Nibbana tangent part 1 (Agnosticism)

by dhw, Thursday, May 30, 2024, 13:46 (56 days ago) @ xeno6696

dhw: I will expand a little on my original reply to this, which was that the self is the total of all our attributes at any given time. The fact that we don’t consciously think of each one all the time does not mean they are not there. (I used the analogy of my flat feet, which you misinterpreted as meaning that all attributes were permanent.) No, the attributes may change at any time through illness, accident, or new experiences. But that does not mean they are not present or are not real. A bigot one day may have an experience that changes his rigid opinions. Psychotherapy may perform the same function. The bigotry was real, not illusory. Now the open mind is real. Phineas Gage is another illustration.

MATT: You're conflating "self" with "sense of self" with every line here. Buddhism (and my own meditative experience) demonstrates that I can still be a "self" without a "sense of self." Under your definition, if I lost half my memories, I'd still have the *same* sense of self, and that's patently false. I'd have *a* sense of self--I'd feel the same, but I wouldn't be the same, and as I interacted with friends and family, it would start to come out, all the different things that I had forgotten.

I feel more and more that there’s no disagreement between us, but you are using different terminology which in itself is confusing. You say the same sense of self would be false, but then you go on to say that you would still feel the same. Having the same sense of self to me means feeling the same! (Not to be confused with consciousness of the self – see later). But of course the self would not be the same because, as I keep pointing out, it is constantly subject to change! You then switch to the subject of memories. These are notoriously unreliable, but whatever I remember or think I remember is still part of the present me. In your case, you vividly remember the egotistical attributes of your past real self, and are fully aware of the changes that have led to the present real you. Your “sense of self” remains the same, but the self is not the same.

MATT: I applaud overall your description of the self, and on most things we're closer that maybe it seems, but again, as above, you're confusing the 'self' for the 'sense of self.' One goes away and the other remains.

That is precisely what I am saying, but let’s not exaggerate. The ‘self’ will no doubt continue to retain many of its attributes (which helps us to maintain our sense of self), but you will notice that in my summary, I specified that it is the total of our attributes at any given time. Some may go away, and may be replaced, but the sense of self remains.

MATT: Imagine an hour or so of your life where phrases or feelings like "I am ME" just stop appearing? You don't feel the other "I'm NOT me", you feel neither thing. THAT is what consciousness without a sense of self is like.

Again, there is no disagreement. It’s self-evident that we don’t spend our lives consciously thinking about what is or isn’t our “self”. Most of the time, our consciousness is focused on other things. But that doesn’t mean the self is not there!

dhw: This is what I would imagine would have been the Buddha’s own experience. Meditation as per Matt, followed by a return to the self. I can’t believe he lived through his last 40+ years being unaware that he wanted to teach others, that he was teaching his ideas, and the pain in the butt was his pain, and his enjoyment of a good meal was his enjoyment. Your own life history clearly illustrates that it is not all concept of self that disappears, but individual aspects of it that disappear and are replaced by others.

MATT: So you're very close with your description in that last statement, only, as I said in part one, the sense of self is what disappears. You still use self-referents, you still have access to all your memories and experiences, you just don't think about them in terms of "THIS IS MINE" anymore.

No, the chances are that you will start thinking “this is mine” only if you’re discussing psychology with somebody, or if something goes wrong, or if your contact with others makes you think in those terms. If I tell you that I think you are a very intelligent, learned, and sensitive man (which I do!) then I reckon your “sense of self” will automatically be activated. But if your wife asks you to wash the car, I doubt if you will be inspired to start analysing yourself.


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