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What Constitutes the Self?

 
 
Faun147
 
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2008 03:05 pm
What makes us who we are? If we strip away everything but what this thing is, what is left?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 3,220 • Replies: 34
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boagie
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2008 03:17 pm
@Faun147,
Life! The self in one is the self in all. Upanishades:)
Holiday20310401
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jul, 2008 05:17 pm
@boagie,
The self is recognition of subjective perception. I think that the self is defined through recognition of differences from the outside as a product of one's perception, and mind.

I believe the self is controlled through actual constituents of the organism, like the workings of the brain and other systems. However, to say that the reality of the self if affected purely from the actual workings of the entity's material means that the self must change as the material changes.

Does this mean that the self is never the same in comparison to relative instances? No, the self only evolves, it doesn't change. Although it is interesting to look at it this way. Have you ever looked at a piece of writing that you wrote from many years ago, and questioned how the :devilish: could I have written that, it's awful.Laughing Then it becomes a question of what is the difference between the self back then and a different person who would be more adequate to gauge that piece of writing now, or back then?

The past allows for relative perception to be possible, the mind can't grasp all things at once and relate them in a single instance.

Perhaps the consciousness is a product of the self recognizing relative instances, like some sort of perception of time's causal construct. I mean for something that isn't conscious, their knowledge of what will happen to their entity is governed by forces depicting its actuality, so in a sense it has an absolute path because the self can't control its own causality.

The self is just a way to deviate or delineate from the absolute, not that any material is absolute of course. The self relies on the mind and consciousness. Maybe somebody else could counter some of my assumptions though.:ouch: Very Happy
0 Replies
 
boagie
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jul, 2008 05:24 am
@Faun147,
Faun147 wrote:
What makes us who we are? If we strip away everything but what this thing is, what is left?




Faun,Smile

One needs to distinguish between what is the self and what is personal identity, personal identity is formed and defined by context, the self is immutable and unviveral. The self, is the essence of life, personal identity is how it becomes clothed in context.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jul, 2008 01:26 pm
@boagie,
This is a question answered in many different ways by many different traditions of thought.

Boagie has already mentioned the Upanishads - those texts contain some of the more famous and eloquent answers to this question.

Psychology has also attempted to answer this question. The way the question is phrased always interests me:
" What makes us who we are? If we strip away everything but what this thing is, what is left?"

What are we stripping away if not a part of this 'thing'?
Is the self a 'thing' at all?

The first question, 'What makes us who we are?' is a little different than 'what is our essential nature?'. What makes us who we are is our memory, as Locke said. But memory doesn't seem to fit the bill as 'essential nature' or anything like that - memory changes, we lose memory, our conception of a particular memory changes over time... some memory can be entirely fabricated.

This is a valuable topic to explore. Thanks, Faun147.
0 Replies
 
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jul, 2008 03:40 pm
@boagie,
Quote:
One needs to distinguish between what is the self and what is personal identity, personal identity is formed and defined by context, the self is immutable and unviveral. The self, is the essence of life, personal identity is how it becomes clothed in context.


In this case I agree with the first part, however the second part I would have to say is more; the self is a particular mixture of DNA that interacts with its environment given the unique proclivities of that DNA to influence bahavior and perception, the interaction of such creates the personal Identity.
boagie
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jul, 2008 06:00 pm
@GoshisDead,
GoshisDead wrote:
In this case I agree with the first part, however the second part I would have to say is more; the self is a particular mixture of DNA that interacts with its environment given the unique proclivities of that DNA to influence bahavior and perception, the interaction of such creates the personal Identity.


GoshiDead,Smile

I do not think that because a person is born with particular proclivities, those being in general not dissimilar to the norm but perhaps in degree. Certain qualites/ porclivities are probably present as well, which the environment/context does not evoke. The fact is one is born into this world without identity and only through ones life journey does one aquire identity from lifes relation to its context. Context defines you might say, it is true that each life has its own constitution, that given, it can drastically influence the relation of life to context. Sometimes the constitution is weak, as in a less then a fully viable seed, or it could be a viable seed which finds itself in poor soil or poor context. The self is life and as such it is anonymous, if it is poor in constitution or no, it is the subject in need of object, and that object is the given context of its life, and thus the self finds personal identity in which to clothe itself, and to forget, its anonymous nature.

"The self in one, is the self in all." Upanishades;)
paulhanke
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jul, 2008 08:01 pm
@boagie,
boagie wrote:
The fact is one is born into this world without identity and only through ones life journey does one aquire identity from lifes relation to its context.


