On the Self

An interplay between theories put forth by William James and Sigmund Freud are sufficient preliminary descriptions of the various features of the human experience that manifest a self. For it is best to adopt a general understanding of what a person is, in order to understand our own particular nature. What features do we all share, if any? The best way to discover these facts is to compare our experiences with others.

Much of our modern understanding of the mind qua mind can be traced back to Freud, or at least Freud’s theories have a major influence on the study of psychology. He studied the mind, or as he called it the psyche, and the mechanisms which construct it. Ultimately he settled on three interacting parts; the id, ego, and superego.

Freud’s id, ego, and superego are all concepts meant to be isolated to the individual. The id is the individual’s drives and instincts. It seeks satisfaction of its wants and needs, which can be biological necessities, or uncontrollable psychological impulses. The superego is one’s conscience, our moral impulse. It is our understanding of correct, or appropriate, behavior. The ego seeks to satisfy the impulses of the id, while considering the various restrains of the superego. Thus, for example, we may need to take a piss (a need of the id), and understand we can most certainly piss in public if we willed it, granted there isn’t a physical restraint on us (and this understanding is in the ego as a practical possibility); but the superego tells us of the various negative consequences of that action. So the ego must find another way to appease the id, one that is publicly acceptable. Relieving oneself anywhere is the quickest way to satisfy the id, a fact known by the ego. But it would be foolish if we all pissed the moment we had the urge, and one can be forcefully removed from public roaming if caught performing a prohibited behavior. The superego is a consideration for other egos, especially those closes to one’s own ego.

Freud’s theory of mind is rather broad and doesn’t account for variability amongst humans. James’s theory of self appears a more pragmatic approach to understanding the impulses of the id, the reasoning of the ego, and the restraints of the superego. He postulated a unification of four selves in one person. The material self, which is the body, or our physical constitution; basically our particular DNA sequence. The social self, a recognition from others of our kind; our position and role in the world relative to other selves. The spiritual self, which is our moral, intellectual, or spiritual sensibility; our perception of the world. And the pure ego, our interest in the well-being of the self.

Social dynamics give rise to ethical standards, which is the content of the superego. It is a function of social stability to create rules for individuals. Children are socialized by their immediate and frequent social group, e.g. their family, peers, nation, religion, etc. Our relation to other persons manifest a social self. Ultimately the social self is a consequence of multiple material selves. The social self isn’t a single self; it’s an interaction between two selves, two egos.

The material self is obviously the body and brain, but it is also our behavior and the self which others perceive. The combined efforts of the body, brain, and mind manifest a feeling of unity which is the mark of the material self. The feeling of oneness and ownership of our material self is quite different from a feeling of ownership over any other material object. In particular, it is the feeling that all our experiences are somehow apart of a single continuum, as if all motion is caused by the same source towards the same end.

The spiritual self is our intellectual, spiritual, or moral impulses. It is the various beliefs which constitute our worldview. Whereas the material self answers the what question, and the social self answers the who question; the spiritual self answers the why question, viz. why do we behave the way we do, what is the purpose of self? The general answer is that the spiritual self is manifested by an internalization of social norms and ideas, which are chosen based upon the satisfaction they provide the id. But the spiritual self attempts to go beyond the bounds of the other selves. This can lead to innovations and creativity, or neurotic behavior. For it is the spiritual self that allows us to play our social roles. It is the design of an ideal self in an ideal world.

All these features interact and manifest a pure ego. The pure ego seeks to satisfy all the needs of each self, i.e. the id, material self, spiritual self, social self, and superego. Our various interactions with the world and society, as well as our varying biological structures, push towards an end or goal. The constant working towards an end is what drives the pure ego. But it must pursue these ends in a socially appropriate and realistic manner. Freud’s ego when compared to James’s pure ego is a more practical or actual ego, in that it is used in real life situations. The practical ego would be the current state of the self in reality, and the moment to moment actions it performs.

Thus the preliminary theory of self is: Material Self—>Id—>Pure Ego—>(Practical Ego)<—Spiritual Self<—Social Self<—>Superego

The Mind-Body Problem

Rene Descartes’s distinction between the mind and body was that the mind is a non-extended, thinking thing; and the body is an extended thing which does not think. It is a distinction between the mind and the body that many people maintain; however it creates unavoidable problems, the main one perhaps being how an non-extended object can interact with an extended object?

The limitation of science in describing the relationship between body and mind does not outweigh its ability to identify mechanisms and relationships between the two constructs. There is no proof for a mind existing without a body. For the most part, any organism with a brain structure has a mind of some kind. It may also be safe to assume all organisms with a mind are having profoundly different experiences. But as biologically manifest phenomena in the same universe, we must all have a common factor to our existence, which is our functionality.

