A Proof of the Self

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Prince_James, Sep 19, 2006.

  1. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member

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    Let us consider whether or Johnathan is correct in the below.

    Johnathan says: There is no self.

    If correct then there is no self, and thus Johnathan could not have spoke the thing to begin with. If incorrect, then the self exists.

    Let us then consider the opposite statement:

    Johnathan says: There is self.

    If correct, the self exists. If it does not true, then its opposite is true, but it's opposite has been shown to be self-invalidating.

    With all the above taken into consideration, it is manifestly obvious that there exists a self.
     
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  3. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

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    Hmmmm.....an idea has come to mind that might add a little dimension to this topic PJ....[ the readership sigh with certain dismay, not another one of those ideas QQ!!!]

    ok...let's see....

    We have 5 robots stationary in a room. All are identicle in appearance.
    At a given moment 4 of the robots agree to a colour that the fifth robot should be and so the fifth robot takes on that colour. Say in this example the colour is Red.
    Now, another four of the robots including the red one determine that one of the blank robots should be given another colour and they choose to give it the colour yellow. As this process continues all of the five robots ends up with a colour determined by the other 4. At no time did a robot choose his own colour.

    Ok....with me so far?

    So the yellow robot says I am yellow and he is correct in saying so but is he really yellow or just the colour someone else chose for him?

    Can his "I" be called yellow? Does his "I" actually exist or is it only what he has been made into?

    Is the self his or a reflection of everything else?

    Can the self exist only as a reflection and not as an individual identity?

    So our friend Johnathan has the name Johnathan given to him by his parents. He has a social security number given to him by the government, he has the skin colour inherited from his family. He speaks a language that he has been given by someone else. He has the attitudes and personality that his environment permits.
    So tell me, where is the self so often talked about? Is it with him or is it every where else?

    Just thought I'd throw in some ideas to reflect upon....ha

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  5. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

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    Could it be said that the self is not a pronoun but more a verb. In other words the self is an ability to "will" and not what is willed.......but only the ability to will...... an ability we are born with but has no identity persee....
     
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  7. water the sea Registered Senior Member

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    So?
    What are the implications of the existence of self, and what are the self's characteristics?
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2006
  8. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

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    an acceptance of the principle of reverse causality,

    Now, that I like....."reverse causality"...hmmmm....I like it!!
     
  9. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

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    P_J,

    It looks like you've got an argument there, but I'm afraid there's a flaw in one of your premisses.

    This is invalid.

    Not 'having' a self does not entail the denial of Jonathan's existence. The problem here is that you're equating the act of speaking with the 'possession' of self; formally speaking, your fallacy here is petitio principii: assuming the very thing you're trying to prove.

    Is 'self' a property?
    Or is it identical to the agent?

    Alas, we need even a beginning definition to move forward...
     
  10. Funky Granny Registered Member

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    The argument was:

    "Jonathan says: There is no self.

    If correct then there is no self, and thus Jonathan could not have spoke the thing to begin with. If incorrect, then the self exists."

    ANALYSIS

    So the argument is that if *Jonathan* says that there is no self then Jonathan must exist. And Jonathan is a self.

    What difference is it making to the argument what he says? The point is just that Jonathan is a self. If someone denies that there are selves then they must not admit the existence of Jonathan (by saying things such as "I met Jonathan at the park today"), or anyone else (UNLESS they provide some kind of paraphrase). Is there be any reason to hold this position? I will use a Kantian principle to argue: No. Let q be the proposition that there are no persons.

    (1) We can not hold q (since we unavoidably refer to other persons in everyday discourse).
    (2) If there were a reason to hold q then we ought to hold q.
    (3) Ought implies Can (Kant).
    (4) If we ought to hold q then we can hold q (3).
    (C) There is no reason to hold q (1, 2, 4).

    My own view is that "some kind of paraphrase" is indeed possible, but that is a long story.
     
  11. cole grey Hi Valued Senior Member

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    Perhaps "johnathan" is a human being who is developmentally disabled to the degree that he cannot conceive of a self, i.e. he does not perceive his interaction with the world as separate from it. Technically, he would be correct in saying he is not a "self", since that requires reference by the person who the term describes. Yet he can very well exist, and speak the phrase.
    So the existence of an entity does not insist upon the existence of a self.
    And if "johnathan" is taught to groom his person, or whatever we might refer to as doing something to "himself" we would be incorrect in some way, since we don't really have the right to call another being a "self", only an "other".
     
  12. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

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    The fact that something is said is not proof that a distinct entity said it. You assume there are selves, and that they say things. Actually, selfness is an illusion, and the words emerge from general existence which in certain localities happens to contain mouths.
     
  13. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member

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    Quantum_Quack:

    "So our friend Johnathan has the name Johnathan given to him by his parents. He has a social security number given to him by the government, he has the skin colour inherited from his family. He speaks a language that he has been given by someone else. He has the attitudes and personality that his environment permits.
    So tell me, where is the self so often talked about? Is it with him or is it every where else?"

