The Philosophy Guy

(Contemplating) The Self

What is the self? A difficult question, one that has become a widespread debate in culture across the world. However, maybe the more important issue is, what is personality?

Well, our minds makeup of particular traits and desires is an extension of our personality. That personality, that mind that makes you, you - that is real. But this doesn't mean our sense of self - our personal identity, that voice we talk to ourselves with, and reason with - is real in the same spirit.
It makes me wonder, is personality and our sense of self equally real?

This brings me to thinking about how the Buddhist meditators discuss reaching a blissful state - a state of pure consciousness. Whether this state is true or false - although I think there's some truth based on the fact many cultures have discussed this experience of pure consciousness - I don't believe this intrinsically tells us anything vital to our understanding of reality.

Vital, meaning it won't lead us to the meaning of the universe as a whole. However, I do think it tells us that we don't understand the true nature of our reality, and maybe we never will. It helps us come to a critical feeling of doubt, in which cultivates curiosity. One thing we do know, there's more to the mind than we think.

Now, consider this analogy, imagine a bowl full of your opinions, speculations, experiences, biases, envy, regrets, and all of the stuff that you contemplate as you - this bowl makes you, you. With all of this gathered into your bowl, this creates a particular mindset that you operate through life with: the consequence of this gathering is the formulation of a particular bias of understanding the world.
Why do we create this immaterial self?

Possibly, to defy the destiny of death or maybe more accurately cope with it. Unlike animals, we have the capability to consider and think about the future - our impending doom. In a way, our ability to reason - our consciousness - provides us the capacity to comprehend our own mortality.

Thus, my next thought, does this understanding of death lead us into creating the grand narratives of the Gods, religion, and stories of Greek mythology? A symbolic representation of our immaterial selves to operate as a coping mechanism for the current state of inevitable death.

This understanding of death brings me to a thought about religion - a new way to think about religion. Think of it as a place that cultures and societies place their values. It's something they use to transcend the self and have a belief in progress. This isn't to say that religion is the ideal state of understanding the universe - far from it - it's to say that religion played an essential role in the progression of the human species.

Religion became something to unite fellow humans to work towards the progression of humanity. Sure, we faced obstacles and setbacks that correlate with a religious motivation; however, the concept stems from human nature. I would say that our human shortcomings are not because of religion; instead, it's a fault of the human state of being in particular circumstances.

This understanding of religion might explain the difficulty in instilling enough doubt to change the minds of those who ascribe to the grand narratives of religious doctrine, as these myths have been part of humanity's evolutionary core. It has created a systematic ritual and a state of understanding the universe that has helped promote prosperity for the human species.

Thus, when new ideas arise from human consciousness, they must overcome years of evolutionary knowledge of how to comprehend the world and the utility of that understanding.

Bringing this back to the difference between the self and personality: personality is a product of the body, your genetic makeup(mostly). As for the self, that's a product of the culture you are brought up in. Cultures begin programming the human mind, extending the culture's understanding of the universe into that particular individual within that culture. In turn, spreading the knowledge a culture holds.

Personality is an extension from the natural world. Your personality is more a part of the natural order of things. As for your sense of self, that's a product of the culture you've been brought up in. In a way, it's a different type of consciousness - in that all of it becomes a grand myth created by the powerful human mind.


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