Chapter 6: The Personal Entity
In this chapter consideration is given to certain technical parameters associated with “self,” or how this idea shall be defined in various specific ways. Might it be useful to define units of self with associated magnitudes? How shall self exist over time? Might various unique selves be productive to assess together as one entity? Such technical issues will need definition in order to more practically demonstrate the presented theory. Note that “instinct” and “self” have been defined as the exclusive means by which a subject may function. Here self constitutes “the sensation based element,” which leaves instinct to take the default role of “everything else.” The majority of the following discussion concerns the dynamics of “self,” leaving the descriptively simple idea of “everything else” to exist as “instinct.”
It’s quite standard for subjects which have a the ability to experience positive or negative sensations to be referred to as “sentient life.” I avoid stating that self exists as the ability to feel positive or negative, however, to instead define it as the experience, or the manifestation, of sensations. From this definition “self” does not exist in a sentient form of life, when sensations are not being experienced at a given moment. If a subject is “perfectly numb,” it will lack self for as long as this complete void in sensation is maintained. Under such a state, “instinctive instruments” become the only means through which operation may be incited to occur.
((This paragraph observes that personal terms such as “I” do not represent “self” from my definitions, but rather just “potential self mediums.” Here sensations like jealousy, hunger, joy, and so on, take the role of “self” exclusively.
For example, in the statement “I hurt myself,” the “I” and “myself” simply represent a potential for sensation/self to exist, while the “hurt” represents “self” to the extent that sensations are being referenced. So rather than say “I am here” for example, one might say “This body is here,” or even “This sentient medium is here.” And though we do generally manage with standard personal terms like “I,” and “she,” and even “it,” they must merely reference “potential self mediums,” leaving the dynamics of “self” exclusively for sensations.
Beyond the question of whether or not “self” exists, there is also the issue of degree to consider. Because there is a spectrum of weaker to stronger sensations which may be experienced, apparently “self” should be defined to have associated positive to negative magnitudes. From this perspective an entity that is in tremendous pain or pleasure will have “more self” during these extremities, than it has when lesser degrees of sensations are being experienced.
((These two paragraphs consider how we might practically measure sensation magnitudes, and thus “magnitudes of self.”
Researchers have not yet developed machines from which to effectively quantify the sensations which we experience. For example, I’ve noticed that when I seek medical help for some kind of pain, I’m generally asked “On a scale of 1 to 10, how much pain are you in?” Ideally these professionals would be able to quantify my sensations for themselves. Because our facial muscles seem to automatically display the varieties and magnitudes of sensations which we experience, however, one relatively simple way of quantifying sensations might be developed through computer analysis of human facial expressions. Such data might be very useful, and especially so if earnest expressions can be discerned from the phony.
Perhaps it would ultimately be most effective to monitor sensation magnitudes through more direct biological sources. By measuring various chemical and electrical dynamics associated with sensations, perhaps reasonably accurate ways of estimating sensation/self quantities could be achieved. As things stand however, we’re essentially forced to make due with our own inherent abilities in this regard. This involves our natural capacity to experience personal sensations, as well as our abilities to understand what others may be experiencing through assessments of their circumstances, their speech, their facial expressions, and so on.
Beyond distinctions concerning the existence and magnitude of self, there is also the matter of continuity to address. Would it be productive to view a subject’s self as one continuous entity over time, or rather as a whole spectrum of individual entities? And if the noncontinuous approach does seem useful, what might practically bond these “countless individual selves” so that they do function together effectively enough for species proliferation?
Observe that the present self medium does not directly experience past sensations, as well as those which will be experienced in the future. Because each moment brings unique associated sensations, technically each moment should be useful to consider in terms of a unique associated self — or as an instantaneous entity with an associated positive/negative magnitude.
In practice, however, this “instantaneous present self” does effectively seem to be joined with past and future selves somewhat, through “memory of past” and “anticipation of future” sensations. Apparently memory and anticipation can bring present sensations, and thus practically connect the present self with remembered past, as well as forseen future, circumstances.
To begin with “the memory conduit,” apparently the nature and intensity of current sensation can vary widely as different memories are processed. For example, remembering the pain of a recent toothache should not bring present sensations which are very similar to the original sensation. Remembering an embarrassing moment, however, might invoke sensations that are quite similar. But regardless of the effect, without memory the current self will not have this conscious bond with former selves. Thus a person with no memory of past family experiences, for example, will not have this conscious family connection.
Though we have a conscious tool from which to remember the past, there is apparently no such tool for the future. But even though we can’t simply “remember the future,” we generally do still seem able to anticipate what will happen somewhat given assessments of present circumstances. So to the extent that anticipation causes present sensations, the present self does at least become joined with foreseen potential selves.