    CAnnot he choose to go by Robert? To petition the government for a change of number? To learn a new language? To tan or lighten his skin? To look at his enviroment critically and evaluate whether he wishes to persist in his personality?

    Although truly all of these things are not what the "self" is. They are more related to "identity".

    More pertinent to the discussion of self would be Yellow being able to participate in the declaration of Red as Red. For here a self is needed. A conscious thinker capable of assenting to the notion that Red must be Red, or perhaps even innovating it himself.

    "Could it be said that the self is not a pronoun but more a verb. In other words the self is an ability to "will" and not what is willed.......but only the ability to will...... an ability we are born with but has no identity persee.... "

    I would say being able to will something is one of the aspects of the self, but I do not think it is proper to conceive of the self as solely this capacity. Will requiers an object and this object must be determined. Who determines? The self.

    water:

    "So?
    What are the implications of the existence of self, and what are the self's characteristics? "

    Though you are one of the reasons why I regard Descartes less esteem than I used to, I would argue that if the self is truly vindicated as such, then it stands to reason that this is the starting point from whence certainty can be taken. If we can prove the necessity of a self, we can, mayhaps, prove other necessary things. But more important than that, we can at least be certain that we exist.

    perplexity:

    "To the contrary, the notoriously axiomatic notion of an observing self turns out upon examination to be precisely that,
    an acceptance of the principle of reverse causality,
    there being nothing to prove the existence of a conscious self except in terms of it being caused by what it does."

    Caused by what it does? As in "a self is proved by the fact that it thinks and thinking requires a self"?

    glaucon:

    "Not 'having' a self does not entail the denial of Jonathan's existence. The problem here is that you're equating the act of speaking with the 'possession' of self; formally speaking, your fallacy here is petitio principii: assuming the very thing you're trying to prove."

    A good point, but one which I think is lacking on these grounds:

    All things are effects.
    All effects must have causes.
    Thoughts (and the words they may provoke) require a cause (source), being a "thing" as above.
    To Johnathan, the idea of "Johnathan" and "self" are one in the same - it is his "I".
    Johnathan is speaking.
    Johnathan's words (and the thoughts which precede them) require a source.
    The source is Johnathan.
    Denial of Johnathan's existence would imply he is not talking.
    Thus Johnathan is wrong - there exists Johnathan. And Johnathan and self, as noted, must surely be one in the same (from his perspective).
    Therefore, to say "there is no self" implies not speaking at all.

    "Is 'self' a property?
    Or is it identical to the agent?"

    Selfhood and the agent must be one in the same.

    And as for definitions: The self must be defined chiefly as the originator of thoughts, perceiver of the senses, and initiator of willed actions. I think that is a solid definition fo what self implies.

    Funky Granny:

    A rather excellent Kantian add onto my argument. Thanks for its usage.

    cole grey:

    "Perhaps "johnathan" is a human being who is developmentally disabled to the degree that he cannot conceive of a self, i.e. he does not perceive his interaction with the world as separate from it. Technically, he would be correct in saying he is not a "self", since that requires reference by the person who the term describes. Yet he can very well exist, and speak the phrase."


    There was a presumption of mental health on the part of Johnathan, but assuming this consideration is to be abandoned for the sake of discussion: Would not "the world" simply substitute for self here? In essence wouldn't we get a sort of pseudo-pantheistic "extended" concept of self?

    spidergoat:

    "and the words emerge from general existence which in certain localities happens to contain mouths. "

    Do not we get this same sort of pseudo-pantheistic conception of a self here? That is, even in denying it, you are postulating that words have an origin in "another self" which is "general existence".
     
  14. wesmorris Nerd Overlord - we(s):1 of N Valued Senior Member

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    Does the identity "jonathan" distinguish jonathon from its environment?

    Does it necessarily do so from jonathon's perspective?

    Could Jonathon hold a diametric perspective, in that Jonathon recognizes itself as both disctinct from and integrated with its environment?

    Could Jonathon, holding this view - appear contradictory yet still have a valid perspective?

    Its statement "there is no self" could be stated in the context of "I am an integral part of my environment" and be a true statement, while simultaneously untrue from someone in their own mental context of "you are distinguishing yourself from the evironment".

    To me, this is basically a lesson of the dead and not dead cat.

    "what the dead or not dead cat taught me", by wesmorris.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2006
  15. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

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    PJ,
    I suppose I have a rather unique perspective on this subject achieved due to the brain injury of stroke some years ago.
    I do recall waking up after suffering it and not having any identity at all. No memory of who I was and very limited recall of what my surroundings meant or could be called.
    I realised that I was but a mere pointer who pointed his attention to various things, from fingers to toes to a full bladder to what ever. I just pointed. Laterr I learned to point and move and so on.

    I found out that this is associated with propriorception and how the imagination is used to point the mind and focus. I had no name or any information that was not completely jumbled up.

    Slowly however my ability to point at memories became stronger and with the help of family and friends not to mention therapy I was able to point to memories in a way that made sense. Again it seemed that I was just merely pointing my will and deriving a sense of existance that way.

