X-Message-Number: 14293
From: "Scott Badger" <>
References: <>
Subject: Re: #14290: To be, that is the question.
Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2000 07:34:18 -0500

david pizer wrote:

> My point is that the "awareness" that is feeling the memories may be what
> is central to being a person; Or, *Who* is doing the feeling is critical
> not *what* each separate person is feeling.  Awareness seems more like
> "who."   Memories seem more like "what."
> If Thomas and David are feeling different memories in two different brains
> (two different areas of awareness in space), we would agree they are two
> different persons.
> If Thomas and David are feeling the same memories in two different brains,
> we would still agree they are two different persons.  (In fact there
> probably are times when two different people are thinking the same thing.)
> Therefore, it seems to me, what constitutes the difference in these two
> persons is where they feel the memories (each separate brain with each
> separate awareness), not the memories themselves.

I think that two people who sit next to each other at the same concert will
not have the same memory.  We are more than the data and we are more than
the processing.  What we process and the manner in which we process it are
both important in my view.

Here's one of many descriptions of the self:

"The large volume of empirical research on the self has convinced most
social and behavioral scientists that the self is real, and that no science
of the human experience is complete without accounting for it. Here, at a
general level, are some things we know about the self:

1. The self is reflexive--it can become the object of its own attention
(from various perspectives)--and this reflexiveness underlies many of the
activities of the self.

2. Most of our understanding of the world (e.g., other people, things we
read or see) is filtered through our understanding of self.

3. Although, from late adolescence onward, the self is stable over time, in
particular situations different aspects of the self move to the fore,
creating the appearance of fluidity.

4. Due to a variety of personal and interpersonal motives, the self on
public display often does not match the self of which we are privately

Although these general, widely accepted properties of the self are
important, and the principles and predictions that follow from them are
many, there are some fundamental things we do not know about the human self:

1. We do not know where the self resides. Although the self is clearly a
product of activity occurring in the nervous system, no one has yet
identified areas of the brain that are associated with the capacity for
self-relevant thought and emotion.

2. We do not know to what extent the self, at least the core of it, is in
place at birth. The alternative, which, in its extreme form, is unsettling
to many, is that the self is totally "written by" experience.

3. We don't know how profound is the effect of culture on the self. Is it
possible that, in cultures that value the collective (e.g., family,
religious group) over the individual, there is no clearly delineated self?

In the way of summarizing what we know, here is a description of the human

The human self is a self-organizing, interactive system of thoughts,
feelings, and motives that characterizes an individual. It gives rise to an
enduring experience of physical and psychological existence--a
phenomenological sense of constancy and predictability. The self is
reflexive and dynamic in nature: responsive yet stable. "

[Scott:] I would add that we must keep in mind other factors about the
"self" that we wish to preserve.

1.  Is there really such a thing as an unconscious self and how important is
it's preservation relative to the conscious self?  More?  Less?  Would
removing the influences of the subconscious mind be liberating or
debilitating? What if it became possible to make the unconcious ...

2.  The self clearly engages in self-deception.  Some of these deceptions
are positive illusions, others are negative but they are an important part
of how we perceive ourselves.  Point being, do you want to preserve your

A bibliographic web site covering various aspects of the self can be found


in addition there is a society and a journal for self and identity for those
interested at:


I agree with Dave that it would be helpful to have a better understanding of
what it is that we want to preserve, but after reviewing some of the
material at the web sites above, it becomes clear that questions surrounding
the nature of the self are quite complex and far from being resolved.

Best regards,

Scott Badger

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