Monday, July 06, 2020

Some rambling on "Selves" and "Purpose"

I've decided to re-post the following text from a MindBlog post of Oct. 9, 2007, which I found while cruising old posts. A bit terse and disjointed, but I like the general sentiments.
Self conscious "Purpose" of the sort we humans experience, in the service of crafting new political movements or environments, is an evolved psychology that (sometimes) helps pass on our genes, and requires our distinctively human self reflective "I". Our behavior and that of other animals also reflects a kind of purpose that has been formed by our evolutionary and developmental history. In other animals such behaviors are acted out on the cusp of an eternal present - there is no evidence that they "know that they know" in the way that we can.
Both modern neuroscience and Buddhist psychology inform us that the self and the purpose that each of us experiences is an illusion or confabulation of our brains - hopefully a useful one - whose utility is tested by how it enhances our energy and individual survival. This 'illusion' is a powerful instrument of downward causation, regulating our psychological, immune, neuro-endocrine robustness.
What is especially amazing is that our human body/brain can sometimes use meditative or other techniques to bootstrap to a level of metacognition that rests antecedent to - and can be the detached observer of - the generation of this illusion of a self and its purposes.
The maximum power of our self illusion, for most of us, goes with our heartfelt immersion and belief in it (i.e., our delusion). From such a immersion, it can be more difficult to discern or appreciate the different selves and purposes of other humans, and their cultures and historical eras.


  1. Having - only briefly - entered the state of metacognition you're talking about a small handful of times, I can definitely attest to the strangeness of watching yourself create yourself...

    I was musing on the idea of watching my thoughts appear and trying to mentally trace their origin, and I not only found *no origin* (at least no conscious origin) but I also found, to my surprise, that I was mentally watching myself watching myself, and then watching that - etc. It kind of broke me for a second - I remember opening my eyes and it was like I was seeing double, but not in the usual sense. It was like a mental version of seeing a camera pointed at the screen it's displayed on. It only lasted a few seconds before I got excited and snapped out of it, but the memory of that event has always intrigued me.

    Sadly I haven't been able to repeat that experience since I stopped taking my ADHD meds, but I think about it a lot. Brains are weird, man.

  2. Thanks for your comment. It has taken a long time for me to easily enter the more expanded mind space of being able to experience 'thoughts without a thinker'

    1. How did you get there? Got any pointers for a fledgling? :3

    2. I have found the Sam Harris app "Waking Up" to be a valuable tool. I did a post on it....

    3. Thanks, I'll give it a look!