Friday, January 16, 2009

Ever wondered "why you are you"?

I did. Why am I me? Why am I this person in particular? From billions of people in the world, from all the locations in the planet, I'm this one person in this one place in this one world. Consciousness and the self are very popular issues among philosophers and for good reasons, there is what is called an "explanatory gap" between the objectiveness of the physical brain and the subjectiveness of the mind. Also, no one really knows what we're referring to when referring to ourselves.

While attempting to discuss this with other people in the past, I discovered how incredibly hard it is to express this problem in words. Words fail miserably to the point where you get the feeling that you're asking the wrong question. Luckily, I believe that this thought has crossed everyone's mind at one point or another, and there lies my hope!

But what does it even mean to question why am I me? Does that question even make sense? If "I" and "me" describe the same concept, then it would be the same as asking why a toaster is a toaster. But our minds don't deal with these two questions in the same way, we actually attribute a different meaning to "I" from the one we attribute to "me" because of their relationship in the sentence.

The very way that we perceive the question hints to an innate notion of an immaterial self, what people got used to calling a soul, which would be something different from the particles in our body and the construct of our mind. Do we really think of us as something more than our physical selves?

So what am I? Am I my body? If I take out one limb I'll still be me so where do we draw the line? What if I take my brain and put it in someone else's body? Is that not me? I think you'll agree that it is still me, only with a different body! So although we identify each other by our bodies, what I really am is something else. Maybe what I really identify as being myself is this consciousness that I'm experiencing right now. Now notice the previous statement, is consciousness something that is experienced by someone? In that case, I'm still not the consciousness, I'm referring to something else.

So if I'm something that is experiencing the subjective events in my mind, how can we even articulate what we really are? We're a substance that is the owner of the mental states? Thoughts can't be impersonal, they have to be owned by someone so we're not our thoughts, we're their owner. But how could we ever identify what we are apart from everything that physically makes us what we are?

Or are we just the bundle of all the mental states in my mind? Is there even an alternative to this? But if there isn't, how can my mental states change while I remain the same person? Is there a threshold of how much you can change before you're someone else? What if you suffer some brain injury that causes you to lose most memory and change your personality? Are you the same person or a new person? Are you suddenly not to blame or praise for everything you've done because that was another person?

Ok, so all of this was just meant to identify the self, and we stumble on so many problems that the original question that I presented becomes almost impossible to discuss.

Why am I me? I believe the best way to put this question is like this: "Why am I not no one at all?" It's hard to understand that, while self-consciousness may be just an advanced chemical reaction, I'm "taking a side" and experiencing this one. I mean, although it doesn't seem logical to use words in this manner since "someone" had to be me, there's something to the fact that life doesn't go on and on impersonally, just like a computer simulation or any other impersonal chemical reaction. There's something to the fact that I'm me.

I thought about this a few times in my life and I've arrived to different conclusions each time. I've never been able to explain what I mean by this very effectively because I believe that the language we use makes it almost impossible to address it without sounding too absurd but I think that seriously questioning why I am me or "why am I not no one at all?" can, by itself, expose these thoughts which I think everyone must have had once or twice.


  1. wondering is the first step to keep goin, you're in the right way...
    why do you exist in your body??? because you choosed. The question is why did you choose that body, that life ???...

  2. insert coin
    when do we know that is time to inser coin?
    when game over shouldn't we give up?
    should we keeg inserting coins?

    when do we know the the game is realy over?