🐾 rigby

On the Arbitration of Self

Who am I? Why am I me?

Why do I by institution look at some things as more me and other things as less?

Is my hair me? By intuition it appears to be. It is attached to me and I control and move it as I do my own body, my own scalp. Is my scalp not me? By intuition, my hair is a part of me. Inquire therefore as to my clothes. My clothes move with me. They might even, by intuition be seen as a part of me. If asked to draw me, would not even a child draw my clothes, if only because the alternative has been deemed indecorous by society? Then I say society has caused the concept to self to include by extension, at least when viewed from intuition or tradition or linguistics, to include my hair and my clothes.

And yet, even as intuition allows for my hair and my clothes to be a part of me, does it also state that my clothes are less me than my hair, and my hair less me than my flesh? Allow me to ask you to imagine then, that I had cut off a large section of my hair and had weaved it such as to fashion a piece of cloth out of it, if not a garment. If I then placed that cloth of hair on top of my head, intuition tells me that that cloth is less me than my head. And yet they are both my cells, they both might move with me if I were to take a step forward or back. Logic can find no reason why the hair which was briefly separated in space from my head is less me from the hair that is less separated from my head. (I might here remind the reader that no two atoms truly touch in this universe.) Both pieces of hair are separated, just one more than the other. Intuition therefore has failed to provide a logical definition of self using absolutes. The definition hangs instead on degrees, in this example, degrees of separation.

One might therefore be inclined to reject intuition for logic alone in the pursuit of this question. As we shall see, logic, however, reaches the same downfall. Logic might suppose that because my hair cannot feel, it is not me. My hand can feel and I can move it, neither of which is true for my hair. However, my eyes can move and feel and see. If my hair is therefore rejected because it cannot feel, then should not my hand be rejected because it cannot see? Though intuition cries out in protest, logic ignores it. But my tongue can move and feel and taste? Is it me, or are my eyes me? To presume one is the assert the importance of one sense over the other, which logic will not do without cause.

We might, however, view self by degrees. By hand is less me than my tongue, for it cannot taste, but my hair is less me than my hand. And my hair which has not been separated from my head surely is more me than the hair which. In this way, I may define numerous factors that allow for classification of a thing as more or less me. By my ability to move it, or its ability to provide me with information, or the time it spends in proximity to myself, or its molecular structure.

And so in this way the question of self cannot be answered by an absolute criteria, but only through measure of degrees. I can say a rock is less me than my hand, but I cannot say for certain that a rock is in no way me. And so in order to define self with any confidence, I must chose an arbitrary threshold of degrees for beyond which something has been too far removed to still be considered a part of myself.


luke on 2019-07-10

This is a good post. It’s a bit inconclusive but it’s good. I personally think I just kind of, inhabit this body; I’m not really attached to it. Like I could just as easily be moved to a older, younger, female, disabled body and I would be exactly the same. I don’t really think my body contributes anything to my idea of myself.

Matthias on 2019-07-11

I concluded that any conception of self in the physical world is arbitrary. The post was a regurgitation of my own thoughts, not meant to convince anyone else of anything, and so I left out details of my own conception of self. Namely, I follow Descartes in thinking that I do exist (I think therefore I am). And I believe that humans have both a soul and a physical body. The point of this post was merely to attempt to define where that body ends, and that it largely failed leaves me with less of an identity crisis because I believe that my soul is what defines my identity.

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david on 2019-08-02

Wouldn't you agree that there is a more simple way to define where you body ends, and a more logical way. Such as: your body is comprised of all the cells that result from the growth and division of the you first cell which came from your conception? To me it seems that you are over complicating the idea of what you body is and starting with an arbitrary observation. For example, you starts with talking about hair and asking whether it is part of you or is you and you observe how it is connected to you and moves with you; but why those specific and, I may argue, arbitrary observations? Why not the fact that it grew from your cells and body. Thus, you will inevitably end up with an arbitrary conclusion.

Matthias on 2019-09-23

There are several major issues with that argument. First, it's difficult to argue whether a given molecule or atom is or isn't a part of a cell. And suddenly the issue is moved down a level. While a person might be a collection of cells, what is a cell? What is a molecule? What's an atom? Science can't answer where an atom's electron cloud starts and ends. While we learn in school that these are fundamental units of nature, from a philosophical point of view, they are definitions as arbitrary as that for a person.

Matthias on 2019-09-23

Second, you dismiss my hair argument out of hand. But do you really suppose that a lock of my hair, cut from my head, and sitting in a trashcan 2,000 miles away is as much a part of me as my eye, for instance? But you must, for both originate from the same cell. This view is absurd to me, for I am clearly here and the location of my hair is of little importance. Such a simple definition fails to account for the billions of cells that grew from me before being shed or replaced, likely more than are even in my body now. No, connection to the body is a factor. My point is the arbitrariness of this definition of “connection.”

Matthias on 2019-09-23

Third, it would seem to me that if I were to have an organ, e.g. a kidney, translated into my body, that organ would become a part of me. Certainly it would not a part of the previous owner. But I suppose you would argue that it did not grow from my body, and it was not my cells, and therefore is no more a part of me than a wool coat. I of course disagree with this view. While originating from the same cell as the rest of the body is important, it is by no means the only factor one can consider. I would argue that a metal implant becomes to some extent a part of you, despite not even being an organic material. Remember, everything is to be thought of by degrees. So while my hair, now lost, was once a part of me and is therefore more me than a rock, it is not nearly as much a part of me as my limbs which are currently under the control of my mind. And someone else's transplanted organ is less me than an organ I grew, it would still be more me than, again, a rock or a sweater.

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