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A question about self

dylancatlow
Posts: 12,242
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10/16/2014 1:53:49 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Out of all the people I could have been, why am I me? Why am I conscious of this consciousness and not another consciousness? In other words, why does "I" refer to my mind, and not another mind.
the_croftmeister
Posts: 678
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10/16/2014 5:17:30 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
I have often pondered this question. I believe it has a standard name but I can't remember what it is right now, perhaps someone with more knowledge can fill us in.

In my pondering I also posed the following question:

Suppose that we develop the technology to grow additional bodies, bodies that can sustain conscious thought but are 'to begin with' empty. Let's link our brains to these bodies and develop a shared consciousness between them. I am now conscious in two places.

What happens when I sever the link? Which body do I go into?

I propose answers based on the following background.

Let us suppose that information structures have at least something to do with consciousness. In the sense that for most experiential awareness there is at least an analogue physical process, even if dualism holds. If there is thought that cannot be attributed to the physical (brain) then perhaps we can attribute it to the mental (mind), but evidence suggests that a large part of thought is attributable to the physical.

Regardless of whether consciousness is a continuum or binary, we typically associate it with self-awareness and meta-cognition. The ability to think, not only about ourselves, but ourselves 'as ourselves' and 'as a thinking being' and 'as a thinking being, thinking about its own thoughts' and so on.

Now I make a leap of faith, presuming that this self-awareness and meta-cognition is one of the parts of the mind (if it exists) that is mirrored in the brain. To me, this is intuitive, though I'm sure others will disagree.

To achieve the physical component of this, one might include somewhere within the information structures of the brain a reference to self, acting as a gateway to our own thoughts, indeed this is how my thoughts appear to me. The reference to myself allows me to investigate my own thoughts 'as I am thinking them' in two senses, much like a computer program simultaneously running and reading its own code.

For the first question, why am I aware of myself and not of other thinking beings?
I propose an answer similar to the anthropic principle. Treat it as a question of identification. In order to answer (and perhaps to even ask the question), you must first identify yourself, or at least your mind. In order to ground this identity, you first have to think about yourself, which requires the reference to yourself that I first identified. By virtue of the fact that you have this reference, you are conscious of yourself and not of others (since the information structures don't give you access to their thoughts in the same way).

The mind thinks about itself, and can investigate its own thought processes. How would it go about thinking 'as' something else?

To answer the splitting problem, I would begin by asking where the 'self' reference resides. It should have a physical location, perhaps spread over a number of neurons. Perhaps there are actually many of these references, all of which are capable of doing the job. The processes of meta-cognition would rely on these references, and would cease to function if they were removed. This means that either each 'brain' has at least one such a reference, (and hence there are actually two consciousnesses, not one, from the beginning) and therefore can continue to function alone, or one of them satisfies the reference for both, and the other will stop working once it is gone. Keep in mind this does not mean that autonomic functions would cease, just that conscious awareness would.

So the answer seems to be, it depends how the brain works, and how we did the linking process in the first place.

In short,
we are conscious of ourselves (assumption)
information structures in the brain at least partially facilitate this consciousness (assumption)
we are not conscious of others because the information structures do not facilitate awareness of others at the same level. (assumption)

Why am I not another person?
Because I've identified myself as 'this' person before asking the question.
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,242
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10/16/2014 5:22:52 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 10/16/2014 5:17:30 PM, the_croftmeister wrote:


Why am I not another person?
Because I've identified myself as 'this' person before asking the question.

This is basically as far as I've gotten too. It's not satisfying, because it doesn't answer the question: why am I in the place to identify "this person" as myself. Did that make sense?
bladerunner060
Posts: 7,126
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10/16/2014 5:26:44 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 10/16/2014 1:53:49 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
Out of all the people I could have been, why am I me? Why am I conscious of this consciousness and not another consciousness? In other words, why does "I" refer to my mind, and not another mind.

