Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Inestimable Self

The individual 'self' is an emergent property of the neurological activity of the brain, a make-sense-of-the-world neurotool similar to that used to construct a sense of future and past. Patricia Churchland, from the University of California, insists that this does not imply that "my self" is not real (it is as real as the brain that generates it, and the world that forms brains). Quite naturally she uses the word 'my' when referring to this self. Episteme correctly does not admit to possessive pronouns being more than convenient labels - 'I' and 'my' do not refer to anything other than the compass of a simulation. A simulation of the future is real, in the sense that it can be perceived, but there is no 'director' of the simulation other than the world itself. Likewise a simulated self can be perceived, and is real, in that sense, but not in the sense of being an entity distinct from the world. The mistake is to believe that there is more than one director (more than one world). If there is a self, it is the world. When it is said that the individual self is an 'illusion' it is not necessarily a denial of the fact that simulated selves exist but a denial of the existence of a 'director' of these simulations other than the world. Churchland argues that 'we' are not 'cheapened' by the fact that 'we' are neurological constructs, because the brain is a wonderful work of art. I would add that a sense of self coextensive with all space and time should be a pretty good source of self-esteem.

No comments: