Inventing the Self


October 1st, 2013 by Alessandro Mitrotti · 2 Comments

While I agree that there is disjuncture between neuroscience and philosophical/psychological  approaches to questions of self, I did see some connection with Damasio’s autobiographical self – “the systematized memories of situations in which core consciousness was involved in the knowing of the most invariant characteristics of one’s life.”  Could not this autobiographical self be termed an Imago (imagoes give voice to traits and recurrent behaviors – McAdams 129)   In addition I see a connection between Laszlo’s core self, “which includes a sense of agency, coherence, continuity and affectivity” and Damasio’s core consciousness, that which “provides the organism with a sense of self about one moment (now) and one place (here) and does not illuminate the future…” (The Feeling of What Happens 16) It seems that a creative thinker could connect and perhaps “crossbreed” (Gaipa) these theories. Of course there would be some inconsistencies, but it seems that there is some crossover. The brain may indeed be where the processes that enable consciousness coalesce, and that brain as part of body interacting with the environment gives rise to an apprehension of experience (Noe), that gives rise to the narrative self.  Not as much a conscious construction, as an organic process of the organism  – “human experience is storied because of the way most of us comprehend such human actions as being organized in time.” (McAdams 30)

One passage in Laszlo, from Barclay and Smith (1992) I found particulary interesting: “Infants learn about their own subjectivity in relation to their caretaker. This is where infants experience their relation to their mother, their physical and emotional dependence on her. The self is created through detachment from the mother. (122) The notion that the self is a consequence of separation is fascinating and relates to Noe’s brain, body, environment argument.  As a father of a four year old I have observed first hand how aspects of my son’s personality have slowly emerged, both as he has separated from his mother and engaged with the environment. Interesting too in Laszlo, is the  subjective sense of self that emerges with language and concept formation. When my son was one he stubbed his toe, his subjective experience was only pain, which resulted in a screech and tears, both of which faded with the pain. Later when he learned to speak he began to articulate such experiences and in doing so, began to consolidate his memories. “Do you remember when I stubbed my toe? I cried, I was a baby then,”  He differentiates himself now from the baby he was then and thus perpetuates a developing sense of self enabled and facilitated by language.


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2 responses so far ↓

  • Yitian Liao // Oct 2nd 2013 at 10:30 am

    I really like the way that you connect this week’s reading with Damasio and Noe. When i was reading the part from Barclay and Smith, I thought about Damasio as well! Speaking of the language and concept formation, I’m thinking of things such as stories and movies. There is one popular movie about university students from 1980s and their school life this year in China. Many people say it is really good, but some people just think it is fine or fair. The reason for the many different comments here, for people who are not professionals in movie industry, is about the “experience”, which can also be described as memories. As a way to deliver the concept, some people have similar memories, which could be the same currency of social life, values or simply understanding the movie more than those people who do not. The movie, also a formation of self-representation, is speaking the same language to people who grew up in the similar environment for college life.

  • Jason Tougaw (he/him/his) // Oct 2nd 2013 at 10:41 am

    I agree that a creative thinker might “crossbreed” Damasio and Laszlo–but I have to point out that you just did it!

    Also, I think “coalesce” is a great verb for thinking about how distributed or multiple elements of self come to feel (or be?) unified.

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