The Self

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Written by Dr. Nash Popovic

What the Self is not

We need first to clarify that the self is different from ‘I’ which can be considered the sum of its identifications. The self already exists when an infant is born, while many aspects of ‘I’ (or our personality) do not, but are slowly formed. In the physical life, the self identifies with that which provides the materials to awareness and can be influenced by intent. This is normally a physical body with its senses and the nervous system. That the self identifies with the body rather than being the body is demonstrated by the fact that in dreams, the self can dis-identify from the body and identify with a self-image (without even noticing the difference). The same applies to one’s name, nationality, various roles, personal habits and other elements of our personality. They all constitute what is commonly referred to as ‘I’, but they are not part of the self, nor is the self part of them. In summary:

The self itself, the necessity – as Kant put it – of the ‘I think’ being able to accompany all of my representations, a transcendental ego which is quite different to, and independent of, the empirical self that in the natural standpoint each of us identifies as ‘me’. (Solomon, 1988, p.136)

So, any part of oneself that the person can observe, imagine or think of, is a part of ‘I’, not the self. For example, you can ‘observe’ your thoughts, but this very ability to observe highlights the distinction between the ‘observer’ and the observed (thoughts themselves). However, if you have an image of

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