The impression of the external world is projected internally. The sense or result of chemical interactions, i.e. reactions in the body to stimulus, create a subjective experience that perceives events, this we identify by observing behavior we relate to that of an object possess of a subjective experience or a mind. Our complex structure of chemical interactions resulted with sensations, drives, and intelligence; none of which appear to be beyond the capacity of physics. Physics is a description of a kind of motion; sensations, drives, and intelligence are all known by a relationship to an object or behavior. All minds are known by their relationship to a body. We have never seen a mind that has no body (even ghost have a form or behavior which makes their presence known). If we have never seen a non-extended object, how can we say such a thing exist? All things known must exert some kind of observable force for us to identify its existence.

There is no physical law that claims nature can not create a thinking object. Why can’t the body think? A mind isn’t extended because it is an action or function; not an object in space, but rather a characteristic inferred by the behavior of an object, i.e. the body. People typically say we use our minds; as if it is a tool we use. And we do not say concepts such as eating or walking are objects, we say they are descriptions of actions, i.e. motions of objects. In both cases the mind is related to something it is external to and also subjected to, which is the body.

The mind must be a product of a tangible object; for a non-extended force can not interact with an extended force, only extended forces can interact. Extension would indicate a multitude of particles, which would appear as a mass of some magnitude. Whereas a non-extended force is no particles, or perhaps one or a few. And we know extension is merely a characteristic of space and time. Thought is a brain function, and a brain is a multitude of particles arranged in a specific manner. Though we don’t have a complete model of the motions of all the particles that make a brain, when can correlate specific parts to specific functions.

The distinction Descartes appears to be making is between agent and action. Consciousness isn’t producing the phenomena of having a body, it is a function of the biological machine, viz. an active brain structure, typically within a body. It can feel as if the mind is outside the body, because there are many body states which result in different mental states, one such state creates a feeling of distance from the body. Is this surprising, considering that various chemicals can manifest a variety of particular bodily, and consequently mental, states? Anything that can be considered to possess the characteristic of a mind must be in some way expressing this possession through the utilization of energy/matter.

On Mind, Body, and Brain Origins

If we are mere brains and bodies, then how do we become variant? Empirical evidence has shown that there are various living beings. These beings are shaped differently, e.g. some are connected to the ground, others are mobile, some are big, others are small, some walk on two legs, others walk on four, others on six, others move through water, etc. We are all created by a process known as reproduction. Reproduction is the replication of cells, either one cell creating another, or 2 cells combining to create a new organism. Typically the new organism obtains traits from the 2 organisms from which the 2 replicating cells came. We are all one of many organisms made by this process.

Now the brain is apart of the body, but inside the body. Therefore the body must be made prior to the brain; or the brain must be made first, then the body. For we are made from something small that becomes large by creating communities of itself; common sense confirms that a cell is much smaller than an organism, it is something our unassisted sense of vision can not see. And, of course, time is constantly moving forward. This brings us to the process of evolution.

Evolution is a collision of parts into a complex structure. The more parts an object obtains, the more complex it can become. Biological organisms are shaped by the environment. Organisms with efficient and effective traits, traits that can withstand the conditions of the environment, manage to keep a form of their information (a variant of their physical structure) continuing through space/time, by means of reproduction, The disunity of the universe allows for the possibility of various interactions and behaviors between organisms. It is through this long process of complication that human bodies and brains are built.

A normalized body and brain has a mind. The mind is the behavior of an organism at the current point in time. Each moment in our existence presents a different state of mind and bodily affection. Though we can imagine a future event, or remember a past event, we are not moving through time faster than our brain and body, for all motions are caused by them.

The manifestations of the mind are the focus of the brain and body at the present time. Though we can repeat actions, we can’t repeat time. Therefore, mind is the perspective which we currently have. Our perspective changes as new information is processed. The brain and body are active as long as they remain alive, so there is an immense amount of information constantly being processed amongst all organisms, especially those with brains.

Once the mind is active, which i would say it is active the moment of one’s first memory, it remains active till a complete death; a brain and body that is beyond human repair. The mind is constantly obtaining and processing information, it creates distinctions between objects, and adjusts its focus based on incoming information.

The mind can identify distinctions between body and itself. If it could not there would be no way to distinguish if our dreams were reality or our waking life was reality, nor would we be able to distinguish between our imagination and real objects. But, the mind is generated by the motions of the brain and interactions between it and the body. The mind only possesses information it has processed. And reproduction only creates a new organism, it does not give that organism knowledge. But, there are many records that pertain to human origins. And mnemonic information provides a logical path for the mind to follow.

