Day 36 - The Concept of Self
Sam Harris is an author, philosopher, neuroscientist, and podcast host. His work touches on a wide range of topics, including rationality, religion, ethics, free will, neuroscience, meditation, philosophy of mind, politics and AI.
What is consciousness? For most of us it feels like something that lives in our heads, separate and disconnected (though transported) by the body from place to place. It’s like a little person riding around in there - a person that is unique and distinct from everyone and everything else. It seems to be in control of our thoughts and our emotions, and to consciously determine what we do and say in the world. It is the author of all our thoughts and actions.
But in 50 years of neuroscience research, we haven’t been able to find that little person - or for that matter, any single point of origin in the brain for consciousness. As it turns out, we actually have very little natural control over what our minds think, or feel, or how they drive our behavior. But it’s clear that the “self” is a bundle of beliefs about our own attributes, identity and perceptions - and our conviction that we exist as an entity apart from others, and as an object in the world.
Self-awareness starts with the conscious knowledge of our unique purpose, values, beliefs, strengths and weaknesses . It increases with knowledge of our biases, blindspots and emotional triggers - and the realization of our true character and motivations. Mindfulness is the microscope that lets us examine and determine these realities in the mind.