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Thread: The Illusion of Self

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    Senior Member Tharmas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith&Co. View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    The question is - what is it about this experience that makes it an illusion?
    Ok. This time I'm going to type really, really slowly, just for you.

    People generally tend to think it's in the middle of their heads, just behind their eyes, but it isn't.
    So, is that making the SELF an illusion, or the sense of the LOCATION of self?

    I think our self could be processed in nerve cells in our toes, but if the bulk of our sensory data comes from our skull (vision, hearing, balance, motion, smell), that's where we experience it.
    I think you're making an error saying the 'self' is an illusion, if it's just a trait that does not show up on the proprioception (sp?) inventory.
    I think the point is the "self," the "I," is not to be found in the nerves or the synapses. It's created as a bi-product of brain processing. Looking for the self in the nervous system is like looking for the program in the CPU.

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    Elder Contributor Keith&Co.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tharmas View Post
    I think the point is the "self," the "I," is not to be found in the nerves or the synapses. It's created as a bi-product of brain processing. Looking for the self in the nervous system is like looking for the program in the CPU.
    But that's still just arguing over the location of the 'self,' not the existence.
    Like, if 20 computer users are asked where the Booleans are processed, and most of them point to the monitor, the keyboard, the mouse, or the power cord transformer, that doesn't make the processing illusory.

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    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith&Co. View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    The question is - what is it about this experience that makes it an illusion?
    Ok. This time I'm going to type really, really slowly, just for you.

    People generally tend to think it's in the middle of their heads, just behind their eyes, but it isn't.
    So, is that making the SELF an illusion, or the sense of the LOCATION of self?

    I think our self could be processed in nerve cells in our toes, but if the bulk of our sensory data comes from our skull (vision, hearing, balance, motion, smell), that's where we experience it.
    I think you're making an error saying the 'self' is an illusion, if it's just a trait that does not show up on the proprioception (sp?) inventory.
    Yes, the study in the OP is only about the location being an illusion. I think that overall there's a strong, comprehensive case for self being an illusion in many other ways, and there is a lot of material out there from psychology, philosophy and neuroscience to support that idea (some of it is presented in the video of the Thomas Metzinger talk that was posted here) and for related illusions of many sorts, about perception, consciousness and agency etc.

    The OP was just a brief attempt to demonstrate one apparently obvious way that our experience of self is illusory. To those who hadn't previously considered or accepted that there are in fact some significant issues with our intuitive, commonsense beliefs about self, it might (I thought) have been something of a little red flag.
    "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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    Contributor DBT's Avatar
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    Perhaps the illusion of self is that it is not exactly what it perceives or believes itself to be.

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    Veteran Member Treedbear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    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.
    ...
    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.
    ...
    I think you pretty much have it right. A brain builds imperfect models of its environment based on a necessarily limited range of sense perceptions to which it applies inductive and deductive reasoning. This environment includes the thoughts and sensations originating within the organism itself. A model of the self is needed as a point of reference in many situations, and is necessary for a state of conscious awareness to exist. Conscious awareness (i.e.; consciousness) occurs when the brain's self image interacts with the various other models it creates. I think all organisms that need to interact with and respond to an external environment must have some rudimentary structures organized around a self. But a centralized neural system is required in order to coordinate these responses efficiently, and a complex brain is required before pattern recognition is possible and models can be produced that make predictions. An organism needs some method by which it can locate itself within its environment in order to orient itself to best effect. It's rather basic then that we still have some sense of where the self resides.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DBT View Post
    Perhaps the illusion of self is that it is not exactly what it perceives or believes itself to be.
    Which is that it's a unitary self -- an entity which receives sensory perceptions and controls thought and makes choices. The illusion is there's a charioteer steering the body (the horses) around. This is the illusion, that there's an immaterial homunculus in the brain. I've even seen a picture somewhere that depicts this... a head with a smaller head inside of it.

    It's the "it-ness" that is the illusion, irt the question of the self's existence. It's localization is a problem because it's not an it.

  7. Top | #27
    Contributor DBT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by DBT View Post
    Perhaps the illusion of self is that it is not exactly what it perceives or believes itself to be.
    Which is that it's a unitary self -- an entity which receives sensory perceptions and controls thought and makes choices. The illusion is there's a charioteer steering the body (the horses) around. This is the illusion, that there's an immaterial homunculus in the brain. I've even seen a picture somewhere that depicts this... a head with a smaller head inside of it.

    It's the "it-ness" that is the illusion, irt the question of the self's existence. It's localization is a problem because it's not an it.
    Yes, that appears to be the illusion.

  8. Top | #28
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    I believe the search for I is like a dog chasing its tail. Never quite gets there but has a lot of fun trying.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Treedbear View Post
    A model of the self is needed as a point of reference in many situations, and is necessary for a state of conscious awareness to exist.
    I think you overstate your case in the second half of that sentence. Some meditators and psychedelics users report experiences of having no sense of self. Awareness is there but the feeling of being "me" isn't. They might not be able to orient well since their field of awareness has no center point. But still a self isn't necessarily the prerequisite to awareness. Seems to me it's the other way around.

  10. Top | #30
    Veteran Member Treedbear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by DBT View Post
    Perhaps the illusion of self is that it is not exactly what it perceives or believes itself to be.
    Which is that it's a unitary self -- an entity which receives sensory perceptions and controls thought and makes choices. The illusion is there's a charioteer steering the body (the horses) around. This is the illusion, that there's an immaterial homunculus in the brain. I've even seen a picture somewhere that depicts this... a head with a smaller head inside of it.

    It's the "it-ness" that is the illusion, irt the question of the self's existence. It's localization is a problem because it's not an it.
    But even if the self only exists as a concept or model it has to be something created by the brain and therefore is contained within the brain. It exists as a system of relationships. IOW I am not just my conscious thoughts but my unconscious thought processes, and perhaps even all those things that directly interact with my brain via the nervous as well as other systems. How can I separate them and why would I want to? I can choose to own them as part of my self or I can reduce the concept of self to some meaningless solitary form. I'd rather understand the world in terms of relationships.

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