Isn't it, to a certain extent, the lottery fallacy to ask that without evidence that there IS a reason?
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dylancatlow
Posts: 12,242
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10/16/2014 5:33:12 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 10/16/2014 5:26:44 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
At 10/16/2014 1:53:49 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
Out of all the people I could have been, why am I me? Why am I conscious of this consciousness and not another consciousness? In other words, why does "I" refer to my mind, and not another mind.

Isn't it, to a certain extent, the lottery fallacy to ask that without evidence that there IS a reason?

I'm not necessarily asserting that there is a reason. I guess my questions sort of presupposed that there is a reason, but I didn't mean to imply it.
the_croftmeister
Posts: 678
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10/16/2014 6:08:50 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 10/16/2014 5:22:52 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 10/16/2014 5:17:30 PM, the_croftmeister wrote:


Why am I not another person?
Because I've identified myself as 'this' person before asking the question.

This is basically as far as I've gotten too. It's not satisfying, because it doesn't answer the question: why am I in the place to identify "this person" as myself. Did that make sense?

I understand I think, a related question though is, can you imagine it being any other way?

Surely the fact that you can ask the question at all precludes the answer from being different?
the_croftmeister
Posts: 678
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10/16/2014 6:09:25 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
As a side note, you propose that you 'could' have been another person. How sure are you that this is the case?
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,242
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10/16/2014 6:12:23 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 10/16/2014 6:09:25 PM, the_croftmeister wrote:
As a side note, you propose that you 'could' have been another person. How sure are you that this is the case?

I see what you mean. But wouldn't the question just become: why do I have to be this person?
the_croftmeister
Posts: 678
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10/16/2014 6:56:40 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 10/16/2014 6:12:23 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 10/16/2014 6:09:25 PM, the_croftmeister wrote:
As a side note, you propose that you 'could' have been another person. How sure are you that this is the case?

I see what you mean. But wouldn't the question just become: why do I have to be this person?

Because in any possible scenario where you ask this question, you are that person (the person asking said question). If you weren't that person, it wouldn't be you asking. At least, that's how it appears to me. Again, not a particularly satisfying answer, but I think it's worth considering.
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,242
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10/16/2014 7:40:32 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 10/16/2014 6:56:40 PM, the_croftmeister wrote:
At 10/16/2014 6:12:23 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 10/16/2014 6:09:25 PM, the_croftmeister wrote:
As a side note, you propose that you 'could' have been another person. How sure are you that this is the case?

I see what you mean. But wouldn't the question just become: why do I have to be this person?

Because in any possible scenario where you ask this question, you are that person (the person asking said question). If you weren't that person, it wouldn't be you asking. At least, that's how it appears to me. Again, not a particularly satisfying answer, but I think it's worth considering.

So basically: since "you" have no specific identity outside of "yourself", there is nothing "about you" which exists apart from yourself.
Raisor
Posts: 4,459
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10/16/2014 9:26:14 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 10/16/2014 1:53:49 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
Out of all the people I could have been, why am I me? Why am I conscious of this consciousness and not another consciousness? In other words, why does "I" refer to my mind, and not another mind.

What would it mean to be conscious of another consciousness that wasn't your own?

I can't really imagine how you could directly perceive another consciousness in the same way you perceive your own without actually being part of it.

I don't know a lot about philosophy of the mind, but I think consciousness is a process. I don't think it can be "watched" like other parts of the physical world. You have to be "inside" a mind to actually be aware of it. This would mean you could only ever be conscious of your own mind, because any mind you were aware of would necessarily be your own.
the_croftmeister
Posts: 678
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10/16/2014 10:21:04 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 10/16/2014 7:40:32 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 10/16/2014 6:56:40 PM, the_croftmeister wrote:
At 10/16/2014 6:12:23 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 10/16/2014 6:09:25 PM, the_croftmeister wrote:
As a side note, you propose that you 'could' have been another person. How sure are you that this is the case?

I see what you mean. But wouldn't the question just become: why do I have to be this person?

Because in any possible scenario where you ask this question, you are that person (the person asking said question). If you weren't that person, it wouldn't be you asking. At least, that's how it appears to me. Again, not a particularly satisfying answer, but I think it's worth considering.

