Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Self Expressions and Links

A good article on how language creates problems in conceptualizing the self:
I find the “your self” construction to be pleasantly playful and mildly useful. Often I cringe when I read it in pop-psychology, self-help, or other various instances. But I have written it in such a way for too long to stop now. I like it for two reasons. One is the best understanding of the self, including the idea of the self-model, as highlighted by Thomas Metzinger in The Ego Tunnel. Following that general understanding, Bruce Hood in his book, The Self Illusion writes the phrase “your self” continuously throughout. Hood's take on the self shadows my basic understanding of the self and also implements the rhetorical strategy of dividing “one's self” in language for similar reasons.
As the article avove highlights, inward looking metaphysics, “What is the self? What is consciousness?”, suffers from the general difficulty in assessing that inner world, especially from the way it simply appears to one's self, to one's consciousness. Furthermore, we have built theories and language structures around a poor understanding of that inward milieu. We did this because we overly trusted the inward looking eye to give us useful, relevant information. And now we are trying to unfold that cloth. So I find the “your self” construction both to help us continually question our given (or culturally embedded) description of the self, but also to remind us that we can play with our language and our discourses, and write ones that keep our descriptive positions a little more sanitized. And also a little more guarded.

Quickly, I will also point out that something similar goes for free will discourse. We can give our best description of humans, and best scientific accounts of human behavior, and there is no reason to think that we will be using the phrase “free will.” If we need to draw distinctions between when a brain or computer makes choices/moves from internal processing (as opposed to external compulsion or manipulation), it is a rather easy distinction to describe without possibly entering the foolish discourses of free will. Ontologically, the concept is dead. If we find it necessary to usefully separate green rocks from brown rocks within a narrow pragmatic discourse, most of us are going to find a better word than grue (or free will). Again, sanitizing our best descriptions from social stupidities (and social desires) is how we will eventually speak. Brain science (et al) is overthrowing, rewriting folk psychology. It is teaching that the descriptions we created from simply looking inside of us, inside our own heads, created some significant issues blocking our best understanding of those very entities.

A bibliography of various self books. Some of these are ones that I have read in the past and that informed my thoughts on the subject, but Hood's, Ravven's and Ananthaswamy's books are more recent takes that share much of my understanding. (I have only browsed Ravven and Ananthaswamy, but they both seem well done)
Thomas Metzinger, The Ego Tunnel
Bruce Hood, The Self Illusion
Anil Ananthaswamy, The Man Who Wasn't There
Owen Flanagan, Self Expressions
Antonio Damasio, Self Comes to Mind
Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, Social Construction of Reality
George Herbert Mead, Mind, Self, and Society

Other Links

Via Three Pound Brain, a paper on the inherence heuristic, where we give quick but often misleading characteristics and explanations to events.

And last, are all neurodegenerative diseases prion?

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