Re: Selfishness vs Altruism; an outdated dicotomy?
Sun, 21 Nov 1999 01:35:58 EST

In a message dated 11/21/1999 0:15:13 AM EST, writes:

<< I'm sorry I don't know who I am responding to here, but at any rate it seems just as illogical to refer to "self" as a "quality" as it would be to regard it as a "quantity". A quality is a predicate; so what subject or substance exists such that we can attribute "self-ness" to it? Note that whatever it is, it cannot BE a self, but must have the property or attribute of "self" -- "The grass is green" does not mean that grass IS

I suppose I was being a little sloppy in my terminology (or creative, take your choice<g>). I suppose self is a quality I would attribute to an organism, evolved or designed, which possesses a sense of self. For example, I have a self. My brother, to the best of my knowledge, also possesses a self. It is essentially being a person. Now, I know a lot of these terms are either ill-defined or fuzzy logic, and I'm working on refining them. I hope you've gotten the sense of what I mean, and could make some suggestions as to how to hammer out the semantics.

<< Yes, Cynthia, it seems to me that "self" is a relation but not a relatum; I mean that "interpersonal" is redundant. Subjects of sensory deprivation experiments report, not an exacerbation of "self-consciousness" but rather a dissociative state in which eidetic imagery constitutes their universe devoid of any subject-object dichotomy. "Self-consciousness" seems to me precisely that condition induced by a perception of some
"object" interpreted as an "other" (that is, a mirror phenomenon, the
object being "another self"). In my opinion, what is usually regarded as
"self-awareness" is either a subvocal monologue misconstrued as a dialog,
or a unity attributed to a set of serial memories.

I realize this is very general, but a concrete illustration would be a person total isolated from others, with no immediate expectation of rejoining a community, who quickly creates the relationship called "self" by means of a constructed duality. There cannot be an "I" without a "Me".

Finally, I am not denying the reality of individuation; I only mean to assert that what is meant generally by "self" is a social construct and if reified or
hypostatized as a "substance" the result is an illusion.

Thank you for your post,

Bob >>

I am glad to here you don't deny the reality of individuation, but I do not know that I completely agree to the self being a social construct. Surely, what we think about the self is heavily influenced by social and cultural experience, but it seems to me that the self is a mental construct that I would have regardless of society. True, the experience of "other" greatly aids in defining the borders of the self, but I don't know that it is really the self that is lost in those sensory deprivation experiments. Rather, perhaps it is the sense of other that is lost, so that only the internal self remains (though we might agree that without a self and other, there may be no practical difference between losing the sense of self and losing the sense of other). All I can say with certainty is that I exist, and that I am aware of my own existence. It may be true that my self is constructed from serial memory (in fact, I would argue that a large part of the self is made up of precisely that), but its construction doesn't take away from its reality. I do agree that the self is not a substance.

Thanks for the post, Bob.

Glen Finney