Is there a you that is independent of your thoughts, emotions, and reactions? Or is the self just a symbol of ourselves?
We commonly feel that we are the thinker of our thoughts, the one who feels feelings. But is this self actually producing thoughts and feelings? Or are these feelings happening to nobody, just a movement without a center. The feeling of having a self could be just another feeling.
That’s not to say that this illusion is futile. Experiencing a self may have benefits for the way we think and act.
While out for a walk or not focused on anything in particular, we may notice our thinking moving in a certain way. Even though we are not preoccupied with something outside ourselves, there may be a certain inward preoccupation. It’s undeniable that a major focus of our thinking is in relation to ourselves. If we look at it, this thinking seems to be happening automatically without conscious intention, before there is awareness of it. Me simply seems to be a fact, it is the ground of our existence.
But have we ever stopped to actually look? Since this movement is so prevalent in our daily lives, we have to ask ourselves: is this movement not so much about us, but actually is us?
Could it be that there is no separate us apart from this movement of thinking? If there is not this movement of self-concern, is there a self at all? This seems to give a different meaning to the postulate from Rene Descartes “I think, therefore I am”. Habitual thinking about myself may create and reinforce the sense of me, not the other way around.
Here are 6 short videos which are a must-watch for anybody interested in this topic:
Thought and Consciousness
First of all what is thinking, what is thought, and what is consciousness? Are the two different? When you say, what is the relationship between thought and consciousness, it implies, does it not, that there are two different entities, or two different movements. We are trying to find out, the questioner tries to find out, what is the relationship between thought and consciousness.
So first of all we have to consider together what is thought, what is this whole question of thinking upon which all our conduct, our activity, political, religious, economic, social and all other factors of life, are based on thought. Thought is part of emotions, sentiment, reactions, the recognition of those reactions and so on. And what is consciousness? When we use the word ‘consciousness’, to be conscious of something, to be aware of, to be able to recognise, to understand, to have a whole field in which the mind is operating. That is more or less what we mean by consciousness. And the questioner says: what is the relationship between the two?
I’m A Strange Loop
Consider this: you’re the most real thing in your life. You’re at the center of every experience you’ve ever had. Every sight, smell, taste, feeling, and memory have been mediated by your senses. And yet, when we start to investigate what exactly is going on in the mind when we say “I”, something trippy happens. The concrete conviction of who you are, who “I” is, starts to crumble. Not only that, but the very reality of “I” comes into question. Follow this thread far enough, and you run smack into a paradox.
This is known as the paradox of self, and its conclusion is equal parts fascinating and unsettling. It argues that although we know intuitively that there is an “I,” we can’t empirically prove it without referring back to ourselves. Your self, your “I,” whatever you want to call it – confirms and reinforces its own realness. But if the reality of the self is founded upon a recursive logic, you have to wonder: How reasonable is it to believe in a self? How real are you?
Is There a Real You?
We have a common-sense idea that there is a core or essence of ourselves to be discovered. And that this is kind of a permanent truth about ourselves, something that’s the same throughout life. Well, that’s the idea I want to challenge.
It’s the shift between thinking of yourself as a thing which has all the experiences of life, and thinking of yourself as simply that collection of all experiences in life. You are the sum of your parts.
How is Personal Identity Maintained?
The illusion of continuity is only created when you look for it, when you ask yourself: can I remember what I did this morning? or, can I remember when I was a kid? Because this brain can pull up memories, you make this story of “I have lived this life”, and you call that “me”.
The Self Is an Illusion
The sense of being an ego, an “I”, a thinker of thoughts in addition to the thoughts. An experiencer in addition to the experience. The sense that we all have of riding around inside our heads as a kind of a passenger in the vehicle of the body… Now that sense of being a subject, a locus of consciousness inside the head is an illusion. It makes no neuro-anatomical sense. There’s no place in the brain for your ego to be hiding.
The Ego Tunnel
It has now become clear that we will never solve the philosophical puzzle of consciousness if we don’t come to terms with this simple proposition: that to the best of our current knowledge there is no-thing, no indivisible entity, that is us, neither in the brain nor in some metaphysical realm beyond this world. So when we speak of conscious experience as a subjective phenomenon, what is the entity having these experiences?
DON’T MISS OUT
Get updates on new articles, videos, and online events