self and other stories


What do we actually mean when referring to the most frequently used pronoun of every person ever, the “I”? Do we think about our own body, our brain, our character? And what makes me me and you you? Are we a self ourselves, or are we made to one?

Since generations, philosophers stew over this abstract question, to which the answer had, in theory, to be so inherently concrete, like nothing else in our lives. According to the english philosopher John Locke, the feeling of self-ascription is constituted in our heads — grounded in memories. Sure, I remember my first school day, when I sat in the first classroom of my life, thrilled of anticipation, having no idea, how radically perspectives can change within a short time. Because I have this memory, I know that that kid was me, and still is me, only later. Essentially, that is a nice idea. But it looses grip, when we realize that there are defining situations within our lives we can’t even remember.

Maybe rather going the more radical way and completely freeing ourselves from a concept of self? If you’d ask David Hume, there is no such thing as self. How should I remain the “me” I am, from one moment to the next, if the self is consisting of the same properties, namely “mine”, which in fact, to change every second? His solution: The self is a bundle of impressions — bodily, mentally, impressions of preferences, memories, emotions and labels, given to us by others and ourselves. The self is just one more label we put on everything contained in that self-box. The fact that there is no such box shows us that nothing exists, which holds it all together.

Some things stay, many things change, this is for sure. There is no one, unchanging “I” from birth to death and still: everyone of us has a kind of psychological connection to oneself, the “me”. But the things we develop psychological connectedness within our time life, change too: Broccoli has always been my favorite green, but Dora the explorer is not the top of my watchlist anymore. It looks as if parts of ourselves survive time, because they’re connected with the former status of ourself and others die and make space for new ones.

To sum up this metaphysical awkwardness: without change, we’d soon look pretty old being very young, even me.

Julia Held

I am a philosophy masterstudent, a writer and host of the podcast of "Transformatorenwerk Leipzig". I am interested in philosophy as practice - for creating one's life, for personal and emotional development and for a balanced and exciting life. My vision is to strengthen the person as a responsible subject which thinks and acts by itself while answering to the world it encounters.