In his TEDx talk, Baggini’s proposed that the self is less of a thing and more of a process. Although his argument blended mechanistic (single scale integration) and emergent (multi-scale cause and effect) frames of reference, he was speaking to the point of view from which we recognize that even those things we think of as matter-of-fact physical objects are really in-the-moment wholes enacted by their interacting parts. This perspective shifts us from a self that has experiences to a self that is a collection of (mechanistic) / emerges from a synthesis of (emergent) experiences.
So I think that we have a common-sense idea that there is a kind of core or essence of ourselves to be discovered. And that this is kind of a permanent truth about ourselves, something that’s the same throughout life. Well, that’s the idea I want to challenge…
In some ways, it’s a small difference from the common-sense understanding. In some ways, it’s a massive one. It’s the shift between thinking of yourself as a thing which has all the experiences of life, and thinking of yourself as simply that collection of all experiences in life. You are the sum of your parts…
Because if you think that you have this fixed, permanent essence, which is always the same, throughout your life, no matter what, in a sense you’re kind of trapped. You’re born with an essence, that’s what you are until you die… But if you think of yourself as being, in a way, not a thing as such, but a kind of a process, something that is changing, then I think that’s quite liberating… And that’s the idea I want to leave you with, that your true self is not something that you will have to go searching for, as a mystery, and maybe never ever find. To the extent you have a true self, it’s something that you in part discover, but in part create.
Is there a real you? | Julian Baggini
“Who’s There?” Is The Self A Convenient Fiction? | Sam McNerney