What is the self? Might it be defined with some clever yet terse statement? Can it be tasted, touched, seen, or is it tangible at all? Intuitively my answer resounds as a yes. But to the most former of the questions, I have no real idea what ‘self’ is. Dictionary definitions abound as to its general characteristics and people to whom I pose the question will confidently state that it is “me” – offering the entrance of identity into the discussion. Perhaps ‘identity’ is the synonym for ‘self’. Yet the significant question concerning self has not been answered. What IS self (identity) – its functions or essence?
We might leave such questions to “experts” as they are likely to possess some mental aptitudes keener than the common human – correct? I think not. For what might the experts say of that which we experience subjectively? Truly the experts of self are those who have an identity. To whittle away at the mystery of the essence of self, one must merely employ the act of questioning one’s own. And so we do. By affirming what self is NOT, we better our understanding of it might be or is.
Q: Is one’s identity formed at birth or before?
A: By observation and direct experience, I declare the answer is no. One’s identity and sense of ‘self’ is created, refined, and apprehended in proportion to one’s level of cognition and thus chronological age and physiological/anatomical development.
Q: Once identity is established, is it a relatively permanent phenomenon of the individual’s physical existence? That is to ask, is it consistent and constant?
A: One’s identity is not consistent and constant with consideration of the above answer to the question of birth and identity. If one’s identity is formed throughout time, as the answer makes explicit, then one’s identity is constant in its development. It is not instated or constant (permanent, consistent, formed, etc.) at any given point along the chronological scale of one’s physical existence. Therefore one’s identity exhibits a property of formlessness.
Q: Aren’t there characteristics of one’s behavior or thinking style (cognition) that are present at an early age and consistent throughout one’s lifetime? And if so, does this mean one’s identity might be formed at birth?
A: The characteristics stated are simply properties of the self (identity) but not the essence of what self is.
Q: You contend that an identity exhibits a property of formlessness in that it is constantly changing……What is identity?
A: Identity is formless, and as such it is always changing. Who we think we are now is not who we think we were or will be.
To be continued…