Philosophy Article: Why We View The Self As We Do

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Post Number:#16  Postby BubbaD0g » December 19th, 2010, 10:56 am

Also, Mark, good insights into internal conflict, along with a practical approach to dealing with it, can be found in the writings of Martha Nussbaum, most notably Upheavals of Thought and The Therapy of Desire. She takes an Aristotelian approach to psychotherapy that I find very interesting. Hope it helps.
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Post Number:#17  Postby Mark » December 19th, 2010, 12:32 pm

Thank you Bobba, when time permits, I will check it out. :D
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Re: Philosophy Article: Why We View The Self As We Do

Post Number:#18  Postby Subramanian1956 » January 1st, 2011, 1:33 pm

Scott wrote:Why We View The Self As We Do
by Scott Hughes

Philosophy and psychology both often focus on the self, which generally refers to the source of unique consciousness in a unified being. In other words, the self is usually seen as that thing in us which thinks and makes decisions.

In reality, the mind is not a unified being. It is a natural machine made up of various parts. The mind has many different desires, feelings, and instincts. The self is actually a construct of the mind and of society.

The mind uses the idea of the self so that it can function in a centralized way. By conceptualizing itself as a more unified and singular entity, the mind can more easily understand its desires and feelings. In other words, the mind constructs the self to synthesize all the different desires, feelings and instincts into one coherent set, which it then uses to make decisions and rationalize past decisions. For example, part of a person may like and want something while another part of that person dislikes and does not want that thing; the mind can more simply understand these conflicting parts by conceptually synthesizing them, and deciding on either liking or disliking the thing.

Society and other people also use the concept of the self to understand and interact with a human. Generally, it is impossible and impractical to know all the different feelings, desires, instincts and influences that cause a human to act certain ways and make certain decisions. To understand humans, we conceive of them as singular persons with singular selves. For example, it would be possible for a human female to both want and not want to have sex with a man, and for her to both consent and not consent to the sex, but it would be incredibly difficult to understand those conflicts and to judge the situation; To help with that, we conceive of the woman as a unified and singular person who either consents or does not consent.

Basic wisdom also influences our idea of the self. As relatively unwise children, we have a much more immediate idea of self. A child could think of "themselves" in the far future, and the child would not fully see it as the same person. We all do that to some degree, which is why we make decisions that give us immediate benefit but hurt us more in the long run. Examples include procrastination, overspending, and overindulgence. As we get older and gain experience, we have to pay the consequences for our shortsighted choices. As a result, we learn to behave in a wiser, more longsighted manner. We learn to think of ourselves as a longer-running entity.

Thanks to wisdom, we do not just define ourselves as the body and feelings we have today, or this week, or even this year. Instead, we define ourselves as the fundamental sameness between the body and feelings that we have throughout our entire life. We do not think of ourselves as just the atoms or matter in our body today, but instead we think of ourselves as a more generic pattern that remains the same even as all the atoms and matter in our body are replaced.

Death also greatly influences the way we define the self by creating the limit for its longevity.

The human death generally happens quickly, and marks a major turning-point where the human body permanently loses consciousness. The body quickly stops functioning and decays. All the unique information and thoughts stored in that human's brain or "mind" are lost. This includes memories, perceptions, personality, and such.

As a major turning-point, death makes for a useful place to conceive of the self as existing until. Additionally, since we usually associate all the unique information and thoughts of a human as elements of the self, it becomes necessary to think of death as the end of the self, unless we think of death as simply an event of major transformation of the self, which we usually do not. (Of course, there are some people who believe that all the unique information and thoughts of a human, and thus the self, still exist after death despite the destruction of the brain.)

In summary, the mind and society construct the self to understand and interact with the human in a practical and simplified way. Wisdom causes us to view the self as more than just a momentary being. Death usually causes us to view the self as the elements of a person that exist to death, but not beyond death.

Luckily, our view of the self is very unclear and adaptive. We adjust our ambiguous conception of the self to deal with new situations. Feel free to consider rethinking your idea of the self and how you define yourself.

Whatever you do, good luck and have fun!

About the Author: Scott Hughes owns and manages OnlinePhilosophyClub.com which is an informative philosophy website. You can discuss this article and other philosophical topics at the Philosophy Forums. It's completely free, and all viewpoints are welcome.

Please discuss this article here. Please post any comments or questions that you have.


