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The Philosophy of the Self.

 
 
fresco
 
Reply Fri 7 Nov, 2003 09:50 am
On other threads we have often discussed the committee nature of the "self" with its transitory facets. However in addition to this it seems to me that many of the current threads on "moral behaviour" would benefit from an analysis of the "self" with respect to its "social environment".
If "I" identify with"others" then perceived danger to them is perceived danger to me. So such terms as "altruism" which depend on "self as an individual" lose meaning in terms of "social self".

Any comments.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Nov, 2003 10:10 am
I would only comment that i greatly appreciate your observations on the "social animal."
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Nov, 2003 10:21 am
self
Thanks, Fresco; a needed thread. If the social sciences have learned anything, it is that the shape of the individual self--one's social identity--is patently a product of social life. We see ourselves to a large extent the way we have believed that others see us. This is referred to as "the looking glass theory of self" (Cooley). But there is also a sense of self that is quite different and more of a philosophical or spiritual problem. As we have discussed many times on various threads, this "self" is little more than the feeling of a "person" inside of us who is separate from the world and even from our own bodies (one can lose a limb, but this--despite an inevitable sense of loss--does not diminish our sense of self). The alleged little person inside our body usual goes with the tacit notion that he is looking "out" onto the world through "windows" (eyes are not only thought of as windows to the soul but also as windows to the world). The implication is that there is a world "out there" that has characteristics inherent to it. This is, of course, the perspective of "naive realism" as is closely connected to (almost a corrolary of) the illusion of an internal self that is seeing "it" AS IT IS, rather than a physiological/cultural process that is constructing the experience of the phenomenal world.
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Nov, 2003 12:01 pm
Yes,

And does it follow

(a) that different socialization processes create statistically different norm positions along an "individual-social" dimension.
To take an extreme example, the "Hitler Youth" mode would presumably condition towards the "social end".

(b) that awareness of a "transcendent" individual self is promoted by a variety of socialization experiences and an appreciation of multiple personal identities.
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Nov, 2003 01:32 pm
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Nov, 2003 01:36 pm
truth
Wow! these questions will require some time.
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perception
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Nov, 2003 03:50 pm
Fresco

You will definitely cause some mental hernias with this discussion----I will be quite content to merely observe.
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Nov, 2003 04:17 pm
truth
Yeah, Perception. I'm already limping.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Nov, 2003 04:42 pm
I'm gonna circumvent the hernia, and just bookmark for reading.
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Nov, 2003 04:46 pm
truth
Let's see if I have anything to add to the above. The socialization process, which is an aspect of the general process of "enculturation" (the latter refers to all our learning, the former to lessons whch pertain to living in society) is what one anthropologist called a "distributive process," meaning that certain skills, facts, norms, etc. are distributed unevenly over the population of a society. For example, the aristocrats of England in the 18th century (or any time) learned different lessons than those of the peasantry, and even among aristocrats (or peasants) there are individual differences in learning experience. This addresses your "statistical" questions. Regading the notion of a "transcendent self", an "ATMAN", as the Hindus call it. This is, as I understand it the Self (with capital S) that realizes its unity with all that is e.g. Brahma (the famous equation: Atman=Brahma), as opposed to the little selves of our self consciousness and social identities and roles that separate us from all things beyond our skin. I think that the Krishnamurti schools which you are familiar with, were designed to promote awareness of this transcendental identity--as do zen monasteries.
I find the Schopenhauer quote difficult to interpret, but it seems that he is addressing the matter of the relation between subject (knower) and object (known). His reference to the known as "will" is puzzling, unless it refers to his notion of the "will in nature", meaning that to know how something is or acts is to know something about the will in nature, the nature and actions of the known reflect nature's way, as it were. The subject and object TOGETHER form the basis for the formation of the "I" (ego), as when the baby becomes aware eventually that mama's breast and even his own foot are objects, separate from an emerging subject (I think he referred to this process of separation as the "principium individuacionis" or what we might call "individuation"). But the subject cannot know itself, he notes. It's like Tywvel's assertion that consciousness cannot be aware of consciousness. Phew!
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twyvel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Nov, 2003 05:32 pm
A parallel title of your thread fresco might be, "The philosophy of no-self"

I was tempted to go in this direct in the altruism thread; made a couple of comments but decided not to. Re: if I am all (my) observations, I am all beings, hence how would altruism be applied, or understood?

I agree with JLNobody about the sense of a "little person" inside, >>looking out, the paradox is in the nature of our perceptions. If we consider vision: as I look at this monitor there is no beginning to the visual field from within, and within this visual field, there is no "little person". There is essentially nothing looking at this monitor. As one continues to observe one wonders how "nothing" can observe. How can 'nothing' observe something?

I suspect this 'sense' of an absence of an observer has mystified many people, and has been talked about by many including Krishnamurti when he says, "There is no observer or observed, only observing". If taken literally the ramifications of that simple statement are staggering in relation to our normal (illusory) view of the world and self as ego/body.

This nothing as observer is usually referred to as the "void", which is simultaneously nothing and everything (observable), or consciousness. Nothing or void as the ground of being, is nothing observable which leads to no-self. The term, "transcendent self" is misleading in reference to the manifest as it doesn't (only) transcend the world but is it.