... interesting ... Andy Clark has a concept of "external scaffolding" that extends the brain with capabilities for thought that are not inherent to it (pencil and paper, long division, computers, etc.) ... what you are saying seems to be an adaptation of this concept - not only is the mind brain + body + world, but so is the self! ... I already knew that I lose my (professional) mind whenever I leave my office (with its easy access to numerous volumes I routinely rely on) - but does your observation mean that when I visit the home office that the "self" that gets presented there is not the "self" I am when enveloped in my cocoon-of-the-written-word? ... that is, you can't even strip away part of my world without changing who I am? :shocked:
boagie
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Jul, 2008 07:30 am
@paulhanke,
paulhanke wrote:
... interesting ... Andy Clark has a concept of "external scaffolding" that extends the brain with capabilities for thought that are not inherent to it (pencil and paper, long division, computers, etc.) ... what you are saying seems to be an adaptation of this concept - not only is the mind brain + body + world, but so is the self! ... I already knew that I lose my (professional) mind whenever I leave my office (with its easy access to numerous volumes I routinely rely on) - but does your observation mean that when I visit the home office that the "self" that gets presented there is not the "self" I am when enveloped in my cocoon-of-the-written-word? ... that is, you can't even strip away part of my world without changing who I am? :shocked:


paulhanke,Smile

:)Life is a process, so to the formation and maintaince of personal identity, one is not just paulhanke, in the moment and in the context of the present moment. You have a history of contextual relations which has brought you to the present moment. One cannot leave that behind and start a knew, unless, you have at some point lost all memory of the past, in which case the process starts over again, but with the input of what can be recovered from memory. If you find yourself in a new environment whatever new adaptations, transformations you develop between you and this new environment will of necessity be placed upon the foundations of what has already been layed down. So, you further develop from this point on, undoubtly with the impressions of what your limitations are as well as your known abilitites.


Smile The fact that you wear different hats in different environments is no argument against the stability of your personal identity. Neither personal identity nor the environment are stable in the sense of being static, both are process. Personal identity does not change entirely by a change of context, but perhaps with new approaches to your relations with that environment. Paulhanke is process, any given evironment is also process, brought together no matter the environment your personality your personal identity is one with the enviornment you are in, it is you might say, the life support system of your personal identity. You are subject, environment is object, together you have reality and your reality is your personal perspective, your personal identity.

Smile Changing your evironment might induce a development in your personal identity, a new characteristic, a new behaviour but it can only rest upon the structure already in place. I am unfamilar with the concept of which you speak, this Andy Clark, but I hope what I have had to say answers to the questions posed.
paulhanke
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Jul, 2008 05:11 pm
@boagie,
boagie wrote:
Neither personal identity nor the environment are stable in the sense of being static, both are process.


... couldn't have said it better myself - thanks for the independent affirmation Smile
0 Replies
 
nameless
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Jul, 2008 01:34 pm
@Faun147,
Faun147;17996 wrote:
What makes us who we are? If we strip away everything but what this thing is, what is left?

No one can tall you this.
Do the work; strip away all that you find 'false' and see for yourself what is left (if anything).
When all the 'lies' are stripped, what, if anything, is left?
Then you can tell us what you find, or don't.
boagie
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Oct, 2008 07:52 am
@nameless,
nameless wrote:
No one can tall you this.
Do the work; strip away all that you find 'false' and see for yourself what is left (if anything).
When all the 'lies' are stripped, what, if anything, is left?
Then you can tell us what you find, or don't.


nameless,Smile


Actually I have had that experience though not of a really long duration, at one point I had lost all memory of who I was, even family members were complete strangers. With this also, what was absent was any negative feelings about myself in the world. I was pretty banged up and sore but it felt really good to be alive just as experience, then I remembered one small detail and my old life and identity came flooding back. It really made me queston the nature of identity, not a big topic with my young peers at the time. So in the absence of all those complexities reguarding your relations with the world, your failures and sucesses and thus the totality of your self evaluation is gone and all there is, is life and experience, and it feels bloody good. There really would be nothing there in the absence of object, for expience is what you are, your personal experience your identity.
0 Replies
 
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Oct, 2008 12:14 pm
@Faun147,
Faun147 wrote:
What makes us who we are? If we strip away everything but what this thing is, what is left?


Tabula rasa. Well, not completely rasa; more a nearly-blank slated being which has subtle propensities that'll only be manifest once that being begins to experience over time.

