Inventing the Self

I think I was there…

November 20th, 2013 · Comments Off on I think I was there…

Both of these readings evoked strong, nostalgic feelings.  Being relatively young (25), I kept reading these anecdotes and interviews and immediately relating them to myself in a Miller’s “identification and disidentification” way.  My friend and I used to sign on to each other’s AIM to talk to girls we liked as someone else to probe them about their feelings (or lack of) for us.  I’ve used Myspace to browse girls in my area outside of my social circle because I lived in a relatively small town and couldn’t meet many girls that I didn’t already know.  I never felt as if I was missing out on anything real or physical in any significant way.  In that sense, the Ito reading was less informative because I felt it was readily apparent to me as I lived it.

The Turkle reading, however, almost seemed like a “remember the good old days” piece (although throughout, there are interesting admissions of her enjoying the technological advances).  I am on the side that social networks and connective technology is a beneficial tool that aides social relationships.  In keeping with both readings, I’ll use an anecdote to elucidate a way it helps.  I ran into an old friend from Jacksonville (my hometown) on the train in to the city today.  We hadn’t really hung out or talked in close to two years.  However, it was not awkward or riddled with superficial pleasantries, rather was a rich conversation about our lives and goals at the moment.  The reason we were able to speak with each other like this in only the brief 15 minutes or so was because of our connection with social media and the network of friends we shared.  I was aware of his acting/movie production career (even his recent trip to begin his first lead in a feature) and he was aware of my move to NY for graduate school simply through the posts and conversations that were available for either of us to see.  This allowed us to move past the simple pleasantries a conversation with a friend after 2 years of disconnect would begin with and provided a rich, meaningful conversation.

The marrying a robot section reminded me of The Gos’s movie Lars and the Real Girl, where he falls in love with a realistic looking doll. I don’t think robots with ever be able to supplant real human connection, but some psychological issues might actually benefit from a companionship with less complexity and investment.

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November 6th, 2013 · 1 Comment

Miller’s chapter struck me as intriguing.  I have never been one to read biographies/autobiographies/memoirs with frequency, but I have picked up a few along the lines; mostly dealing with musicians and comedians I admired.  However, what intrigued me about Miller’s piece is her self-reflective attention to how reading other people’s memoirs and stories structured her own.   Having not actively read these personal pieces with any attention but a passing interest in admired celebrity figures, I never performed the self-reflection of what actually happens as you read them.  While reading Miller’s chapter, I immediately began to consciously remember particular stories and moments of other people’s lives that I have  incorporated into my own through the process of “identification” and “disidentification.”  I then extrapolated that from the written word into other forms of narrative I have been a part of (stories, personal experiences, movies, books, television, etc) and realized that a large part of the formulation of my personality can be traced from this process.  It is pretty astonishing the pieces of personality you acquire in this way.

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October 22nd, 2013 · 2 Comments

I feel this week’s reading ties closely to the ideas I would like to explore in the development of self. I feel there is a stark difference between the biological understanding of life and the phenomenological feelingof living.  Although I subscribe to a strict biological understanding of humans (I feel everything has biological underpinnings, even subscribing to a biological determinism), however, that doesn’t discount the phenomenological aspects of life.  Having this understanding does not suddenly undo millions of years of evolution and cause me to lose my phenomenologica feelings of perception, becoming a machine-like human.  With that being said, I feel like these two disciplines of thought are in competition with each other when they should embrace each as different, but fundamentally connected.

This reading seems to come across the same problem of the inability to synthesize work focusing on the biological and phenomenological. Constantly, Hornstein was astonished at the methods of the HVN and how incompatible they were with her own training in the States. Strictly clinical, her training tended to focus on hearing voices as a symptom of a biological imbalance, to be treated with drugs. Whereas, HVN was less “treatment” in the clinical sense of the word and more just an open forum for those who here voices to find comfort in people like them. These two strategies vary drastically but they are not unconnected. Those who were represented in Hornstein’s book seemed to view the biological as a wrong diagnosis. Maybe not complete, and ultimately detrimental to recovery, but there is a biological underpinning to hearing voices.

I understand the reservation and strife involved with hospitalization involving mental illness and I ultimately believe the HVN is a wonderful organization attempting to use novel ways at treating voice hearing.  However, I think the propensity of both sides to deny the other as useful and/or influential is detrimental to an overall understanding of the experience on a multidimensional level. I feel there is a benefit that can be had from both sides working together to realise there is a biological and phenomenological side to hearing voices.

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Email Addresses

October 16th, 2013 · 2 Comments

Hey, heres a quick post where we can all post our email addresses.  I’ll break it up into reading groups to make it easier.


Adam –



Shona –








Yana –






Yitian –




Hope that helps.

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Fun Home and Rita Carter

October 8th, 2013 · 3 Comments

I really enjoyed “Fun Home” and the way Bechdel uses references from literary sources to fuel the development of the “characters.”  As I read Rita Carter’s chapters, I couldn’t help but mentally put Alison’s father through the Personality Wheel exercise.  The way he is described throughout “Fun Home” seemed to closely match the multiples Carter was describing.  In no way did I think of Mr. Bechdel as having MPD, however, he clearly displayed the ego-states of multiplicity of personality.  He seemed to move seamlessly between different personality types throughout the book, and that quality was apparent specifically in his character description.  The opening pages seem to set this up even from the title of the first chapter, “Old Father, Old Artificer.”  We can see the different disjunctive selves he had to maintain and understand the character through each: The English professor, the mortician, the father, the husband, the closet homosexual.  He seemed to display what would be classified as the Major-Minors multiple, however, although Major-Minors are often stable when each personality compliments each other, his closet homosexuality was in discordance with the rest.  This caused unrest in his personal life and might have ultimately, as Alison Bechdel suggests, caused his demise.