As Ramana was dying his folks (devotee's) were around him crying saying they did not want him to go, and he was saying, "Where can I go?"
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Nov, 2003 06:46 pm
You guys talk about the nether world like you understand what you're saying. If all of our observation is nothing but illusionary response of our senses, and everybody's reality are all illusions of the mind, how do we interact with each other? What are the limits, if any? I'm getting a headache! Is that an illusion?
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twyvel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Nov, 2003 06:48 pm
Right JLNobody, the subject cannot know itself but it doesn't know that.

The baby comes to think it is 'self' aware, but the 'self' it is aware of is the body, thoughts, feelings etc., not the awareness which is observing the body, thought, feelings etc. The subject that it is, the awareness, mistakes itself for an object; thoughts, body etc. Eventually (in some life) it starts to realize all the objects in awareness (body sensations, thoughts etc.) are empty of being.


I think Schopenhauer is saying, we cannot know (observe, think about) the knower, and what we do know is not knowing, for only the knower knows. Meaning, I think, as you have mentioned, that consciousness is not self-conscious. It can observe anything but itself, and "itself' includes the consciousness in all beings.
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twyvel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Nov, 2003 07:06 pm
In one sense, we don't interact with each other cicerone. However, that depends how one defines "self".

From the relative ego/body perspective of the world, we obviously interact as one embodied being to another. But in terms of a true self (witness consciousness) we cannot make contact, for " I " as awareness am not included in any of your observations, and vise-versa. As observers each of us are all alone in our own worlds.

But the interesting thing is, if we are all one being there is no such thing as being alone or with others, there's no duality of being.
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Nov, 2003 07:49 pm
truth
Very good, Twyvel.
It does seem, C.I., that a shift in perspective is necessary to follow what mystically oriented talk is about. We are all trained to view all events as "caused" and caused by some kind of agent. In our case, the self. All experience, we are trained to assume, happens TO an agent and everything that is done is done BY a self. If we stop thinking and just report what we actually see prior to reflection (and the ability to do this is what meditation is about) we realize eventually that we do not "see" a self, only experiences or sensations (like what we call headaches), but we cannot think of experience without a subject OF experience. So just don't think; look. When we say "'It' is raining" we really are just reporting that we see raining. But the tyranny of our language (its grammar in this case) requires a subject or agent ('it') of the predicate,'is raining'. It's not complex and it doesn't require information to grasp the mystical utterance, it only requires a behavioral change: looking instead of thinking. By the way, C.I., you don't have a "headache" in reality, only in thought. This doesn't mean that your unpleasant cranial sensations, your pre-reflective experience are illusory, but the post-reflective category, "headache," is..
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rufio
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Nov, 2003 01:45 am
I disagree, fresco. Altruism, as such is only possible for the social self, since it's from identifying with the group that the altruism comes.

Edit: Putting this in here is easier than making a new post: JL, if reality is socially constructed, than does that mean that babies are born unable to perceive anything? If that's the case, than how do they learn the culture that helps them perceive later?
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Letty
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Nov, 2003 08:21 am
Reading
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Nov, 2003 10:50 am
Re: The Philosophy of the Self.
fresco wrote:
If "I" identify with"others" then perceived danger to them is perceived danger to me.

"Identify" in what sense? Perceive that I am identical with others, or merely that I have a common interest with others?

fresco wrote:
So such terms as "altruism" which depend on "self as an individual" lose meaning in terms of "social self".

Depends on what you mean by "social self."
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Nov, 2003 11:34 am
Okay a few comments.

1. I am trying to keep away from "the mystical" for the moment by assuming that reality is neither external nor internal but a set of mutual "states of being" which have both external and internal correlates.
This is not to imply Cartesian psychophysical dualism but that there are different modes of description of the same state. (An organ of the body can be described in functional and structural terms but neither is complete in itself)

2. Rather than an ultimate transcendent Self we can talk about "levels" of awareness with successive levels of observation. The Schopenhauer quote could then be taken to imply that the "lower" self or "will" is involved in a state of being because of its needs of the moment, and is then subject to observation by a "higher self" or "knower". (We should note here that Schopenhauer was probably plagerized by Freud and we may think along the lines of Id, Ego, Superego). All the personal experiences I have had in attempting to avert danger to "others" have been made on an automatic basis with the adenalin obscuring any "self observation mode". I am relating this t to you now, but THEN the "others" did not come into it ..only the "danger".. Reality has shifted.

So whereas twyvel goes for the full transcendence of self to "no-self" this is perhaps a catch-all solution to "ethical problems" which leaves nothing more to say.
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Nov, 2003 01:36 pm
truth
You are not understanding me, Rufio. I did not say, or mean to say, that REALITY is itself socially constructed in the sense that it has no existence until humans interpret it into existence. Reality pre-exists interpretation (denoted by the existentialists' principle: "existence precedes essence"). But reality, whatever that may be is--llike Kant's noumena--meaningless in itself. In our efforts to understand it we confer meaning to "it". In other words, we construct the MEANINGS of reality. We take the formless, the chaotic, the indeterminate, and give it order and shape--its essences--IN TERMS OF OUR CULTURAL CATEGORIES. And most of this construction is done collectively as culture building. You might enjoy the book by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality. To say that reality comes with its meanings is the naive realism we've been referring to. It can be caricaturized by the joke about the peasant who said to the astronomers that he admired their accomplishments, especially the way they DISCOVERED the names of far-off planets.
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