    Eventually this pointer [ me ] re-achieved his sense of identity and found pointing to the memories of my name and date of birth and the like became very easy. And well here I am many years later typing this post with a strong sense of Identity etc.

    The point [excuse the pun] is that I found identity firmly rooted in our ability to point to the appropriate memories and identify oursleves in those memories using other memories.

    I tend to feel that this is demonstrated also with severe Altzeimers sufferes as they seem to loose the ability to focus their minds and point to the memories that maintain a sense of self or identity at least.

    As the ability to point becomes less and less the patient eventually is rendered a non-identity and some could argue also non-self.

    I have found that the ability to point your mind to various parts of your body and reality [ including memories] is the essential part of will and further the essential part of free-will, as this is one aspect of your will that normally only you can control.

    So this is why I have made it a point of emphasis, in that the mere act of being able to will [ point ] and then will the effort to do or move or congitate, and even think can not exist with out it.
     
  16. lightgigantic Banned Banned

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    Here is an excerpt from an introduction to a response to the Q "Who are you?"

    SB 11.13.22: My dear brāhmaṇas, if, when asking Me who I am, you believe that I am also a jīva soul and that there is no ultimate difference between us — since all souls are ultimately one without individuality — then how is your question possible or appropriate? Ultimately, what is the real situation or resting place both of yourselves and of Me?

    SB 11.13.23: If by asking Me "Who are You?" you were referring to the material body, then I must point out that all material bodies are constituted of five elements, namely earth, water, fire, air and ether. Thus, you should have asked, "Who are you five?" If you consider that all material bodies are ultimately one, being constituted essentially of the same elements, then your question is still meaningless, since there would be no deep purpose in distinguishing one body from another. Thus, it appears that in asking My identity, you are merely speaking words, without any real meaning or purpose
    .
     
  17. original sine Registered Senior Member

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    What an odd argument. If you can't understand that you exist, you really shouldn't exist.

    I exist. You exist.

    If you don't exist, how are you reading this, you creepy bastard?!

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    Though I understand that you're probably arguing from a logical standpoint. But it necessarily follows that if I am, I exist, wouldn't you say?
     
  18. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member

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    Original:

    "Though I understand that you're probably arguing from a logical standpoint. But it necessarily follows that if I am, I exist, wouldn't you say? "

    Yes. I would. That is what I am trying to put forward, really.

    Lightgigantic:

    Question in regards to your quotes. Are they implying a truthfulness to the "all is one" side? Or showing that if you wish for identity, one must abandon such an idea?

    Quantum_Quack:

    "I have found that the ability to point your mind to various parts of your body and reality [ including memories] is the essential part of will and further the essential part of free-will, as this is one aspect of your will that normally only you can control.

    So this is why I have made it a point of emphasis, in that the mere act of being able to will [ point ] and then will the effort to do or move or congitate, and even think can not exist with out it. "

    I would agree that there is a certain primacy to this ability of "pointing with the mind's eye", as it were. This also obviously coexists with a viewpoint.

    Also, curious: What areas of the brain were impacted by the stroke itself? I don't think I ever asked you this. Did the doctors ever tell you? And if so, mind sharing? If not here than perhaps in PM?

    wesmorris:

    "Its statement "there is no self" could be stated in the context of "I am an integral part of my environment" and be a true statement, while simultaneously untrue from someone in their own mental context of "you are distinguishing yourself from the evironment"."

    The idea is that it is not even construed as "being part of the enviroment", but litterally having no self to speak of, founded in the enviroment or not. If one is saying "one is a part of the enviroment" one is shifting identity to "enviroment" and sort of developing a pseudo-pantheistic conception of an extended self.
     
  19. lightgigantic Banned Banned

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    PJ

    the later
     
  20. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

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    As mentioned earlier a study into the deterioration of self with sufferers of Alzheimers disease could shed some light on this issue of proof of self.
    But then again maybe we don't want to go there......hmmmm
     
  21. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member

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    Quantum_Quack:

    Maybe you could elaborate more on how you think Alzheimer's would do this? By reducing someone to a warped conception of time and place so that memories become more like "something happened just a few minutes ago"?

    Lightgigantic:

    Thanks for the clarification.
     
  22. Ogmios Must. learn. to. punctuate! Registered Senior Member

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    Answer: Redefine everything!

    Jonathan is a buddhist, and he believes there is no self, only the all-encompassing that takes a diffrent form, dependant on where and on what it appears. There is no self, but all premises are met.

    Besides, I think that is foolish polarism, is/isn't or true/false. As the definition of the words can slide, a sentence can be true and false in thousands of ways, and still fill the criteria of a statement.

    But if we don't just break the rules...

    Tut. Some type of self. Or rather, some type on entity. Not necessarily even an entity, some type of construct would suffice.

    Also, what if Jonathan did not, in fact, say anything? What says that saying assumes self?

    I liked "cognito ergo sum" better..
     
  23. freddles Registered Member

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