The self Essay

Submitted By swood1991
Words: 1560
Pages: 7

The Webster’s Dictionary defines “self” as the person someone normally or truly is. I find this hard to understand, words of certainty are used but I am no more certain of the self. Normally is defined as not strange. Truly is similarly defined as without doubt. Prior to being asked, what is the self and how do you know? I never gave the idea much thought. It seemed that the self was something permanent, undeniable and certain even through the vast changes that exist in the world. Having spent some time thinking critically on the matter I discovered that the self is not a constant. There are indeed aspects of the self which remain reasonably constant such as, physical appearance; otherwise we would lose our sense of identity. For the most part what defines a person and creates a sense of self for each individual is fluid, changing and highly subjective. For certain the only thing which stays completely normal and true is that we indeed maintain a self which is developed through interactions with our environment, this includes other people. Also the self gives us awareness of our own actions and identity as unique and singular individuals. Self can only exist as long as we understand it to be true and have an environment with which to frame it. Once we die, there is no longer a “self” because the social, physical and mental processes which converge no longer meet to assume a self. It’s easy for one to outline what they think, but it’s the “why” that gives an opinion power. There are theories which contradict what I believe to be the main characteristics of self. Functionalism claims that our thoughts are mere processes which serve a certain function. Essentially the brain is a complicated highly adapted machine which serves a purpose. Also, the exact entity which fulfills the function is not relevant because in theory anything could be designed to perform the same functions (Solomon, Higgins). I don’t disagree that Functionalism holds a valid point rather I question its relevance. Functionalism argues that the mind is simply a complicated process to which we give meaning. What I do disagree with is the extent to which our mind has an effect on our body and brain by allowing us to realize more than just the chemical reactions. The processes of Functionalism give meaning to life, emotions, actions and our surroundings through thoughts. The fact that the brain creates all we experience gives it no less meaning because, try as we might, we cannot remove our mind from the equation. The mind is created by the brain and the body but it also exists outside of us. Self exists in the same manner because it’s part of our mind. I argue that self must exist, even in an abstract sense because we are able to think, perceive and discuss the various ideas of self. Giving the self a true definition and establishing what make each person’s self is another matter. What characterizes my “self” and why? How is the self so real in everyone’s life yet unreal in the rational sense? We are born with unique bodies and unique brains which from the start foster an individual who cannot be the same as another human being. I share aspects of personality, physicality and experience with others. What I do not share is the unique self that arose from my social interactions and are interconnected with my body and brain. The self can only exist because we all feel it as something which is true. I define myself with words and thoughts this involves a framework and is developed through social interactions. Before a baby can speak, walk or talk they have emotions which drive them. For example, we all feel hunger, pain and pleasure. As a child grows they gain a deep understanding of what it means to be human, while absorbing vast frameworks which are used establish “self”. Babies learn to name and classify the feelings which they have. Everyone learns to classify themselves as individuals. I am real because I exist