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Do I Exist? What is this "I" that is held with such religious faith?

In a recent discussion, a member maintained that he has "free will" and is "responsible" for his actions.  Other members disagree.

 

Neuroscientists now tell us that our brains have many discrete circuits doing many different things.   One of these circuits creates the illusion that we are in control of them all.  But who among us controls his own liver function?  Still, the "I" illusion is apparently very powerful.

 

Like jerking your hand away from a hot stove before feeling it, all your decisions are made for you on a subconscious level.  Then the "I" illusion circuit steps in to tell you that"you" made them.

In like manner, the world looks flat and stationary. But most people now accept the odd idea that the earth is in fact ball-like and moving. Can we come to accept such a counter-intuitive reality?

If we can, does that create another existential crisis?

Not only is there no meaning to my life, “my” has no meaning.

 

This is getting pretty harsh and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Goran

    What IS the significance of telling me that "I" is an illusion? You might as well tell me that kuku is the blahblah. With all due respect towards those making these noises, I prefer to use the language of meaning... :)

    June 24, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great conversations, but limited by the fact that the we couldn't hear all of the speakers.

    June 23, 2013

  • Joan

    "I" "decided" that "my" day would be much better if "I" got more sleep, so "I" can't make it. "I" had "hoped" to share with "you" "my" answer to this problem. But "I" "know" that "you" are not really "disappointed"/"relieved"/whatever, since "you" do not exist. And "you" will not hold "me" responsible for this "decision".

    1 · June 23, 2013

  • Christopher G.

    “That said, the self illusion is probably an inescapable experience we need for interacting with others and the world, and indeed we cannot readily abandon or ignore its influence, but we should be skeptical that each of us is the coherent, integrated entity we assume we are.”

    Richard, thanks for the Harris article, I didn’t know it was in the files. If you knew me at all you would know that the last thing I assume myself to be is a “coherent, integrated entity.” My life is total chaos. Harris says this illusion is “probably an inescapable experience we need for interacting with others and the world.” That seems right to me, that is was something we needed for survival in an evolutionary sense. But by admitting this he also seems to be admitting that the whole discussion is pointless.

    June 22, 2013

  • Bernie D.

    RE: "What if there is no "I" at all, only choices being made?"

    Who is the one making choices? That's the "I." Could be a person, or the google car. "I" is a label to identify the thing making choices. How does the "I" emerge from biochemical processes? That's the traditional "mind-body" problem. It is the forefront of science research. When answers come, it is delivered by scientists, from experiment and simulation.

    June 22, 2013

  • Richard M.

    The see that the illusion of "I making choices" is strong indeed. What if there is no "I" at all, only choices being made? Earlier tomorrow the Quakers will be discussing this from there VERY MYSTIC perspective. They really believe that their feelings tell them something factual about the real world, I do not. Wouldn't it be ironic if the MYSTIC Quakers and the RATIONAL philosophers agree? What if neither could abandon their need for the I?

    June 22, 2013

  • Martha W.

    unless I sleep late. . .

    June 22, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Has anybody read:

    Arts & Culture: Peter Richardson Reviews Curtis White's "The Science Delusion"
    "The Science Delusion" -- Are the humanities—literature, history, art, religion and philosophy—useless? Some scientists would have you think so. Wish I had a chance to find and read it before tomorrow....
    Review at
    http://www.truthdig.com/arts_culture/item/the_science_delusion_20130620/
    And review has a link to excerpts from the book.

    June 22, 2013

  • Christopher G.

    ...we make choices about all areas of our life. We can even choose our values, which determines our morals, etc.

    Bernie, what you say is true, theoretically we should be able to change. But do you see any sign or even hint that the American robot wishes to choose new values, and get off the rutted path on which she is stuck? The soulless chase for “more” leaves her empty, even frequent updating of her new enemies software doesn’t seem to help fill this void. God, Allah, and the FSM all look on her with pity, as she spins her wheels.

    June 21, 2013

  • Bernie D.

    RE: "Does this compute?"

    Christopher- I agree we are like robots, as "there is no ghost in the machine." But robots can also make choices. Consider the Google car, that makes choices all the time on which path to take, alternate routes, etc. In a similar way, we make choices about all areas of our life. We can even choose our values, which determines our morals, etc.

    June 21, 2013

  • Christopher G.

    Not only is there no meaning to my life, “my” has no meaning.

    Correct. I am a robot of my culture (tribe). In my case (American) this means I have been programmed from birth to try to make as much money as possible, and to hate and want to kill my culture’s enemies (Arabs/Muslims today, Commies before 1989, Native Americans before 1900). If I do those things really well, I win the praise of my culture, and my fellow robots will love me. Does this compute?

    June 20, 2013

  • Bernie D.

    RE: "GOD TELLS US WHAT LIFE'S ABOUT!, (give money to the Vatican.)"

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster (bless his noodly appendage) would not agree!

    June 20, 2013

  • Richard M.

    Thanks Ryan, I agree. I used "meaning" in the traditional view, GOD TELLS US WHAT LIFE'S ABOUT!, (give money to the Vatican.) Without that, we find the FEELING OF MEANING inside of ourselves. Outside of ourselves, it does not exist.

    June 20, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    What happened to the "maybe" option? I am going to try, but can't promise. Save a seat for me....

    June 13, 2013

  • Richard M.

    Hi Bernie, great, thanks. Goran is a Western Philosophy defender of "free will" and responsibility, apparently. Others say no. Let's find out. R.

    June 11, 2013

  • Bernie D.

    Hi Richard - what do you think of this (from Sam Harris' blog) as a pre-reading assignment for a common starting point of discussion?

    "The Illusion of the Self: An Interview with Bruce Hood"
    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-illusion-of-the-self2

    June 11, 2013

  • Bernie D.

    Do I exist? Only my favorite topic lately... though not really having anything to do with ethics for me. It is more about neurology and ontology.

    June 11, 2013

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