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September 24th, 2013 · 4 Comments

I want to start by saying that several times while reading this book, I threw my hands up in disgust with the arguments.  Then, occasionally, I found what I was disgusted by redacted in a way to a broader argument I could subscribe to.  It seems to me that Noe’s thesis is mainly that our conscious experience is not simply in the brain, but it a product of an embodied existence. I agree.  However, he seems to think this is dramatically different than other posited theories.  His arguments are often invalid (conclusion does not necessarily follow from premises) and he constantly uses skepticism to discount scientific evidence, but then uses similarly constructed evidence to prove his hypothesis.  Also, Noe’s argument constantly commits the straw man fallacy, building up arguments attributed to scientists that are under-representations or utter misrepresentations.  I’d like to think that no scientist actually thinks that the brain is independent (or even the nervous system) in conscious experience.

He uses the metaphor that science sees consciousness as a “phenomenon of the brain, the way digestion is a phenomenon of the stomach.”  First of all, digestion is a product of the stomach, but it is not exclusive to the stomach.  It, too, is an embodied process full of biological intricacies.  In the same way, consciousness is a product of the brain (he avows this occasionally) but it is not exclusive to the brain or independent of other processes.

I don’t know, in the video, he seemed much clearer as he really only posited his thesis that consciousness is much more complicated that strictly neural activity.  I completely agree with that, but in the book, he tries to propose reasons to discount the work or analysis of the work of neuroscience that is completely unfounded and badly argued.  I was content with the thesis, just not at all what developed from it.

In my opinion, I agree that consciousness is more than neural activity.  However, I believe it is because the concept of consciousness is linguistically vague and developed before the science trying to describe it.  Therefore, science is trying, in vain, to pinpoint something that doesn’t necessarily have a neurological basis.  I believe that science can discover qualities of the brain and the importance of its processes and even describe what happens when we are conscious of particular moments, however, that will never be enough to completely be sufficient for “consciousness” as we know it phenomenologically.  Because what we feel and understand as being conscious comes from that phenomenological aspect, and the word consciousness was constructed to encompass that feeling, science will have a hard time satisfying that definition biologically.


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September 18th, 2013 · 1 Comment

It’s not my week to post, but I feel the need to pose a question that hasn’t been addressed.  Is Damasio positing anything new?  Unfortunately, we only read the first four chapters, so I am cannot say with certainty that he doesn’t posit something later, as the book develops.  However, as I was reading this, I couldn’t help to feel that underneath the scientific language, it was a history report.  At no point did I feel that he was challenging any of the hypotheses or data available (other than his seeming disdain for his lack of credit in mirror neurons since he predicted this with as-if).  I find self to develop completely biologically, while the phenomenology and richness of individual self to be the combination of the vast differences in experience combined with genetic makeup and biological continuity.  I feel this all developed evolutionarily across time.  This evolution is incomplete (due to the lack of proof and ability to examine the historical evidence and linkage) however, hypotheses can be developed.  To me, in the 4 chapters, Damasio never really branches off from this or challenge this and I was left wanting development in the argument of consciousness or self.

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“The Shaking Woman” and assumptions of self hood

September 10th, 2013 · 6 Comments

As I was studying philosophy for my BA, I began to take an interest in philosophy of mind and the cognitive studies.  I had always been fascinated with the mind (I began my higher education as a psychology major) and the interactions between biology and cognition and consciousness.  However, I felt unsatisfied with each definitive assertion that tried to connect the biology with vague, linguistic terms such as “self” and “identity.”  I sincerely applaud the research and attempts at empirically defining such a thing, however, I feel it is an impossible feat.  My own personal thoughts on the topic of selfhood and identity was that it was not a static entity with a single, definable quality.  The vagueness and limits of language have attempted to construct symbols and definitions for something that is not definable, or at least singularly categorized.  The issue I have had with several books and theories I have read is the attempt to take a newly discovered mental trait or disorder and extrapolate it to encompass a full theory, or vice versa, construct a theory to explain a trait or disorder.

In my opinion, the disconnect is often linguistic.  The reason we have a hard time defining a self, is because we have no definition for it.  Humans construct language and the term self, and other vague terms like love, identity, etc…, isn’t something that can be identified on a micro level like in biology.  The science interested in defining the self wasn’t around when the word was introduced into vernacular and therefore its attempts are futile.  Things like the self and consciousness cannot be neatly packaged into a strict definition.

I believe Siri Hustvedt’s curiosity of the mind and her attempts to find the cause of her peculiar shaking led her on a journey without an answer and I think that is personified in the fact that ultimately she finds no answer.  Despite the amount of research and sources used from a variety of different disciplines, no one answer seemed to fit the mold.  Some worked better than others, but no one theory or discipline could get it right (her affliction or a clear definition of self).  Once again, I chalk it up to linguistic struggles.  If one tries to define self biologically through anatomy and neuroscience, one misses the “feeling” of self and what it is to be “someone.”  However, if one attempts to define the self through things like psychoanalysis or literature, one misses the scientific “proof” or empirical evidence necessary to be a concrete theory.

Therefore, I think my experience with Hustvedt’s book served to help solidify my thoughts and musings of what the self is.  If anything, the book read more like the journey we all encounter when attempting to solve this question on our own.

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