On Consciousness

Our method for perceiving objects is to look upon them from the outside of them, though granted we may perceive the innards of an object, but even then we are outside the innards looking upon them. However, for ourselves, we appear to be an object inside our bodies looking outwards at phenomena. This is not only the case for physical phenomena, but also for mental phenomena; for when we utilize the mechanics of imagination, we still appear to be an internal object looking upon some external phenomena (inside ourselves). Is it possible that the object which is looking outwards is consciousness? What consequences follow if this object, which is something within us looking outwards, is consciousness?

If consciousness can look upon itself, then our inquiry is, at least, partially answered. One object that is never too far away from consciousness is the body. It is clear that we can perceive our own bodies by use of a mirror, but I’m reluctant to claim that the consciousness is perceiving itself when it looks upon the object that it appears to be within. But, if our own bodies aren’t considered to be consciousness, then what else can we consider consciousness to be? For physical objects always give the body more of a feeling of reality than mental objects, whenever the two are compared. If our own body is not the consciousness, though it appears to be as consistent in existence as consciousness itself, then how can we make any mental objects consciousness; for no mental object is as consistent as the consciousness or body, though they may appear before the mind frequently. Even if we gave a mental object that has appeared before us the label of consciousness, we would still be obliged to explain the reason why we identify the mental object as consciousness.

Let us return to the basic description of consciousness, which is “awareness of one’s own existence.” If the consciousness is an object that looks upon other objects from the inside of some object, how is it aware of its own existence? For consciousness appears to be aware of many objects, but none of them can firmly be considered consciousness. And consciousness doesn’t seem to possess the ability to look upon itself, and if it has, how will we know? We become aware of the existence of other objects, physical or mental, by a perception of them. However, we claim such a thing as consciousness exist, without having any perception of such a phenomena; for we can not perceive consciousness physically nor mentally. This presents a major threat to any conception of reality that would attempt to describe existence accurately. For whether we claim all things are mental or physical, we must explain how we came to such knowledge. If we say we observed such and such phenomena, but never observed the object which is observing the phenomena, how can we claim to know the information we are receiving is true?

My personal fix to this dilemma is to be rid of the concept of consciousness completely. Consciousness appears to be a failed attempt at discovering a feature of the body and brain that is somehow beyond them both (like the spirit or soul). If we know the interactions between body and brain are the cause of our personal experiences, and that the brain is the physical structure that causes most of our bodily motions and all of our mental events, then I see no reason not to assume it is the brain and body that perceives phenomena and interacts with objects. This, however, would require some alteration to one’s model of reality, particularly a will caused solely by the brain. For we would no longer be able to claim we were in control of our bodies unless when we use the term “we” or “I”, we are referring to our brain.

Mind and Things in and of Themselves

Something is happening in which we are the focal point, this we call the subjective experience. The subjective experience is something restricted to ourselves and not something we can directly share with others. It is opposed to the objective experience, which is something universally shared. Many times it appears that there are things which we share with other, and things which we alone seem to be in possession of. Do we share objects which are generated by the mind, or things in and of themselves?

Descartes points out this distinction between the world of the mind, and the world of things in and of themselves. In Descartes’s search for the truth he decided the best starting point for his search was doubt, thus he doubted all things that existed. The conclusion he came to, upon completion of his unconditional doubting, was that at the very least, he couldn’t doubt his own existence.

The awareness of one’s own existence, i.e. consciousness, presents a rather perplexing predicament. If my reality is a manifestation of my mind, then all that I perceive shouldn’t be physical, rather it ought to all be mental. Thought would be “that which creates all objects.” However, if we say the motions of the brain are correlated to the manifestations of the mind, then we are claiming a physical connection to an intangible object. We fall into the dilemma of how is consciousness related to matter? If matter, i.e. physical material, causes consciousness, then there are no mental objects, only motions in a brain. However, if consciousness causes matter, then all objects are a manifestation of something that can not be perceived; for we can not directly observe a mind nor a consciousness, or at least not in the same way we may observe a body and brain.

Not all bodies external to ourselves seem to be possessed of a consciousness. Are those objects content of a mind, or objects in and of themselves, i.e. entities independent of the mind? For if the objects are things in and of themselves, then that would indicate that there is something external and independent to the existence of consciousness. If the objects are in my mind, then that would indicate that all objects are contingent on the existence of consciousness; for it would be in consciousness, and therefore generated by consciousness. Perhaps the question can be answered by examining the various features of the body, brain, and mind; for consciousness is awareness of one’s own existence, and these are all things which we can understand.

