Communicator (communicator) wrote,

Are you a self or a bundle?

I've just been reading Consciousness, a very short introduction, by Susan Blackmore, which I picked up at the Tate.

When I was younger I hated books on 'consciousness', because I felt that philosophers (of those days) missed the point entirely, which was so frustrating I couldn't bear it. In retrospect I think it was due to materialism and religion - two stances that seem to be wrong to me - standing off against each other.

I like modern books on consciousness much better, and people like Blackmore are pleasant and interesting to read. I'm not saying she's right about everything, and in the last chapter I think she gets all her careful categories and terminology all mixed up to reach a rousing conclusion. But fun to read.

I think that human intelligence evolved to model social behaviour, which is why we use social words to talk about non-social facts ('the sun will be reluctant to come out today'). Blackmore suggests we make the same mistake when we think about ourselves -

'We suppose that we have a inner self who has desires and intentions and makes things happen... as far as evolution is concerned it does not matter that (this impression) is a fiction, as long as it is a useful fiction'.

Instead the real truth about the mind may be expressed by the Scottish philosopher, David Hume:

'He stared into his own experiences, looking for the experiencing self, but all he ever found were the experiences. He concluded that the self is not an entity, but is more like a bundle of sensations. Life is a series of impressions that seem to belong to one person, but are really just tied together by memory and other such relationships'

Blackmore thus divides theories of consciousness up into 'real self' theories and 'bundle theories'. Of the two I believe intellectually that we are a bundle of sensations and ideas, with distributed and parallel processes, but I react emotionally as if there were a 'me' inside my head, separate from my experiences.

Which do you believe?
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