Are "you" just an illusion, a mix of experiences and "stuff" in the universe?
Credit: agsandrew / Shutterstock.com
Robert Lawrence Kuhn is the creator, writer and host of "Closer to Truth," a public television series and online resource that features the world's leading thinkers exploring humanity's deepest questions. This essay, the first of a four-part series on the “Self,” is based on "Closer to Truth" episodes and videos, produced and directed by Peter Getzels and streamed at closertotruth.com. Kuhn contributed it to Live Science's Expert Voices.
My mom just celebrated her 100th birthday. This once vibrant, eloquent, stylish lady with a sense of pride and a touch of vanity can no longer walk or talk. But she recognizes family, smiles when her great-grandchildren visit or her fingernails are polished, and utters rough phrases of displeasure when caring aides must intervene bodily. She makes an angry face when she senses (quite correctly) that people are talking about her, and she expresses overt frustration at her incapacity to communicate orally by scrunching up her face and balling her fist.
Is she still a "self"? Of course she is. She may not be "her self" — that is, her old self. But though diminished, she is surely a self.