the ill-tempered cavalier (gillen) wrote in open_philosophy,
the ill-tempered cavalier

Why am I I?

To what extent is our self defined by our boundaries and not by that which is contained within them? By this I mean, if you were to take that edge of self defined by your skin, the front line between self and not-self, and somehow turn it upon itself so that there could be no experience of other, no perception of that beyond your physical boundary, you would agree that the self 10 years later would be unrecognizeable as the same being as the self which had not been so folded inward, would you not? In which case the definition of self is in large part dependant on the physical experience of other and your skin, being the organ of perception and boundary of definition is therefore what defines who you are... perhaps even moreso than your brain or genetic structure.

Or is this all nonsense and is the source of your experiences meaningless in the face of the seat of your perception. Is it rather that your body itself is primarily "other" and your brain, or perhaps just the part of it in which you "feel" that you perceive, really your self, in which case folding your skin in upon itself would simply have served to limit the variety of perception available to you and produced just what one would have expected, a self reduced in scope from its alternate to the exact degreee in which it's perception was limited.

Am I the sum of my perceptions - either in whole or as expressed through an only-tangentially-related pattern unique to Gillen even if another being were presented with my exact sequence of experiences?

(well, it was either open with that or 'What is Virtue?'...)
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First of all, I don't know what you believe about God and such, so I might be putting the horse in front of the carriage. The answer to your question is dependent on which of two major schools of thought you subscribe to: scientific reductionism, or a "spiritual" one.
If you subscribe to scientific reductionism, your question is sort of pointless. The definition of whom, or more precisely, what you are is exactly what it is. To illustrate what I mean I will draw a parallel: A map of Illinois is not Illinois. Illinois is Illinois. No matter how precise the map, it will never contain the full definition oth the thing. The only way to do that would be with an exact replication. In which case there would be two Illinois. So if there were another being presented with the exact sequences of experiences (I am assuming that this implies that the being has the same chemical and physical make-up), there would be two of you. That would be if you believe in scientific reductionism.
But I do not believe that this is true. (This is were the horse is put in front of the carriage) I personally believe that there is a higher realm or meaning to the universe. I believe that if you did exactly clone you, and put him through the exact sequence of events that you have gone through, he would still not be you. This is because I believe in a God that exists outside of the universe and time. Which is a whole different discussion.
This being the case, I think that the best answer to your question would be that you are focusing too much on yourself. Ironically, the best way to know what defines you is to focus on what you are not, and what you wish to eventually become. It is this goal, this ultimate and final state that you will eventually come to, that defines you in the simplest form. So basically, it is not the ride, but the destination.
(I realize that this sounds kind of nebulous, but we haven't yet discussed somethings that would be necessary to answer your question)
Yeah, I should clarify that although I was an op in #religion it was as the token Atheist mod. They tried to get one mod from every major world religion and one atheist to insure that whatever you believed there was always one mod who had your back. In my snarkier moments I'll claim that Christianity was beaten out of me as a child by the Lutherans.

I worry that you short-shrift science by calling it "scientific reductionism". Anything looking for a root cause is necessarily reductionist. Saying it's all because of God is reductionist, just a reductionism that spends less time looking for its answer and never readdresses the question of cause.

The definition is -not- more precisely what I am. That sidesteps the existential issues completely. Why does the what have a who, and what are the defining boundaries of that experience of self, and why?

Re: hmmm


April 30 2006, 04:43:29 UTC 11 years ago

So is it O.K. if I call it scientific reductionism? You can call my philosophy God reductionism to be fair. :) I just want to make sure that we're on the same page.
My using the pronoun, 'what' was intentional, because if you are nothing but a measurement matter and energy existing over time (like the rest of the universe), than you are made of the exact same stuff as the universe. Therefore you are not a 'who,' anymore than anything else in the universe is a 'who;' you are a 'what.' In scientific reductionism there really isn't a 'why,' because there is no Creator, a scource of intent. There is only 'how.' How did this happen?
You are made of meat. You are contained within meat. Your "self" is the abstraction of the sense, memory, reflection and action of that meat. And, like pornography, I know you when I see you. A detailed series of definitions for a lower boundary of such internal relationships that make your identity recognizable would involve tooo many combinations of too many variables for easy analysis. Although, I suspect that you might be recognizable after sustaining far more crippling damage than the normal specimen...
Perhaps we are too quick to draw the boundary at the skin.

For surely my delicate flesh bag would explode and cease its individuality were it not for the atmospheric pressure holding me together.

Therefore, a definition of self must include the atmosphere that allows us to continue our existence without exploding.
Therefore, definition of self must include the planet, the gravity of which allows the atmosphere to exist.
Then, the sun must be included in the definition of self, for allowing the earth to sustain life, which sustains the atmosphere, in part.

Is there such a thing as nonself? We certainly owe our existence to a number of seemingly external factors.

But if my consciousness is allowed to exist due to the presence of my heart, an unthinking organic machine, then certainly I also owe my existence to the presence of countless other unthinking machines, namely the solar system and whatever else might be allowing the solar system to exist. I must include all these things in my definition of self, because I would not be an individual self without them. They are a part of my body, just as much as my heart.
Defining 'self' by matter is nonsense, for as anyone knows you go through your mass and alter your mechanics unrecognizably in your lifetime.
A person is not what he is made of, though it is neccesary that he be made of something, that is that he have substance.
As a person is not what he is made of he is obviously not some part of it - his brain no more than his leg, though he may require a brain in order to be.
Neither is an individual himself in some 'abstract' way by his properties - his ideas, his descriptives (American, male etc).
An individual is nothing, and specifically he is the nothing that MAKES himself - the nothing that creates ideas and identities, personalities and quirks - and changes them later, as it sees fit. The individual in-himself is nothing in specific, but instead that will or perspective from which everything comes forth.
Defining 'self' by matter is nonsense, for as anyone knows you go through your mass and alter your mechanics unrecognizably in your lifetime.

True, but must the self be unchanging? A material origin of self may not be satisfying to a person's ego, but it has the advantage of being less supernatural than ascribing it to a self-engendering will ab nihilo. What are the mechanics of a nothing which makes itself?
I do not mean I am some floating abstraction, I mean that I am nothing in particular except a perspective. What is 'myself'? Nothing you can point to or talk about, and all these things you can name are just properties of mine. What I am is the nothing that everything exists in relation to. Physically, probably sections of your brain. I could say 'I am my will' or 'I am my perspective', except you can not explain your perspective or will by nature of its uniqueness - it is impossible to experience by definition (if they had your will, they would be you!)
I would argue that you are a pattern of thought produced upon consciousness by limited perception and a particular perspective - that you are, in effect, an effect - and that yes, as you are a pattern of thought, such that if someone else were to directly experience that pattern they would cease to be someone else and would become an example of you.
minus a "such that". ;)