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An Argument for the Universality of the Self

Related Links: Expanding Consciousness / Philosophy

Basically, there are two competing views of the 'self', which I label as Hypothesis I and Hypothesis II in the following:

Hypothesis 1: The self in each of us is a separate entity.

Hypothesis 2: The self in each of us is one and the same, only thinking it's a separate entity through delusion.

Ask yourselves the following questions:

Question 1: What am 'I'?

Question 2: Why am 'I' seemingly attached to this particular body and not someone elses?

Question 3: Why do 'I' seemingly exist at this particular period in time and not another? For example, why was 'I' not born 1000 years earlier, or 1000 years later?

Now, in answering these questions, there are at least two possible replies:

Reply 1: We assume Hypothesis I (i.e., the multiplicity and individuality of 'selves' across individuals), from which it follows that the reason 'I' am confined to this particular body, at this particular time, is completely arbitrary. There is no good reason and no meaningful way to satisfactorily answer questions 2 and 3.

Reply 2: We assume Hypothesis II (i.e., the identity of 'self' across individuals), from which it follows that the only reason we believe that we're confined to this particular body at this particular time is because our 'self', the same 'self' in each and every one of us, is deluding itself into thinking it's a separate and individual entity from the other 'selves' in other people.

The conclusion to be drawn from the above considerations is that Reply II is a more reasonable way to answer questions 2 and 3 above, and from which we further conclude, since Reply II assumes the validity of Hypothesis II, that the universality of the 'self' is not some empty, useless notion, but actually helps us to meaningfully and reasonably answer questions such as the ones posed above.

Thus, at the very least, these considerations should incline the more sceptical among us towards being more accepting of the notion of the universality of self, a notion that is usually 'realized' through transcendent, or mystical, experiences, but as the considerations above hopefully show, can be convincingly demonstrated through more rational means.


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