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March 25th, 2021
Have you ever had an argument with yourself? Surely we’ve all been in this position. But, if it’s possible, then, who exactly is the other person?
We talk about multiple personality disorder, but doesn’t the concept also imply there is such a thing as multiple personalities that are properly ordered?
Each of us have the experience of being a different version of ourselves in different circumstances, be it the company of an old friend who brings out a childhood version of our personality, or a boss from work who evokes a more professional one. The most likely interpretation is like a tint. Each ‘version’ isn’t really a different entity, but simply viewed or expressed through a slightly different flavor or tint. However, what’s the likelihood we are just comforting ourselves with a metaphor that reassures our sense that there is one immutable ‘person’ at the core of it all? What is there really are substantially different people bundled up in who we are?
If our versions really were just subtle variations on the same thing, would we really be able to surprise ourselves?k. Who exactly is getting surprised? And doesn’t a surprise imply that there. Was something hidden? Something unavailable? This implies a pretty significant division between who we are consciously, and who we find ourselves to be through action.
Another way to approach this shaky sense of self is to ask what percentage of your body is aware of you as the person identified by your name. Are the skin cells on the back of your hand aware of the person you think yourself to be? Most likely, not. Only a tiny subset of neurons in your brain are likely aware and even responsible for the fact that you even know your name and that it’s frivolously connected to the haze of notion you have when you think of yourself.
What if the idea of ‘self’ is simply a bad term, one that is conveniently vague enough for everyone to map it on to ineluctable experience. A term with similar vagueness is ‘god’. Even ask people of the same religious faith what that term means and the explanations will be as varied as the people themselves. We may even find that the two terms are more closely related than we might first realize, and that one is simply a mode of the other, and each can have many modes, depending, of course, on who you ask.