Piero Scaruffi(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"
What Is A Self?
What makes you “you”? What would make you somebody else? If we transplant a brain from one body to another body, who is who? Is the person her brain or her body? Most people (and even most philosophers) would be reluctant to accept a brain transplant because they think that it would be an other brain which gets your body, not “you” who get a new brain. In other words, whatever “i” means, that thing is inside my brain, and it goes where my brain goes. If my brain is transplanted into the body of a supermodel, “i” have become a supermodel and her body is now “my” body. If the supermodel’s brain is transplanted into my body, my body is now “her” body. The brain determines where “you” are.
The British philosopher Eric Olson is one who disagrees. Olson believes that identity comes from biology, not from psychology. You can be brain dead, but still be "you". For as long as some biological functions continue, Olson thinks that you are you. If someone transplants your brain to another body, you still are the same "you", and someone has received "your" brain. This, of course, flies in the face of the definition of "i". Olson thinks that psychological continuity is one thing, and identity is another thing. Psychological continuity occurs between two "people" at two different times: one at a certain instant is psychologically continuous with the other one at a later instant. In other words, Olson thinks that minds change all the time, and therefore i am no longer the mind that i was a second ago. Therefore it is improper to claim that "i" was. In a sense, "i" can only "be" now. "I am" is correct, whereas "i was" is a contradiction (the "i" that was is gone).
The US physician Lewis Thomas argued that even the most primitive organisms must have a sense of self. It is not about being smart: it is about “being”. But then he also preached that the self is a myth, because we are part of a bigger self that eventually includes all life. The Earth is a giant self.
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