On the Concept of Self


Do you think the concept of “self” is an emergent phenomenon of our neural complexity and if so is it continuously emerging throughout our lifetime?

I am inclined to consider the self as an emergent property of the neural complexity through the following analogy:
Paper is the end product (through several complex processes) of wood (which has a molecular structure). On this paper could be written countless words and phrases and pictures. [How these come to be written and what, are surely infinitely more complex than the mere manufacture of paper.
Likewise, as the human entity takes form and shape and completion, and begins to grow, the paper becomes fully formed. To begin with, aside from texture and color, all blank papers are equivalent. Then gradually, through the different scripts that are imposed on the different sheets, each sheet becomes very different from every other. So too, our various selves are each very different, but they have the same substrate.
As I see it, (in this analogy) neuroscience can unravel how the substrate is manufactured, what its electro-chemical properties are, how it can be straightened out when it gets crumpled, how its longevity can be prolonged, etc. All this is no mean achievement. But I fear the generation of the particular kinds of scripts on the paper is a very much more complicated process, and may not be amenable to the standard modes of current scientific methodology. As a devotee of science, I hope I am proved wrong.

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About Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.
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