align-toparrow-leftarrow-rightbackbellblockcalendarcamerachatcheckchevron-downchevron-leftchevron-rightchevron-small-downchevron-small-leftchevron-small-rightchevron-small-upchevron-upcircle-with-crosscrosseditfacebookglobegoogleimagesinstagramlocation-pinmagnifying-glassmailmoremuplabelShape 3 + Rectangle 1outlookpersonplusImported LayersImported LayersImported Layersshieldstartwitteryahoo

What is the "self"?

  • May 19, 2013 · 6:30 PM
  • This location is shown only to members

"Self" has been defined as "a person's essential being that distinguishes them from others." But what does that mean? What is a person's essential being? Is a person just a human body/brain? Or does a person have a soul? What does it mean to be a "person"? How does one distinguish himself from another? These and other questions regarding the "self" will be answered from a variety of perspectives.

All perspectives, including those considered those more "theistic" or more "atheistic" will be entertained, so don't come if you don't want your perspective to be challenged. This is an opportunity to exchange ideas in a respectful way with others with different opinions on some of life's most basic and important questions. We learn from each other.

If you would like the opportunity to present a mini-paper on the subject, let me know, and I will try to work you into the schedule.

Original post: I think there might be quite a bit of things to say about this. There are simple questions people for all time have always been asking or what could be said with the idea of just being a human body or us having a soul. And the reasons for each viewpoint of course. Maybe there's something to learn about this.

Join or login to comment.

  • matthew

    I found an excerpt from one of my favorite books, Thich Nhat Hanh's "The Heart of Understanding":
    http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/books/excerpts.php?id=21671

    Some people had problems with Shriram's non-dual exegesis of Genesis, but I think that Nhat Hanh highlights the non-duality in a way which those familiar with Augustine and Aquinas would appreciate. Knowledge of Good and Evil is a conceptual frame - it is not reality itself. Strictly speaking (according to orthodox dogma), God created all things good - existence is good, existence *is*. Evil is the privation of good, not a "thing" in itself. And I think it's significant that the event where humanity decided they needed a to gain dualistic frame ("knowledge of good and evil") is called "The Fall" and represents a division between humanity and God, as well as humanity and the rest of the created world.

    Just a nod to Shriram and a opportunity to share a favorite book.

    May 24, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    What Makes Us Who We Are?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MG5Tk0-1CcM


    Philosophers in the past only could guess to what and how the brain worked. Much like aborigine’s looking at a car engine and trying to describe how it works. Without the working knowledge they are left to make up answers. Science is now moving into the dark box sitting on our shoulders and gaining knowledge of how it works. Philosophy has its limits on how logic can provide answers to questions once science begins to find answers to questions. Philosophy may have to move to what do we do with the answers science gives us.

    May 22, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sounds like a great discussion. Did anyone differentiate between self and consciousness?

    May 19, 2013

    • John W.

      I myself struggled to differentiate between the two concepts. On one hand we spoke of the self as synonymous, or at least relating to, identity. Then at other times we discussed concepts such as free will vs. determinism, which I think is more relevant to consciousness.

      May 20, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Honestly, I don’t know. Nevertheless, recently, I have come to think that self is an illusion and the pinnacle of authentic essence is pure consciousness. Admittedly, my glimpses of pure consciousness have been a bit spooky. It may be that I need training in meditation. Life was so much simpler when everything was either good or bad.

      May 20, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    What makes a psychopath and the self.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vx8RxRn6dWU

    I forgot to add this to my list.

    May 20, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Some members asked about the story of people being dead for 6 hours, but coming back to life. These were some of the background work I did for the meeting. http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/04/consciousness-after-death/all/&rdquo

    Short video on children becoming self-aware
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTP01Wbsh0E

    A longer video from the BBC on self. I found this one very interesting, it shows how little we know about the self.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=We8tXGRoYWU

    May 20, 2013

  • Mark B.

    Here is Sam Harris interviewing Bruce Hood on the illusion of self: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-self-illusion/201205/what-is-the-self-illusion. He also says that free will is an illusion. How could one have "free will" without a "self"?

    May 19, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    "At some point in the development of certain complex organisms, however, consciousness emerges. This miracle does not depend on a change of materials—for you and I are built of the same atoms as a fern or a ham sandwich. Rather, it must be a matter of organization. Arranging atoms in a certain way appears to bring consciousness into being. And this fact is among the deepest mysteries given to us to contemplate." Sam Harris

    May 19, 2013

  • Mark B.

    Another study: Here's an article that refers to the "self" and what they call "after-life experiences": http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/04/consciousness-after-death/all/&rdquo (Thanks, David!)