Mind and Matter

How is consciousness able to coexist with matter? I think this can be answered quite clearly by comparing the body, brain, and mind. For anyone who understands philosophy or science should also know of these words, and have the ability to follow my reasoning. In the dilemma of mind and matter, there lies even a deeper dilemma of the relationship between the objective and the subjective world. Perhaps I can temporarily amend this contention by placing the objective world in the hands of science, which is a systematic body of facts; and the subjective world in the hands of philosophy, which is that which is the core of one’s being.

Now concerning the concepts of body, brain, and mind, I trust the facts which science shines upon them. But i must point out that the some descriptions do conflict with my philosophy. My main contention is in the way consciousness is explained. The typical and basic description I get for what consciousness is is “awareness of one’s own existence.” I’m going to jump to a supposition and say matter is whatever the awareness is made from.

(Note: There is clearly an incoherence here. If awareness is knowing something, or perceiving something, and that which an object would be aware of is existence, then is awareness made of existence?)

This is where body, brain, and mind play a role. For the human of good sense knows we all have physical structures known as bodies. Science will confirm that there is a physical structure in the body known as a brain. I will consider the manifestations or effects of an active brain the mind. Where is consciousness commonly considered? In the mind.

However, there is a problem. The mind is not in the brain in the same manner that the brain is in the body. And we also have two physical structures occupying the same space, and if the body and brain are different structures, then they must have a reason for being considered as separate entities. For one, the brain, by necessity, must be smaller than the body; for it does not protrude out of the body under typical conditions. And clearly the brain is a very significant part of the body, since it manifests the mind, in which consciousness resides. So the question now is, how can the brain, and consequently the body, be aware of their own existence?

Is this question relevant? For existence appears to be a function of all objects. Therefore everything should be “aware” of its own existence. But, awareness is a performance of the mind, non-mind possessing objects are not considered to possess such things as awareness or knowing. Yet we have two physical objects, which we consider to be made of material, and thus matter, claiming to either be the cause or generator of consciousness. How can this be possible without matter itself possessing consciousness?

(Note: This is by no means an affirmation of a supernatural force, but rather a denial of one. How can consciousness be consider to possess something typical matter does not, viz. awareness of its own existence? Either all matter possesses this characteristic, none do, or the way in which this phenomenon is described needs to be more descriptive.)

Thoughts on the Mind

"Mind" is that which we consider the model of our world. Many people will describe this in various ways. The few manners in which I have heard it described is; that point from which we observer the world, the self, the ego, me/I, the spirit/soul, consciousness, awareness, life, human, and many other phrases. For me, it is an action, performance, feeling, or reaction of some kind. It is something I do, I have, am given, perceive, or know about. It has shown me many things, of which I think about, contemplate, criticize, make judgments on. That of which I judge or contemplate is the world, the universe, I/me, or God. Each mind describes it in different ways, but it is all the same thing.

There are sets of mechanics used to create, manifest, or actualize certain events. They are utilized when forming our world model. Each model has its own particular semantics, but one is sufficient enough to continue. Conflict will always occur in the various descriptions of how mind is used exactly; whether it is a physical phenomena, chemical reactions, biological manifestations, psychological entities, or a super-nature of some kind.

Regardless of how we explain it, there is a quantitative quality to the Mind. At the very least there is one thing, nothing, or a multitude of things. Frequently, there is more than one thing. The Mind’s manifestation could depend on various objects. I describe it as an undeniable force of some kind; for clearly it provides an effect, that is apparent.

Some Thoughts on Mind and Body Functionality

The memory goes blank the further back one takes it. There is no subjective reminiscence of birth, for me at least. Memories beyond the point of birth are purely externally acquired, commonly through education and experience.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But, no individual knows everything about reality. To correct this incoherence, we create arbitrary rules and standards, in hope of establishing fairness. We created punishments for those who break rules, and rewards those who obey.Those who break rules are deemed as defective.

Everyone seems to operate with a sense of certainty and self-assurance. Yet, as stated before, not one of us have all the answers. What gives one such confidence? I assume it is knowledge. However, knowledge is acquired through learning; in particular, knowledge in the form of words and images. One can only know of the past beyond them by having the facts communicated to him/her; this usually from another person in the form of words or images(symbols).

All information is logically connected, merely for being in one subject. For all our knowledge is taken from past events. We must first learn something to know it, and to use our learnt knowledge we must recall it from memory. There are times when detailed information is needed to perform complex actions, other times general information is required and simple tasks are performed.

Some information is genetically obtained. Use of such information maybe instinctual, and thus not consciously recalled for use. There could be many actions which we are simply disposed to doing. Environment, circumstances, and brain structure typically determine the frequency and likelihood of instinctual behavior. Instinctual behaviors include; acquiring food, acquiring water, releasing waste, intaking oxygen, and the act of reproduction.