PSY 306 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Cogito Ergo Sum, Immanuel Kant, Tabula Rasa
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Class 6: January 28: What is the self?
Who Am I?
● What is similar about how people describe themselves?
○ Static, observable facts - positive traits
○ Generalizations, abstractions
○ Many answers could describe lots of people
● What’s Missing??
○ The flow of ongoing experience
○ Hopes for the future
● What could we take away and you still be you?
○ Name, sick, antidepressants, mood change, attitudes and
preferences, deserted island with no one you know,
● What could we replace in your body and you still be you?
○ Kidney, teeth, hair, one neuron, five neurons, your entire
What is the self?
● 2500 years of great philosophers can’t agree
○ They do have interesting ideas though
Plato (380 BC)
● Soul is the “ruler of the body, distinct from the body, and
therefore can live on without the body”
○ First example of dualism, different from Democritus who
said that the mind and body are one
Aristotle (350 BC)
● Self/soul is an emergent quality of the physical body
● Hydrogen and oxygen aren’t wet but H2O is
● Violin’s sound is result of how its built
St. Augustine (354 A.D.)
● “Whether I am asleep or awake, it is I who is one of these and
therefore I exist”
○ Descartes (1641 A.D.) stole the glory for this idea when
he wrote “cogito ergo sum” (I think therefore I am) over
1000 years later
St. Thomas Aquinas (1250)
● Tabula rasa = blank slate
○ The soul enters the body through experience
○ Potential for social influence on the self
Immanuel Kant (1781)
● True self exists but is unknowable
○ “Noumena”, e.g., disease
● The effects of the self are seen in the world and in our perceptions
○ “Phenomena”, e.g. symptoms
● Symptoms vs. Disease