ForumsWEPRWhat is the self?

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09philj
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09philj
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There are several theories as to what "you" are.

Firstly, there is the idea that we have souls, which arw connected to our bodies, but are not part of them. This is Dualism.

Secondly, there is Brain Theory, which states that the self is part of, or is housed in the brain.

Thirdly, there is Memory Theory, which states that the self is the sum of our experiences.

I believe the third theory to be the most likely, as it has no obvious scientific flaws. However, it raises the point that there is no "self," as new memories are constantly created, so we are not the same second by second.

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Moegreche
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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 'rima 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&quot. 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.
HahiHa
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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. "
Moegreche
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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/?
Kennethhartanto
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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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