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Thread: The Illusion of Self

  1. Top | #51
    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Huckleberry Finn, the fictional narrator of the book, 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'. Maybe your self is a lot like Huckleberry Finn.
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    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

  2. Top | #52
    Deus Meumque Jus
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    Quote Originally Posted by aupmanyav View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    I just don't see any concrete reason why we would consider it one.
    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.
    The concrete reason is that we are just a bunch of atoms (or more correctly, bunch of energy points) who at a certain point of time have got together in a particular way. At our death these atoms (points of energy) disperse to form parts of millions/billions of things. So where is the self?
    Self or how we perceive the world is just a mind game, illusion, maya. And it is very difficult to give up this illusion.
    I feel like it comes down to our definition of illusion. That's what I was trying to grok from others, how they felt about that.

    Yes the body is ephemeral and fluid over time, no there is no literal physical self, but how are we defining the living organism with a stable sense of self across time?

    For a real period of my life I know who I am, I know what I'm like, I know what I do and don't enjoy. What about that is 'illusory'? I, as a conglomeration of atoms, literally exist in a real configuration for a period of time.

    I think it's that the entire conversation has been framed in the context of Christianity which leads to the opposite logical extreme - none of this is real and we have no free will.

    In my perspective there is a middle-ground there. Yes, we're material and work on natural laws, but also humans themselves have unique and concrete qualities.

  3. Top | #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    ... but how are we defining the living organism with a stable sense of self across time?
    Is it a sense of stability or an actual stability?

    Also, the "where" question matters. No, there's no physical homunculus in the head but instead the sense of an immaterial one, which has some traits and qualities presumably attached to it or owned by it.

    Sometimes we talk of "me" as the body ("the living organism"), but we also think of a body's parts and pieces as possessions of a "me".

    In Roman Polanski's movie, The Tenant, the character Trelkovsky says the following monologue:

    Quote Originally Posted by Trelkovsky
    At what precise moment does an individual stop being who he thinks he is? Cut off my arm. I say, "Me and my arm." You cut off my other arm. I say, "Me and my two arms." You take out my stomach, my kidneys, assuming that were possible... And I say, "Me and my intestines." And now, if you cut off my head... would I say, "Me and my head" or "Me and my body"? What right has my head to call itself me? What right?
    What right, indeed!

    I don't think "illusion" means "utterly without reality". People look at Magritte's "The Treachery of Images" and if asked "What is that?" will say "It's a pipe". Which is why Magritte wrote "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" just under the pipe. To upset people's sense of certainty in their perceptions. You seem to be arguing that for the time they see a pipe, the perception's real. Yeah, the illusory perception is both real and useful. Once someone "gets it" that there's no pipe, that instead it's just blotches of paint, it's fine to go on seeing a pipe because the depiction of a pipe is meant to evoke that illusion. But preferably, go on seeing the pipe (or feeling like a unique self) with the added mindful awareness that the pipe or self does not have its own discrete reality.


  4. Top | #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    ... but how are we defining the living organism with a stable sense of self across time?
    Is it a sense of stability or an actual stability?
    I would say actual stability. An ephemeral, changing stability, but actual stability. In real terms this stability would be a quality of a species that needed to reproduce and support their young before they broke down.

    Also, the "where" question matters. No, there's no physical homunculus in the head but instead the sense of an immaterial one, which has some traits and qualities presumably attached to it or owned by it.

    Sometimes we talk of "me" as the body ("the living organism"), but we also think of a body's parts and pieces as possessions of a "me".

    In Roman Polanski's movie, The Tenant, the character Trelkovsky says the following monologue:

    Quote Originally Posted by Trelkovsky
    At what precise moment does an individual stop being who he thinks he is? Cut off my arm. I say, "Me and my arm." You cut off my other arm. I say, "Me and my two arms." You take out my stomach, my kidneys, assuming that were possible... And I say, "Me and my intestines." And now, if you cut off my head... would I say, "Me and my head" or "Me and my body"? What right has my head to call itself me? What right?
    What right, indeed!

    I don't think "illusion" means "utterly without reality". People look at Magritte's "The Treachery of Images" and if asked "What is that?" will say "It's a pipe". Which is why Magritte wrote "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" just under the pipe. To upset people's sense of certainty in their perceptions. You seem to be arguing that for the time they see a pipe, the perception's real. Yeah, the illusory perception is both real and useful. Once someone "gets it" that there's no pipe, that instead it's just blotches of paint, it's fine to go on seeing a pipe because the depiction of a pipe is meant to evoke that illusion. But preferably, go on seeing the pipe (or feeling like a unique self) with the added mindful awareness that the pipe or self does not have its own discrete reality.

    Perhaps this goes back to what Tharmas mentioned about the 'me' being an artifact of language. In practice it's metabolically easier to speak of the body as a 'me', and of my parts as 'mine' than to elaborate. We don't have to over-complicate things, when a person refers to the 'I' they're really just referring to themselves as an independent unit, without much concern over what the 'I' actually is.

    All of that said, I do agree that the illusion of a homunculus likely acts as a kind of comfort. I'm not sure people want to be aware of how their body work scientifically.

  5. Top | #55
    Contributor DBT's Avatar
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    A sense of selfhood and control has stability as long as the system is operating normally. It's when things go wrong with the system that selfhood and sense of control/agency begins to unravel...with all the anquish that brings.

  6. Top | #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post


    Huckleberry Finn, the fictional narrator of the book, 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'. Maybe your self is a lot like Huckleberry Finn.
    Gazzaniga's narrator function.

  7. Top | #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    I don't think "illusion" means "utterly without reality".
    Yes. It only means that something is not what it seems to be.

    That's why I said that in the second line of the OP.

    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    People look at Magritte's "The Treachery of Images" and if asked "What is that?" will say "It's a pipe". Which is why Magritte wrote "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" just under the pipe. To upset people's sense of certainty in their perceptions. You seem to be arguing that for the time they see a pipe, the perception's real. Yeah, the illusory perception is both real and useful. Once someone "gets it" that there's no pipe, that instead it's just blotches of paint, it's fine to go on seeing a pipe because the depiction of a pipe is meant to evoke that illusion. But preferably, go on seeing the pipe (or feeling like a unique self) with the added mindful awareness that the pipe or self does not have its own discrete reality.

    I think that's a pretty good analogy.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

  8. Top | #58
    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DBT View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post


    Huckleberry Finn, the fictional narrator of the book, 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'. Maybe your self is a lot like Huckleberry Finn.
    Gazzaniga's narrator function.
    And as far as I know, Huck Likes huntin' rabbits throughout the story.

    So Huck has a stable sense of self across time.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

  9. Top | #59
    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
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    In other words, it's not just or only the perceived location of the experiences (which is an illusion in itself) or about whether the experiences are stable or not (which we agree they can be but aren't always necessarily and perhaps often aren't as stable as is thought, that their stability may be somewhat overstated), it's arguably also about the belief that there's an 'I' (a Huck Finn character) having the experiences (stable or otherwise, in the head or elsewhere) in the first place.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

  10. Top | #60
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    It seems to me that the claim of location of self is misleading, since one can project a sense of awareness to different locations in the body, even to body parts that have been amputated. One can make a good case that anything, including physical objects are ultimately illusions. But they are still as real as anything else to the perceiver of the illusion.

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