Mind-Based Identity: A Problem Impossible Term Paper

Pages: 10 (3027 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Biology

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[. . .] The fact is, many consider the definition of faith, itself, to be the antithesis of logic -- and most certainly the antitheses of science. Yet, take a close look at all of the reasoning applied to each viewpoint, and there it is, lurking underneath. Indeed, without exception, every one of the self-identity theories involve faith in one form or another, yet all of these also fail to properly cite its presence as a key component -- a kind of grease, perhaps, easing the choppy, halting motion of not quite convincing trains of reason. Further, if faith is indeed a component in all, even if it is so obviously distasteful that almost all fail to give it its due, does it not make sense that one should take the faith-based course of "best result

Good Old-Fashioned Religion

Mention a "belief in the unseen, or unknown," and many intellectuals and simpletons, alike, will chide you for your naivete. However, as stated above, it is clear that the same component (otherwise known as faith) is just as present in non-religious belief systems (including all philosophies of the nature of mind and self) as the most blatantly religion-based concept of self. Given this fact, that all theories are "flawed" or tainted by the presence of faith, as well as by necessary doubt, it only makes sense to take the most promising course with regard to potential outcome. This is particularly true in consideration of the self as infinite or temporal.

Most humans believe that the avoidance of pain, fear, and suffering are meritorious, even if those humans supposedly believe in the possibility of the existence of "false input" from the senses. For instance, in contrast to an individual who believes one's existence or self is confined to the experiences related by the senses, another more "mid-Meditation" Descartist may reject sensory input as reliable at all. They may say, for example, that something harmful can feel good (a narcotic reaction, for example), and that something good can feel harmful (vomiting after eating tainted food). However, if one were to observe this same theorist in "real life," he would in all likelihood, be seen avoiding physical or emotional pain in all instances. After all, faith has its limits -- what if the senses prove horribly accurate? Why take chances? Few would.

If then, this is the case, and one chooses to take the "safest" route with regard to faith and "best case scenarios" (i.e. human torch vs. happy stroller), does it not make sense to seek out the faith-based identity with the best possible outcome?

Clearly, this idea is hardly new. In fact, it was Augustine who used logic (and faith) to assert that it only makes sense to choose faith in God and the afterlife rather than unbelief, in that to choose God would only help you should God's promise prove to be true, and certainly place you no worse off should it be false. Although this argument was more theological in nature than the musings of Identity theorists, one cannot fail to see the connection between the flawed thinking of the atheist (in Augustine's view), and the flawed reasoning of body, mind, and sense identity adherents.

Much as Augustine reasoned, hey, you're alive anyway. You're gonna die for sure. Why not cover all of your bases just in case? Clearly the best way to do this is by choosing, out of the options you know, that which will harm you least. In the same vein, we know that all of the theories of self contain the component of faith (another expression of which may be the "hopeful unknown." Given that this component is the constant of all (much the same as death, itself, is the constant in Augustine's statement), it only makes sense to choose the theory of self that is the most promising -- that being one that includes infinite existence, specifically some form of "life after death," if only in mind.

Conclusions:

Clearly, the human experience of thought and all the "trappings" of musing on self and identity (including philosophy) leave much to be desired. As humans, most of us (we assume, anyway) have some inkling of the limits of our knowledge of the nature of self. We wonder, "If I am thinking, does this mean that I really am? Or is this thinking an illusion, perhaps conjured by the electrical impulses in my brain?" We may worry over how it will be to simply no longer exist, even if we fail to consider the considerable period we "didn't exist" before birth. We may wonder if everyone is just as we are in the same way that we are -- if they see and experience the world as we do. We may even feel that primary sensory pleasure seeking is "all there is," and that we are simply biological beings, straight out of seventh-grade biology text-books.

Despite all of the different tracks that conjecture on the nature of self and existence can take, the mere commonality of the need to "answer the question" points at a certain truth. Further, that doubt, and more importantly, faith is a necessary component of all of them indicates that mere philosophical, logical, or sensory musings are simply not the sources of ultimate wisdom that we yearn for. Given this fact, and given that humans are sufficiently imbibed with the need to understand just how one continues or does not continue to exist after death, it seems only logical that one would choose the best possible option with regard to potential outcome -- that which provides for the greatest assurance of infinite existence of the self. This is particularly true given the existence of faith in all other theories anyway (and this is most often the cause most non-religious people cite for their failure to consider a spiritual model).

Indeed, if faith is a common component in all theories, then one cannot use it as a "flaw" by which to judge one theory over another. The mere "lack of evidence" often attributed to religion as a basis for identity is just as present in mind, sense, and biological models. Given this, what can be lost by switching between them at will, other than choosing a false option at the expense of truth if that truth carries with it real benefits?

Personal Reflections:

Given this truth, my personal concept of self and identity seems to be a wise one. Consider, for example that I believe that I am destined, though my belief in God, and my accomplishment of good deeds, as well as the avoidance of bad, to die and live infinitely in some form with the same "mind" I think with right now. My sensory experience may be different after death, certainly my physical being will no longer be the same, yet the same mind with which I compose these words will continue. For me, this is a matter of faith -- and faith by definition is a struggle with doubt. However, in choosing belief, in this self-theory, I necessarily reject non-religious models.

Unlike the other identity models, however, I cannot embrace aspects of any other self model. I must reject them all. For example, I may not, according to my concept of identity, believe in the importance of sensory input at the expense of all else (hedonism is out), I can also not cite the benevolent nature of God as a basis for proving a Descartes-like theory based on the utility of my senses. After all, do I not see many whom God has chosen to be deficient in hearing, sight, taste, smell, or touch? Does that mean that God favors some over others, and he has designated them to "be" more, or "exist" more saliently? So, too, should I believe that "I think, and I am," yet the plainly insane man next to me on the bus does not exist?

Clearly, on logical grounds there are glaring flaws in all definitions and conceptions of self-identity. As of yet, there simply is no purely logical argument, despite many objections to the contrary. Although for some reason there seems to be a mystery concerning just why some people turn to a religious definition of existence rather than a philosophical or scientific one, it seems that choosing (if one, indeed chooses -- according to some scientific theorists, a particular part of the brain that causes an illusory belief in a "higher power") the religious option makes the most sense with regard to increasing one's odds of continued existence after death. Further, to do the converse does nothing to improve ones chances or outlook, unless one considers the abandonment of hedonistic pursuits to be a major sacrifice (and for some, it is). Given this fact it seems to be a good, Augustinian "hedging of my bets," to put my faith in religion rather than any other theory. After all, faith gets a bad wrap.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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