Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Persistent Self

Where is the self? Upon asking this, you will want to look for something persistent and unending. Hence we come to Theseus' Ship. With all of our parts shifting and changing, in what sense is there a true me?

I say, only in passing, that the relation between what you are in this moment and what you were in the past is different from, say, what you are in this moment and what a rock sitting in your garden is or what you are in this moment and what Socrates is. There is a lineage that your present flesh sits in that also includes your past selves: they are more self in the gamut of self than, say, other people or inanimate objects. To say that your present self is identical to yourself at age five, though, I must say is incorrect; I suspect that any search for some enduring part of you that has endured over the years will result in disappointment.

Rather than searching for a self by checking the past and then checking the present for some commonality, instead I say that the self endures by being ever-present. Where is the self? The answer is always "here." When is the self? The answer is always "now." You will never find the self "there" or "then."

To illustrate this, I merely ask that you re-experience a moment from your childhood. Immediately you will either conjure up a memory from childhood, if you do not see through the trick and immediately say that it is impossible. Memory is a kind of scar; you can never re-experience the past, all you can do is examine a scar that exists in the present. The experience is past and is gone because there is no self in the past to perceive the events that took place, without the scars of the experience it would be as though the experience never occurred.

Some have said that it is memory that gives rise to the illusion of self. Memory-phenomena gives rise to the illusion that there was a commonality that existed in the past that continues to exist today. I say, rather, that memory provides a much more modest illusion: the illusion that we experience the past rather than experiencing only the present.

Self is perception; perception is now; now is always.

No comments:

Post a Comment