    Here's an excerpt: "It could be that, like electromagnetism, the human psyche and consciousness are a very subtle type of force that interacts with the brain, but are not necessarily produced by the brain. The jury is still out."

    May 18, 2013

    • matthew

      But it seems to me that reducing consciousness to a subtle energy akin to electromagnetism is no better than reducing it to the brain - it's a form of materialism.

      2 · May 19, 2013

  • Shriram K.

    Hi Mark, I have prepared a short presentation on this topic. I hope we can show it on your TV like last time. I am uploading it in the files section on this website, it has only 4 slides. Looking forward to see you guys tomorrow.

    May 18, 2013

    • Mark B.

      Yes, we can do that. Sounds good!

      May 18, 2013

  • Mark B.

    Saw a clip of a doctor claiming that humans have consciousness after death, based on the evidence from near death experiences of over 1000 people.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRuKuGBd0Bo What implications would this reality have for the doctrine of self?

    May 17, 2013

    • Sue

      I sent you a summary of the books I read on this last year. This is a consistent experience that people have and should be considered in the concept of "self." Problem with saying anything happens "after death" is that all these people lived to tell about it.

      May 17, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      Mark, better video on your point, I think https://www.youtube.co...­

      May 17, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Mark,
    Very interesting but not very scientific or controlled test. I’ve known people who have seen this experience and it does change what they believe before and after. I know that people of different faiths see and have different experiences, I think it happens about 10% of the time. So I don’t think 10% of any experience proves anything. He is not a neuroscientist; he quotes no other studies that were done to back up his finding. I am not saying that what he is saying is not true, but if someone is going to state something as fact, they should provide details and test that were done and what controls were in place, so others can verify his findings. I am still waiting on bigfoot to show up, since so many people have seen it.

    May 17, 2013

  • Sue

    For those who have the time, Week 8 Lecture 2 (~1/2 hour) is very relevant to this topic. You will have to enroll to see it, but you don't actually have to take the course.
    https://www.coursera.org/course/knowthyself

    April 25, 2013

    • Mark B.

      I hope to see this before the meeting, Sue. I will plan on that.

      May 17, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Short video on when a child is aware of self test.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTP01Wbsh0E
    The great apes also past this test.
    Not sure about people of Kentucky.

    April 11, 2013

    • Mark B.

      This is a helpful clip, David. Thanks!

      May 17, 2013

  • Steve S.

    Unfortunately this job search is interfering with my life as having a job. Doesn't look like I'll be back in time so opening the slot for those waiting

    May 16, 2013

    • Mark B.

      Sorry you can't come, Steve!

      May 17, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I signed up for May 21. I think I am on the waiting list for that day.

    April 30, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=We8tXGRoYWU
    BBC video on self

    This is a story of a man who tries to discover what the self is. By going through a number of tests and talking to current brain doctors doing research, he learns where science is in the understanding and how far they have to go to understand, the self.

    This is very interesting starting from when children become self-aware to how our brains perceive are bodies in space.

    One of the things I found most interesting in the story, is that using an fMRI machine they could read the answers a person would give 6 seconds before the subject knew what answer they were going to give. That begs the question, where did the answer to the question come from, the unconscious brain and who is that “self” in the unconscious that gave the answer?

    1 · April 30, 2013

  • Jay

    Gilbert Ryle’s concepts might be a nice introduction to those who have not been previously exposed to The Concept of Mind. Or perhaps some aspects of A J Ayer's Language, Truth and Logic? I would hope someone would perhaps be presenting these interesting positions as established in these classics at the meeting of this club on May 19th. Just a thought. Mind, self, soul. All seem to be wound together in some yet seemingly inexplicable manner.

    April 27, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I hope there might be a few minutes for me to say something too on my own topic.

    April 27, 2013

    • Mark B.

      Yes, come prepared.

      April 27, 2013

  • Susan S.

    If there is a spot open, I would like to attempt to present on "What is the 'self".

    April 26, 2013

    • Mark B.

      Ok. Yes, there is room for a short presentation. Bring a handout. Thanks!

      April 26, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    If there is enough people maybe we can split this into two groups of 12 or something. And as always, props to Mark for hosting.

    April 24, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    To Sue: it looks like Pateresa Jacyszyn isn't able to make it so there is another spot.

    April 13, 2013

  • Sue

    I missed when this turned into a real meetup! Looks like it's overbooked, but I'm interested if any spots open up!

    April 10, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Unfortunately, I have to work Sunday, May 19. Looking forward to hearing the discussion. Miss the group.

    April 9, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Looking forward to attending depending on the date.

    April 7, 2013

  • Susan S.

    I would like to attend depending on the date.

    April 7, 2013

12 went

Sign up

Meetup members, Log in

By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy