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Author Topic: who am i?  (Read 1502 times)
CygnusX1
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« on: 01/08/09 @ 16:44 »

Quote - But what then am I? A thinking thing. And what is that? Something that doubts, understands, affirms, denies, wills, refuses, and also sense and has mental images. (Descartes, Meditation II: On the Nature of the Human Mind, Which Is Better Known Than the Body).

Ok, my first post... here goes!

Not sure why this topic is still empty?

I don't feel its wholly necessary to read Decartes for this discussion, as his explorations into the nature of the Self are questions they we all hold dear, and questions they we may all associate with?

We all, at some point in our lives, question our own existence, and attempt to examine who we really are?

Are we merely an Ego, a Self created, a machination formed as a result of conscious creation?
Are we more? Do we possess a Soul, a prime mover for our existence?
Is consciousness itself the prime mover?
If so, is consciousness separate and distinct from what we perceive of as Self?

I feel Descartes was courageous for his explorations, yet I also feel it is only natural for anyone to exercise these questions that he aired. He was both praised and criticised in equal measures for his endeavours, and it is interesting to note his final conclusions on the matter.

It is interesting to note also, that at his time of writing, and the so called new scientific age, there was almost a total ignorance regarding eastern philosophies concerning his subject matter. I wonder how Descartes would have embraced these eastern ideas if they has been translated and transcribed in his times?

I hope this post may stimulate some self exploration and discussion...

ps. You may notice my use of many! question marks? This a trait to both stimulate discussion and debate, yet I use them regularly to signify a point of reasoning, rather than declaring a statement.
 - I feel it is up to the individual to reason with these points, there are no right or wrong answers?

 Smiley
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You are neither earth, water, fire, air or even ether.
For liberation know yourself as consisting of consciousness,
the witness of these.
[The Song of Ashtavakra (Ashtavakra Samhita) Chapter 1.3]
Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #1 on: 02/08/09 @ 08:03 »

I think you raise an interesting point: how would Descartes have responded to Eastern thought? After all, the notion of 'self' or 'soul' is much less definite in Eastern philosophy. Sometimes, it is denied altogether (as with the Anata (no self) doctrine of Buddhism); at other times, even where it is admitted, it is not the little self or 'ego', but a more universal cosmic self. So, either way, it would seem that Eastern thought would criticise D's notion of self - and the Cogito.

In a strange way, both Hume and Nietzsche are closer to Eastern thought regarding the self, even though they are both somewhat irreligious.
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CygnusX1
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« Reply #2 on: 02/08/09 @ 12:44 »

Hi Gareth,

Thanks for the reply.

I feel Self enquiry is top of the list of important questions we need to investigate as humans. It may lead to a deeper understanding of what we really are at a personal level, and our origins as humans and sentient beings, and even as spiritual beings.

Indeed I feel the goal is to seek to find the deeper seat of consciousness itself, and seek to separate this from the self-created and the Ego.

Both Buddhism and Hinduism have much philosophical thought to add to this discussion, However it is very difficult to find many that actually frequent forums on philosophy.

I must declare I am not so much a big fan on Nietzsche. Although I do concur that both he and the Buddha were important proponents of existentialism and personal responsibility?
Perhaps I should give him another shot and re-evaluate.

David Hume was an empiricist was he not?
Was he then in opposition to using pure rational thought and logic to solve enquiry?
Perhaps you could expand on his points of view regarding this subject and add to the debate?

Descartes was a rationalist, and with his method-logical scepticism he set out to use reason and logic to seek to find the inner self, and separate the mind and this self from the body and material forms. A very brave task indeed, and most likely doomed to fail from the start. However I do feel his efforts were not at all in vain.

Therefore I still feel it is important that we should not discard his techniques and methods.
However, I am in favour of a more eastern philosophical approach and techniques regarding personal awareness and enlightenment.

Hopefully we may be able to encourage discussion on this topic from all these areas of philosophy?

 Smiley
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You are neither earth, water, fire, air or even ether.
For liberation know yourself as consisting of consciousness,
the witness of these.
[The Song of Ashtavakra (Ashtavakra Samhita) Chapter 1.3]
Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #3 on: 02/08/09 @ 13:53 »

Yes, I'm still interested in Descartes for those very reasons. I think that we can distinguish between our subjective experience of the world (the 'first person' viewpoint) and our objective conceptions of it (the 'third person' viewpoint). I think D got into a bit of a tangle in expressing this, and hence we have the mind-body dualism problem.

Hume and Nietzsche are both sceptical of D's proofs, and they both share a view of the mind as a collection of thoughts or viewpoints (as opposed to a unified ego or self). Hume, perhaps, doesn't ultimately doubt that we have such a self, but merely that we can prove it (which may amount to the same thing). Nietzsche, however, thought that the concept of a unified self was an illusion, and what we have is many competing 'selves'. I quite like this view, as it seems to fit with experience (we are often in conflict with our 'selves'). Perhaps, then, we just need to unify them!

Neither Hume nor Nietzsche are Buddhist (though Schopenhauer, who influenced Nietzsche, was certainly heavily influenced by Buddhist thought). But I agree: Eastern perspectives on self are very interesting. You're welcome to start separate topics on as many of these issues as you like - I'll do my best to contribute! Smiley
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