Consciousness: the self is real (General)

by David Turell @, Tuesday, January 30, 2018, 01:32 (532 days ago) @ David Turell

According to this article it is, while some anti-realist philosophers claim it is not:

" In fact, the self does exist. The phenomenal experience of having a self, the feelings of pain and of pleasure, of control, intentionality and agency, of self-governance, of acting according to one’s beliefs and desires, the sense of engaging with the physical world and the social world – all this offers evidence of the existence of the self. Furthermore, empirical research in the mind sciences provides robust reasons to deny antirealism. The self lends itself to scientific explanations and generalisations, and such scientific information can be used to understand disorders of the self, such as depression and schizophrenia, and to develop this self-understanding facilitates one’s ability to live a rich moral life.

"I call my proposed model the ‘multitudinous self’. ‘Do I contradict myself?’ asks the poet Walt Whitman in ‘Song of Myself’ (1891-92), ‘Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)’ The multitudinous self is empirically tractable and responsive to the experiences of ‘real people’ who do or do not have mental disorders. According to this model, the self is a dynamic, complex, relational and multi-aspectual mechanism of capacities, processes, states and traits that support a degree of agency. The multitudinous self has five distinct but functionally complementary dimensions: ecological, intersubjective, conceptual, private, and temporally extended. These dimensions work together to connect the individual to her body, her social world, her psychological world, and her environment.


"The multitudinous self is a variation of the Neisserian self in that it individuates the self as a complex mechanism with many dimensions that interact and work together to maintain a more or less stable agency over time. At times these different dimensions of the self contradict each other (very well then). Interpersonally, I might come across as gregarious, and present an image of a someone who enjoys companionship, yet my private sense of self might be that I am shy and introverted. Because these five dimensions are all more or less integrated, however, they help with self-regulation, and function as a locus of experience and agency. The multitudinous self gives a partial but helpful representation of the selves we encounter in our daily lives. It is also scientifically scrutable.


"Realism is mostly popular among psychologists and empirically informed philosophers of mind, such as William James in the late 19th century and, more recently, the aforementioned Jopling, as well as Owen Flanagan at Duke University in North Carolina and George Graham at Georgia State University. The reason for the realist commitment appears to be pragmatic. The reality of the self matters. The concept can be employed and manipulated in making sense of the complex human psyche, and successfully edifying enough so that the self is open to the enrichment of moral possibilities.


"Because the multitudinous-self model tracks all the different dimensions of selfhood, it offers rich scientific resources to investigate and intervene on different aspects of mental disorders. It encourages the development of research programmes not only in neuroscience and genetics but also disciplines that study the role of interpersonal relationships, environment, culture and the epidemiological factors in the development of illness. While a fractured engagement with different parts of the self is important, there is virtue in maintaining the self as a research construct in its full complexity, because what happens in one component of the self affects the self as a whole. An integrated understanding of the different parts of the self is necessary to fathom the complexity of mental disorders.


"The subjective and private dimensions that antirealists take to be obstacles to scientifically investigating the self do not pose a problem for the complex multilayered mechanism that I call the multitudinous self. And the variability in the private and the conceptual dimensions of the self can track some regularities and yield important information about, say, psychopathology, or how different social and cultural environments might create certain kinds of self-experiences and self-concepts.

"The multitudinous self mediates scientific explanations of the complexity of real people with and without mental disorders. It also provides resources for enhancing the moral agency that permits people to flourish. For me, flourishing is simply the development of a person’s psychological and social skills in engagement with herself and with others, in the face of the challenges triggered by her physical, social and psychological environment.

Comment: We all experience our 'self'. It is not an illusion, solipsism aside. The writer has a major point. The whole article is worth reading.

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