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The Illusion Of Self

May 19, 2012

In a post I wrote last year, I claimed our sense of self is an illusion.  What did I mean by that?  I’ve been thinking that I need to be careful how I phrase things so that I’m not misunderstood.  When I say the self is an illusion, I’m using it in direct opposition to delusion.  Delusion implies mental illness, illusion does not.  Take a visual illusion for instance. The image you’re seeing appears to be one thing, but upon closer inspection you see that you weren’t correct.

There’s nothing wrong with you when you interpret the hollow interior of the mask incorrectly.  Our brains are wired up to interpret images a certain way and sometimes that mental process fails.  If you study computer vision and try to create robots which can decode the 3D spatial environment they’re located within from two optical camera eyes, the algorithms have to make certain heuristic assumptions about reality in order to work.  Otherwise there’s simply too many possibilities and the problem cannot be solved.  If those assumptions fail however, the visual information is interpreted incorrectly, and in our brain’s case, we experience an illusion.

The self is a useful set of assumptions we’re hard-wired to ascribe to living things, but upon closer inspection, it just isn’t there.  It allows us to interact with one another, work together more effectively, have of a sense of morality, and so forth, but when you study the mind and how the brain works, you see how fractured our “self” really is.  The human mind is a large collection of fragmented systems sharing information, not a single unified system.

Topics: Philosophy, Psychology | No Comments »

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