at 8:25pm

Moegreche

Moegreche

3,385 posts

Moderator

If two separate people have an identic consciousness, are they the same self or do they have individual selves? If one were to choose option two, one would have to explain what justifies the different selves.


One really straightforward way to make this distinction you're after is to use the notion of immediacy or privileged/immediate access. The standard line to take here is that you have (prima facie) immediate access to your own thoughts. (I add the 'prima facie' parenthetical here because there are some philosophers who would disagree with this line.)

So with the identical consciousness scenario, we can say that these are two different people because we can trace each individual to their own privileged access to thoughts. Now, by stipulation, these would be the exact same thoughts. But the point is that each individual wouldn't have immediate access to what the other is thinking. So taking this line gives us a principled and intuitively plausible way to say that these are two unique selves despite having identical mental states.

your body is part of your identity, and the way you perceive yourself can even influence certain traits of your consciousness, so it at the very least is part of the equation.


One thought here is that the body is an accidental property of the self - or at least of our mental content. In other words, it's something that can - and does - help determine what we think (e.g. "I'm getting so fat" or "This dress looks nice on me"). But our body isn't constitutive of the self, though it is constitutive of our mental states. This would lead to us drawing a distinction between the self and a mental state, which is probably the right sort of distinction to make.

The general thought here is a very intuitive one - if you were to somehow exist outside of or without your body, you would still continue to be you. We can trace this (at least) as far back as Descartes. His argument was that he could conceive of himself without his body, but he couldn't conceive of himself without his mind. This led to the conclusion that the mind is distinct from the body.

But there is a problem with this line - conceivability and possibility come apart in both directions. That is, there are states of affairs that are conceivable which are logically impossible and vice versa. The result is that Descartes' argument isn't valid and so a basic premise upon which the previous line rested isn't supported. Make of this what you will, I'm just here providing some exposition.
 

Posted Sep 17, '14 at 10:35am

HahiHa

HahiHa

5,727 posts

Knight

One really straightforward way to make this distinction you're after is to use the notion of immediacy or privileged/immediate access.

The notion of immediacy makes sense. That gives me a satisfying answer to my question and settles that the self is more than just consciousness. Though as Mage said, it at the very least is a part of the self; a critical part, as I think.

The general thought here is a very intuitive one - if you were to somehow exist outside of or without your body, you would still continue to be you. We can trace this (at least) as far back as Descartes. His argument was that he could conceive of himself without his body, but he couldn't conceive of himself without his mind. This led to the conclusion that the mind is distinct from the body.

The mind is a part of the body, in the physical sense. But I know what you mean.
However I was thinking of more deep settled impacts than just feeling fat or not. You grow up with a certain body and this fashions who you are, it fashions your identity. You wouldn't turn out the same way if you grew up without a body.

I want to bring in an interesting example of a psychosis linked to this topic, the case of Cotard's delusion (Link 1 - Link 2). In the words of the abstract in the first link: "In its most profound form, the delusion takes the form of a professed belief that one does not exist. "
 

Posted Sep 18, '14 at 4:14pm

Moegreche

Moegreche

3,385 posts

Moderator

The mind is a part of the body, in the physical sense. But I know what you mean.


This is an incredibly interesting - and extremely complicated - question within the philosophy of mind. Of course, it's also a different point from the one under discussion in this thread, so I'll just leave it be

You wouldn't turn out the same way if you grew up without a body.


I completely agree here. But is there some entity picked out by the self that would equally apply whether or not you had a body? I had tried to spend some time on this distinction in my previous post but it started to go long. The basic idea is this: we need to keep separate the notions of one's self and the content of one's mental state. The former seems to be a question in metaphysics whilst the latter is one in the philosophy of mind. Now, maybe the answer to the first answers the second, but this is a thin (and difficult) line to take.

As for the Cotard's delusion - that's something that just baffles me. I can conceive of having lots of different disorders, but I can't even begin to approach what it would be like to have Cotard's delusion. I know this is relevant to the my point about conceivability, but what would this mean for the notion of a self? Does someone with Cotard's lack a self? Or here's a better question. Suppose an agent was deep within the final phase of Cotard's and then cured. Would there be a different notion of self that would attach to that agent/?
 

Posted Sep 29, '14 at 7:48am

Kennethhartanto

Kennethhartanto

248 posts

I know this is relevant to the my point about conceivability, but what would this mean for the notion of a self?


from what i have read in wikipedia ( i can't access the first link in HahiHa's link ), it would seem that the afflicted would deny his own "self", but in my opinion, by denying his own "self", he created another "self" that serves to deny his past "self". It's a little hard to explain.

Does someone with Cotard's lack a self?


The afflicted would deny his past self and therefore would also "lose" his past personality and identity ( by the process of denying this ), but he would gain another "self" in this process of denial. The reason as to why i think it this way, is because the denial of its "self" on it's own by it's host requires a justifiable reason for the host. the host can't just go deny his very "self" with no reason at all ( i think??? ). The justifiable reasoning by the host, coupled with its conscious effort of self-denial, created a new personality, identity and therefore, another "self" that focuses on this justification of past self-denial.
 
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