What we'd be stripping away would *be* the self - a thing builds itself over time through its experiences, perceptions, views, emotional overtones and much more. Like layers to an onion.

Or one could take another direction and answer the question with a "... pretty much nothing".
nameless
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Oct, 2008 01:39 pm
@Faun147,
From 'this' Perspective, 'self' is generally 'two'.
For most, 'self' is an egoic image. A 'me' versus (contextually) the universe in terms of 'definition'; I am this, not that, this not that... That is one Perspective of a 'self'. It is not invalid, it is not error. This Perspective is part of the universes perceived.
I have found that I, we, are, beyond egoic images, ultimately, Conscious Perspectives (Souls); 'limited' observers of the Unlimited. This is the complete 'set', within which the egoPerspective (subset) 'exists'.

boagie;27764 wrote:

Actually I have had that experience though not of a really long duration, at one point I had lost all memory of who I was, even family members were complete strangers. With this also, what was absent was any negative feelings about myself in the world. I was pretty banged up and sore but it felt really good to be alive just as experience,

It sounds to me like you might have had an 'ego death' experience. There was no 'personal' as there was no distinctive 'person'. Oneness with the universe of the moment has no room for 'falsely Perspectival', distinctions; "I am that I am".
0 Replies
 
nameless
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Oct, 2008 01:49 pm
@Khethil,
Khethil;27772 wrote:

What we'd be stripping away would *be* the self - a thing builds itself over time through its experiences, perceptions, views, emotional overtones and much more. Like layers to an onion.

What you describe is the growth of the egoic image of a 'self'.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Oct, 2008 02:14 pm
@nameless,
nameless wrote:
What you describe is the growth of the egoic image of a 'self'.


No. Although those elements often do tend to include ego-based conceptualizations - one doesn't necessarily lead to the other.

Indeed, the experience of life itself (read: developing awareness) may lead one to a place where discovery (and subsequent elimination) of the destructive ego could take place.

Interesting thought though.
Pangloss
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Oct, 2008 02:46 pm
@Khethil,
Khethil;27779 wrote:

Indeed, the experience of life itself (read: developing awareness) may lead one to a place where discovery (and subsequent elimination) of the destructive ego could take place.


If "self" is some type of inherent, absolute, unchanging essence of an individual, then merely taking a path in life that allows you to consciously discover more of what this essence is (if possible) would not ultimately affect the existence, state, or meaning of this self.

This is a very interesting, yet deep topic, and with further consideration we can hopefully understand more. First though, there needs to be an agreement on the definition of "self"...it doesn't appear that everyone here agrees on the definition.
boagie
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Oct, 2008 03:18 pm
@Pangloss,
Pangloss,Smile

I often like to quote the Upanishads which state that, "The self in one is the self in all." The self is life itself, it is that essence which throws up life forms in which to dwell, as such it is anonymous, yet the same in all creatures. It is the substance, the life form the flame.
0 Replies
 
Pangloss
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Oct, 2008 03:40 pm
@Faun147,
boagie;27782 wrote:
Pangloss,Smile
I often like to quote the Upanishads which state that, "The self in one is the self in all." The self is life itself, it is that essence which throws up life forms in which to dwell, as such it is anonymous, yet the same in all creatures. It is the substance, the life form the flame.


Yes, the "universal mind", eternal flame, God, what have you. The problem is getting to the point where we have a dialogue like, "What is the Self?"...'life'. "What is life?"...'spirit'. "What is the spirit?"... this is the great question that people have asked since the dawn of man. I don't know if we're really any closer to the answer now than we were then. Science has names and configurations for subatomic particles, atoms/elements, chemicals, and body parts that make up the animal. But they still don't know how those first cells came about.

Are "self" and "life" one in the same? Or is "life" a part of "self", or vice versa? A plant is alive, but do we believe it to contain a "self" like a human? Many of the eastern philosophies would concur that there is "self" in all "life", and that in fact they are the same substance. Others argue that only man has a "self" or "spirit", though it is part of the group of "life".

These are some of the big questions, maybe unknowable, except perhaps at (or beyond?) the event of physical death, when the "self" will either be entirely stolen away, or entirely revealed...depending upon which idea of the concept turns out to be correct!
boagie
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Oct, 2008 04:04 pm
@Pangloss,
Pangloss,Smile

Perhaps the self is not even local in the sense that whatever that essence is, it is an ability to experience and nothing more without its object/physcial world. Without object it would remain useless potential, it anticipates its object like the lock presumes its key. The self I think is not bounded by our skins, but includes the physcial world.
 

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