So basically: since "you" have no specific identity outside of "yourself", there is nothing "about you" which exists apart from yourself.

As good and simple an explanation as I can think of.
Antihero
Posts: 6
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10/22/2014 5:03:46 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 10/16/2014 1:53:49 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
Out of all the people I could have been, why am I me? Why am I conscious of this consciousness and not another consciousness? In other words, why does "I" refer to my mind, and not another mind.

Hmm i think i understand what you're saying..(i think)

Before you have consciousness , what are you? Nothing. You dont exist at all. So in order for you to exist you should have a consciousness,one that is different from others that already existed. For example.. you are wondering why you are conscious in this consiousness instead of conscious in A's consciousness.. the thing is if you are conscious in A consciousness you wont question what its feel like to be in A's cause you are A.

I hope you can understand what i'm saying. Great question btw.
philochristos
Posts: 2,614
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10/22/2014 4:38:36 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 10/16/2014 1:53:49 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
Out of all the people I could have been, why am I me? Why am I conscious of this consciousness and not another consciousness? In other words, why does "I" refer to my mind, and not another mind.

I think it's because "I am me" is a statement of identity. It's a necessary truth because the law of identity is necessary. You are you because you couldn't be otherwise. If you were "somebody else," then we wouldn't be talking about somebody else anymore. We'd be talking about you.
"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle
Sidewalker
Posts: 3,713
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10/22/2014 6:33:11 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 10/16/2014 1:53:49 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
Out of all the people I could have been, why am I me?

You are a sentient being with the ability to feel, perceive, and have subjective experiences, and when you use a pronoun such as "I" or "me" you are referring to that center of consciousness, that is aware via a single unified conscious experience of the world.

" Why am I conscious of this consciousness and not another consciousness?

Because you aren"t able to feel, perceive, or experience any other consciousness but your own. A better question is why on earth you think you would be capable of experiencing another consciousness.

In other words, why does "I" refer to my mind, and not another mind.

Because your mind is the only one you have direct unmediated knowledge of, you have no access to the feelings, perceptions, and subjective experiences of other minds, so when you say "I", you are referring to the mind that has is doing the experiencing.
"It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive." " C. W. Leadbeater
Dazz
Posts: 1,163
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10/24/2014 12:47:21 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 10/22/2014 6:33:11 PM, Sidewalker wrote:
At 10/16/2014 1:53:49 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
Out of all the people I could have been, why am I me?

You are a sentient being with the ability to feel, perceive, and have subjective experiences, and when you use a pronoun such as "I" or "me" you are referring to that center of consciousness, that is aware via a single unified conscious experience of the world.

" Why am I conscious of this consciousness and not another consciousness?

Because you aren"t able to feel, perceive, or experience any other consciousness but your own. A better question is why on earth you think you would be capable of experiencing another consciousness.

In other words, why does "I" refer to my mind, and not another mind.

Because your mind is the only one you have direct unmediated knowledge of, you have no access to the feelings, perceptions, and subjective experiences of other minds, so when you say "I", you are referring to the mind that has is doing the experiencing.

I like your point. But I suspect dylancatlow's underlying question is why "I" or my self consciousness is distinguished from others and what factor describes my mind as a separate unified consciousness? Why my mind activity is mine alone if you've the same mind as yours and what makes it "yours" alone? And perhaps it's not only about mind, but what mind infers also, like my other body part are mine too, though that's also is what mind is experiencing. But why mind experience its unified uniqueness, is the query.
Remove the "I want", remainder is the "peace". ~Al-Ghazali~
"This time will also pass", a dose to cure both; the excitement & the grievance. ~Ayaz~
Dazz
Posts: 1,163
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10/24/2014 12:54:47 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 10/16/2014 1:53:49 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
Out of all the people I could have been, why am I me? Why am I conscious of this consciousness and not another consciousness? In other words, why does "I" refer to my mind, and not another mind.

Do you see any difference between mind and consciousness? Physical and non-physical?
Remove the "I want", remainder is the "peace". ~Al-Ghazali~
"This time will also pass", a dose to cure both; the excitement & the grievance. ~Ayaz~