Thursday, 17 May 2012

I and I

Memory tells me that I am (name) who was educated in (names of schools and Universities) and now lives in (names of city and country). Thus, there is an empirical self who is known because his history is remembered. If my memories differed, then so would my empirical self. For example, if these memories were deleted from this brain, then my empirical self would cease to exist. If your memories replaced mine, then this psychophysical organism would identify with your empirical self and would be puzzled by the apparent transference of that self to another body. In fact, no substance or entity would have travelled between bodies. Instead, the states of some brain cells in this body would have changed.

Memory pre-exists each empirical self. However, memory is most basically the thought, "I saw/experienced/perceived that." Therefore, there is, in each reflective organism, a formal self lacking empirical content. This self is not an underlying substance or enduring entity but the internal recognition of continuity between past and present mental states of a particular organism. The thought "I" is the recognition by a subject of present experience that it identifies itself with the subject of another experience that is regarded neither as immediate nor as merely imagined but as having occurred previously. The experiences recorded in any given sequence of mental states determine a particular empirical self. The formal, pre-empirical self corresponds to the Mosaic divine name, "I am." This "I" is present in each reflective organism although their empirical selves differ. Also, even before there is any reflection, each conscious organism is the universe conscious of itself at a particular place and time and thus is a member of the universal self or subject of consciousness.

Each empirical self exists by accident. If a particular sperm and egg had not met, then you, that empirical self, would not exist. Also, each empirical self is transient and changing. It is a social role which functions effectively if it is recognised as such and is not regarded as a permanent entity to be preserved and defended at all costs. Physical organismic self-preservation need not be extended to the psychological preservation of a favoured self-image or social appearance. We are united by universal selfhood and need not be divided by empirical selves. 

That there are subjects of consciousness who regard themselves as temporally enduring and as spatially distinct from objects of consciousness is a necessary precondition of any experience whereas that there are named persons with particular histories is an empirical datum disclosed by our experience. In each organism, the formal "I" learns that it is a different empirical "I".      


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