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Thread: The Illusion of Self

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    Super Moderator ruby sparks's Avatar
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    The Illusion of Self

    Claim: Self is an illusion.

    An illusion is not something that is not there, it is only something that is not what it seems to be.



    Humans generally seem to find it easy and natural to locate their centre of conscuiosness.

    Of 59 participants in an experiment, 90% identified a location in their bodies for the centre of their consciousness, where their self was felt to be.

    83% identified that location to be in their head, between and behind the eyes, as per the dots on the diagram above. That is also where I would have chosen.

    There is nothing located in any particular part of the body (or outside of it) where there is a self.

    Therefore, self is an illusion, or if you prefer, a subjective sense of self, when it is present (it isn't always or fully) generally seems to involve an illusion, at least the illusion that it has or acts through a centre.

    Point Zero: A Phenomenological Inquiry into the subjective Physical Location of Consciousness
    http://en.asia.it/adon.pl?act=doc&doc=787
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    Last edited by ruby sparks; 02-17-2020 at 02:52 PM.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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    Deus Meumque Jus
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    I wonder if this is one of those situations where the act of prompting causes the participants to locate their self. Where if you prompted with something like do you think the self has a definite physical location a greater percentage would say no. The power of suggestion and all that, most won't think to respond in a contradictory manner to the study.

    As for the illusion of self, it seems like an odd framing of the question to me. Does there need to be a physical location besides the totality of the body for me to have a self? To me it seems like the conversation has been put in the context of Christianity where there is a belief of an 'inner-mover', a metaphysical substance. Of course from that perspective the self doesn't exist. But going beyond the metaphysical, what would it mean to have a self in the context of pure materialism? Why couldn't the self simply be the totality of my body and internal experience?

    If the experience of being human feels like being a unique individual who is relatively stable across time, why not make that our definition of self?

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    Elder Contributor Keith&Co.'s Avatar
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    I think that sighted people locate their sense of self because of where our eyes are. We experience ourselves based on where our eye literally place our point of view.

    Any research on where blind people place their self? That might be interesting.

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    To me the Buddhist idea of illusory self just means 'we' are thought forms. It does not mean we do not exist.

    My illusory self runs into a wall shattering the illusion of my illusory self. HeeHee this metaphysical stuff can be fun.

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    Super Moderator ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    If the experience of being human feels like being a unique individual who is relatively stable across time, why not make that our definition of self?
    I think that already is the cognitive science definition of self.

    The question is whether it is an illusion.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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    Super Moderator ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith&Co. View Post
    I think that sighted people locate their sense of self because of where our eyes are. We experience ourselves based on where our eye literally place our point of view.

    Any research on where blind people place their self? That might be interesting.
    Interesting point.

    In fact, the OP study had 13 blind people, and they all located their centre of consciousness in their heads. I think their dots are incorporated into that illustration.

    I might need to read the study again to check if they were all blind from birth.

    One (sighted) Italian located the centre of his consciousness in his belly.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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    Deus Meumque Jus
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    If the experience of being human feels like being a unique individual who is relatively stable across time, why not make that our definition of self?
    I think that already is the cognitive science definition of self.

    The question is whether it is an illusion.
    What would have to be true about our experience for you to consider it an illusion? What is the defining factor that would make our sense of self an illusion, and not just how we experience the world as an animal?

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    Super Moderator ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    What would have to be true about our experience for you to consider it an illusion?
    Locating a self where there isn't one would be a good example regarding our experience of self, imo.

    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    What is the defining factor that would make our sense of self an illusion, and not just how we experience the world as an animal?
    I don't understand the question. The two things (sense of self being an illusion and it being the way we experience the world as an animal) are non-conflicting.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    I don't understand the question. The two things (sense of self being an illusion and it being the way we experience the world as an animal) are non-conflicting.
    The question is - what is it about this experience that makes it an illusion? I'm not claiming that it isn't an illusion, I just don't see any concrete reason why we would consider it one. If our benchmark for it being an illusion is a physical entity being inside our body, then sure, it's an illusion. I just don't think that's a good benchmark.

    IOW, we might as well move onward from discussing the self as a tangible thing in of itself, because that's obviously not what it is. My argument would be that our sense of self is derived from the cognitive science definition you mention. In which it has a real existence as a part of our mental world. Therefore not an illusion.

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    It is an illusion in the sense that you can touch your brain but not your thoughts.

    Our sense of self is also relative to perceptions and others around us.

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