'The self is actually a construct of the mind and of society' - This idea has no grounds. See, self cannot be defined because it is beyond definitions. We can give only certain approximations. Self is eternal consciousness, full of knowledge (Kindly read my 'Knowledge') and the nature is bliss or happiness. (Happiness is only an approximation and the real term is Ananda according to Vedic lore). Consciousness cannot be defined in so many words. We can only experience it. We have to really admit that beyond this mortal body exists something else that is beyond destruction, that is quite eternal. It is the same consciousness that is in you and me like the same sun that is getting reflected from different glasses of water. We may naturally ask, 'if then, why people are different in their nature and character'. The answer is that the individual nature comprising of mind and intellect is different from person to person like a 40W and 60W bulb. The current is the same but the glow is different. The sun remains the same but the clouds can make the difference. Body, mind, intellect, ego (I), and the self. From gross we are moving into subtler concepts. This is clearly to be understood. Subtle means it can hold all that are less subtle - i.e. more gross. This means that body cannot activate consciousness but consciousness can hold a body or consciousness can make the entire universe out of its capacity. Awareness is something beyond this material universe. Self requires no material aid (like our body) for its existence but we require it for our life. Otherwise, it is death. Our body would reach a graveyard. The analogy is electricity and TV. Is electricity the animated picture or the music? But TV requires electricity for the production of sound and light. Electricity has the quality of producing heat, light, sound, chemical reaction etc but can we see it or hear it directly? Still we have the confidence in the case of electricity but not in the case of self or eternal consciousness. This is only our mental limitation and not the fault of self.
For the last four decades I am very much influenced by the philosophy of Swamy Vivekananda. He was a true philosopher, humanist and a prophet. I only wish the world could absorb him in the truest sense.
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Re: Philosophy Article: Why We View The Self As We Do

Post Number:#19  Postby Kingkool » February 2nd, 2012, 12:06 pm

The fact is that if you cannot be sure that you exsist, than you had might as well cease "not" exsisting. While you cannot be sure that anyone else is real, if you doubt your own exsistence, than all ideals, philosophies, religions, and reasons to live fly out the window. Life is full of uncertainty, but the one thing you must belive is that yourself exsists because you think.
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Re: Philosophy Article: Why We View The Self As We Do

Post Number:#20  Postby BubbaD0g » February 2nd, 2012, 1:00 pm

Kingkool wrote:The fact is that if you cannot be sure that you exsist, than you had might as well cease "not" exsisting. While you cannot be sure that anyone else is real, if you doubt your own exsistence, than all ideals, philosophies, religions, and reasons to live fly out the window. Life is full of uncertainty, but the one thing you must belive is that yourself exsists because you think.


I very much disagree--Zen, for example, views the seperate "self" as an illusion within the universal mind, whereof all consciousness is a part. Indeed, this theme is common among most Asian philosophies, and recurs in the mystical traditions of the west as well, all without precluding the systems in which they operate. I'm not saying I agree (though I'm less and less certain I disagree), but it is possible.
"Philosophy [...] is at best but a brave stupidity."--Will Durant
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Re: Philosophy Article: Why We View The Self As We Do

Post Number:#21  Postby Kingkool » February 2nd, 2012, 11:33 pm

BubbaD0g wrote:
Kingkool wrote:The fact is that if you cannot be sure that you exsist, than you had might as well cease "not" exsisting. While you cannot be sure that anyone else is real, if you doubt your own exsistence, than all ideals, philosophies, religions, and reasons to live fly out the window. Life is full of uncertainty, but the one thing you must belive is that yourself exsists because you think.


I very much disagree--Zen, for example, views the seperate "self" as an illusion within the universal mind, whereof all consciousness is a part. Indeed, this theme is common among most Asian philosophies, and recurs in the mystical traditions of the west as well, all without precluding the systems in which they operate. I'm not saying I agree (though I'm less and less certain I disagree), but it is possible.


Though you do have a valid point, an axiom of almost all philosophy is "I think therefore I am". The fact that I find conversation like this stimulating is proof of my own consciousness, however that is only proven to me, because you don't know if you are actually the only one conscious, and I, and everyone else are creations of your mind. However if this is true, then to some extent, you exist (if only by some redundant, instantaneous coincidence).
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Re: Philosophy Article: Why We View The Self As We Do

Post Number:#22  Postby Belinda » February 3rd, 2012, 5:11 pm

But 'I think therefore I am' presumes that self, the subject, the 'I' exists , therefore this famous saying of Descartes is tautological. My information is that very few philosophers agree with Descartes's ontological findings.
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Re: Philosophy Article: Why We View The Self As We Do

Post Number:#23  Postby Rebwit » February 3rd, 2012, 6:41 pm

"The self is actually a construct of the mind and of society"
What?
What are you talking about?
The mind is "the self".
The mind is the self and society is a construct of the mind. That is it.
What do you think your mind presented you with, before constructed "the self"?
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Re: Philosophy Article: Why We View The Self As We Do

Post Number:#24  Postby Dimebag » February 4th, 2012, 7:52 am

This is my view of the self and how it relates to consciousness They are not my ideas specifically, just what I have threaded together from knowledge of the self.

A young mind begins in this world without any concepts of the world itself, or knowledge of the body which experiences are attached to. The mind experiences the world, trying to make sense of it, and has built into it a reflexive set of reactions to the world, which it continues to build on. It may see its mothers breast and reflexively root (official term not dirty) for it. Its mother may lay it on the ground with several toys infront of it. Maybe she squeaks a squeaky toy, and as the child notices the noise which comes from the toy it's hand might instinctively grasp for it. As it does this, it notices that when the hand touches the toy it has a feeing, which seems to originate in the hand. Over time it associates feelings with the physical limbs, and begins to build an internal model of these, so it knows the state of them. It will slowly realise the feeling of how it's arm is when it is bent or straight, what it looks like, and will model its relative positions to the point where it reflexively knows where the various body parts are positioned and moving. Soon these experiences become so attached to this internal model of the body that they almost become one with the internal model. This is the physical self, and it has become attached to experience, to the point where the experience is "about" the physical body.

Over time the minds internal states become known to it, and these states are also modelled and attached to the models of the physical self, in a way that they also seem to belong to it. Feelings such as anger, unhappiness, hunger, happiness, humor, are all modelled and attached to the model of the self, and in turn can be known and reflected on, not just experienced. This is the theory of mind which begins to emerge.

The self is not just another model, it is the all encompassing model, and remains relatively stable over time, and thus is the most important. It becomes attached to all experience, and all experience becomes about the self, to the point where the self models itself, and it's attachment to experience; this might be viewed as self awareness, not to be confused with awareness. As the self models itself and in turn models itself attached to experience, this might be why, upon self reflection, "we" (experience) seem to own the self, and vice versa, the self owns experience. As we can't readily imagine ourself purely as experience (this is only imagined when we start to realise how the self is a collection of models which can be separated, with no real centre), and at the same time have this wonderful model of everything about the body which seems to coincide with experience, we are lead to believe that the self is us.

This is my idea of how and why we think ourselves as the self. It might be inaccurate, but I really haven't analized these ideas too much to conclude whether they are accurate or not.
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Re: Philosophy Article: Why We View The Self As We Do

Post Number:#25  Postby Kingkool » February 4th, 2012, 4:47 pm

Rebwit wrote:"The self is actually a construct of the mind and of society"
What?
What are you talking about?
The mind is "the self".
The mind is the self and society is a construct of the mind. That is it.
What do you think your mind presented you with, before constructed "the self"?


The problem with that is that based on that, you must be able to tell yourself "I think therefore I am" in order to be. You're saying that an autonomous being that is conscious and makes it own decisions based on instincts is not actually conscious because it doesn't have the mental capacity to itself, "I think, therefore I am". It does think, just at a primitive level. Therefore, it is itself.
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Re: Philosophy Article: Why We View The Self As We Do

Post Number:#26  Postby stormy phillips » February 4th, 2012, 8:50 pm

How do I consider the self? Circumstantial. That is how one finds themselves, we leave much the same way. I guess. We do have choices though, those choices may in the end decide whether the end is favourable or unfavourable circumstances.
Men are not disturbed by things, but the view they take of things.....Epictetus
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Re: Philosophy Article: Why We View The Self As We Do

Post Number:#27  Postby Wuliheron » May 29th, 2013, 5:22 am

A woman from a Yanomamo-like tribe married an anthropologist and moved to NYC where reporters asked her what it was like to move from the stone age to the big apple. She said what struck her was the first time she looked out on a crowded street and saw thousands of lonely people. Here was a woman who had spent her entire life without so much as radio or books to read surrounded by the same 30 people day in and day out seeing perhaps a few strangers a year, yet she had never felt that kind of loneliness and never imaged it was possible to be lonely in a crowd. Our sense of self comes from nature and society screws it up big time.

We simply did not evolve to live large groups and the result is modern societies are now governed by increasingly elaborate and complex rules and people are willing to trade their own personal happiness to some extent for whatever material gain they can get. That's not a bad thing considering that woman from a primitive tribe would have been lucky to live to be 40 and could expect up to half her children to die in the first year. What it means though is that society has become a major force in shaping how people view themselves to such an extreme extent that we now have diseases like anorexia nervosa that only exist in the developed world and were individuals look in the mirror and see themselves as fat when, in actually, they are starving themselves to death. Allan Watts described this as "The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are" and it is always a tradeoff between knowing who you are, and suppressing that knowledge in favor of joining the group.

Among stone age tribes toddler humor is quite popular and in places like Japan to this day senior citizens will often make public displays of charming toddler humor. It is sign they are more in touch with themselves in that regard and capable of using humor to compare and contrast different perspectives rather than becoming entirely robotic and enslaved to cultural taboos. Our view of ourselves is, hopefully, constantly evolving and we are not merely enslaving ourselves to intellectual crappola about physiology or whatever that has little to do with who we are in our own mind. It is a category mistake to insist our minds are merely a collection of different mechanisms and our sense of self is purely illusory because collectively these produce consciousness among other things. This is what philosophers call "complexity" or the emergence of radically different and unpredictable properties that can occur even in the most simple system.

A small mound of sand transformed into a mountain has different properties. Among other things it can support life without being blown away by the first gust of wind. The life can create soil and help retain water, etc., etc.
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