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The Distinction of Morals: Constant Self, Constant Change

  • Oct 11, 2012 · 7:00 PM
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Building on certain ideas discussed at our meeting "Mind and Identity" (May 10), let's refine the contrast between the moral self, on the one side, that may be blamed or credited for its actions, and the bundled collection of subatomic particles and impressions, on the other side, that undergoes constant change and exchange.

What consequences come from accepting one or the other theory of the self, as they pertain to the moral traveler and the moral adventure (Sept. 6, Sept. 27)?

Which view of selfhood is conducive to bringing into reality the meaning of life (Oct. 4)?

Is it a matter of liberty or necessity that a theory of the self relates to (or correlates to) a theory of causality (July 26)? Is either determinism or indeterminism the causal explanation of human action? What about the current, popular alternative of compatibilism: that while everything is determined, I can still choose?

What has moral nihilism got to do with the self? What has absurdism got to do with a meaningful life?

If we finish early, which I doubt, we can resume elaborating on existential angst, alienation, loss of meaning, loss of self, the goal of losing oneself.

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  • Mark G.

    Someone said that ethics begins with the person's relationship with other people, not with the self. I think it begins with the self. If ethics are based on caring and love, then a system of values can help guide the individual to making correct decisions and actions about how to care for and love the self. Our relationships with others depends on how the self is doing? If we care for and respect ourselves, we will care for and respect others in a healthy way.

    October 12, 2012

    • Mark G.

      In addition, from the evidence and conclusion offered for Gerard’s experience, one can then infer that, while Eben may have experienced consciousness during his ordeal, the fact that he was conscious before and after his coma is sufficient to conclude that he has a constant self.

      Both accounts falsify the constancy of change thesis, by demonstrating that both individual’s conscious, first-person perspectives remain intact throughout the ordeals.

      October 19, 2012

    • Tom O.

      I agree with your main conclusion but not with how you got there. I would differ with your intermediate inference that Dr. Eben Alexander must have had some conscious experience while his cortex was inactive. That is blatantly the supernatural aspect of Alexander's reporting that must be dismissed, since he could not possibly know the timestamps of when precisely he was having his experience and when his cortex was inactive. 1st-person and 3rd-person data are orthogonally independent. I would also reject the intermediate conclusion about Gerard van der Leun's constant self as being somehow premised on the inference that his consciousness persists during the coma. This inference is invalid and irrelevant. Validly, the self persists constantly by virtue of the body being the same entity across the comatose period, which, when resuscitated, yields a no-gap consciousness.

      October 20, 2012

  • Tom O.

    Here is the 2005 video of German philosopher Thomas Metzinger, whom I introduced as our foil at the meeting. He discusses his book ~Being No One~, claiming there has never been a self in actual reality. All there is is only a phenomenal self, a constructed self. Citing the works from neuroscience as evidence, he argues that there is no subject. From this philosophy of mind, one implication to ethics is the morality of self-deconstruction; another implication is the validation of the Hegelian Geist or the Schopenhauerian Will or the Nietzschean Overman. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mthDxnFXs9k&t=6m54s

    October 12, 2012

  • Tom O.

    I enjoyed the discussion and was very intrigued by the controversy that flared up late in the evening. Namely, what is ethics really about as it pertains to the self? We also made tangible progress in not talking too much about air but more about fog.

    October 12, 2012

  • Camilia S.

    Great!

    October 12, 2012

  • Patricia

    Super cool...I'm feeling prospectively great :-)

    October 11, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    This would be a great topic to join with everyone to discuss. It is too bad I'll be missing it. However I have a feeling it will spill over into future meetings and I'll be able to join in then.

    October 10, 2012

  • Tom O.

    Someone sent me this and asked for comments: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q40PfsLxMzY&hd=1

    Except for the conclusion at 5:08, this video is not bad in describing an alleged attribute of the self: free will.

    October 10, 2012

  • Tom O.

    Well, that settles it: Heaven exists--according to a top brain surgeon. You can't dispute against a top scientist, and whatever said in the name of science goes. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9597345/Afterlife-exists-says-top-brain-surgeon.html

    October 10, 2012

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