Observe that if a present self medium foresees greater potential for future happiness in some regard, then through the anticipation conduit an associated “hope” may emerge as positive present sensations. Furthermore if there seems to be greater potential for future unhappiness in some regard, then an associated “worry” may emerge as negative present sensations. Thus the sensations of “hope” and “worry” are theorized here as the basic motivation which drives the conscious mind to deal with foreseen potential circumstances.
((These seven paragraphs are a practical demonstration of how the anticipation conduit seems to join foreseen potential selves with the present one, by means of “hope” and “worry.”
“Experience” seems to play a role here, which I take from observations of both myself and my son:
I have learned to invest in the future welfare of my current self. Though making these investments may sometimes be difficult, they also tend to increase my hope and/or diminish my worry, which respectively promotes my positive and diminishes my negative present sensations. I presumably tolerate making investments for the welfare of my future selves, when my associated positive present sensations overcome the negative, given both my hope and my worry regarding the future.
When he was six it became apparent to me that my son was not taking such an active approach to the welfare of his future selves, presumably given his inexperience. Saving his candy for a future self medium to enjoy often did not seem to bring him much hope, for example, so he’d just eat it instead. Similarly, formal education required hard work that often did not seem to gratify his current self medium. For this reason it was my job to force him to make these investments so that he would gain the tools which constitute this kind of education. Furthermore it was also my job to inspire him — to help him see the great opportunities that formal education can provide in a way that his current self medium would find this path rewarding through greater levels of hope, as well as diminished levels of worry, in respect to his future existence.
In practice the selves over time must function harmoniously enough together for species proliferation, though in an ultimate sense each individual moment of sensation/self should be considered independent of the rest… and thus “selfish.” Consider the situation of an extremely overweight person who would rather not be this way. Note that an associated present self would not generally be penalized if steps had been taken to lose weight in the past, so if possible, this is the option that we’d expect to be chosen — here the present self would benefit from past sacrifice, though apparently only at the expense of former selves. In reality, however, an overweight present self medium faces the prospect of enduring sacrifices associated with losing weight, even though the benefits would instead be reaped by future selves. So why then might “a selfish instantaneous self” nevertheless make such an apparent sacrifice for a distinctly different self? The reason that a present self medium might be motivated to lose weight (or any other “investment”), theoretically concerns the current positive sensations associated with the hope of taking these steps, and reducing the current negative sensations associated with the worry of not taking these steps.
Also consider a situation that would bring substantial short-term positive sensations, though potentially far greater levels of long term negative sensations. “Getting stoned” might be considered in this respect. If this prospect does not bring much worry, and refraining does not bring much hope, then “getting stoned” is effectively what will (and should) be done from the perspective of the current self. Though the collection of selves may ultimately end up less happy when assessed together given the various problems associated with drug use, it’s the happiness of the current self that is the operative element. Thus for example, perhaps one thing that helps keep certain “street people” where they are, is generally diminished potential to experience “normal” sensations of hope and/or worry.
If “sensations” are the basic motivation which drives conscious function, however, then why might an apparently knowledgeable and sane “activists,” consciously choose the pain, disfigurement, and so on, associated with self immolation? Does this demonstrate that the presented model conflicts with observation, given that people obviously do choose to burn themselves in this manner from time to time?
Observe however that if the worry associated with these potential negative sensations is not sufficient to overcome the hope of making a positive contribution to a given cause, then lighting a match while drenched in fuel to serve as a tragic public spectacle, might consciously be assessed as productive personal behavior. Also note however that these impending dire consequences would not technically be experienced by the self which causes them, given that the main punishments should instead be borne by future selves. And presumably from a future perspective of incredible pain, a grave mistake should indeed become apparent.
The presented self is technically an instantaneous entity, and thus one that exists to the magnitude of sensation which is experienced at a given moment. Also, this value will be positive or negative to the degree that an associated sensation is positive or negative. But just as we generally consider our own existence over time, the concept of “self over time” should be an idea which is useful.
“Self over time” is theorized here as the aggregate sensations which are experienced — or essentially positive sensations over time contribute to “total personal value,” while negative sensations over time deduct. This definition reflects the idea that each moment of sensation is an individual personal entity, and therefore each must contribute its own positive/negative magnitude to this system over a specified period of time.
This approach might, for example, be contrasted with an “average” assessment. Observe the existence of two subjects with the same average level of sensation experienced, though one occurs for a year, while the other occurs for one hundred years. While the average method will rate each of them to have the exact same “total personal value,” the aggregate method will rate the longer case to have one hundred times the magnitude of the shorter, whether this is positive or negative. I view this option to be superior, since each individual personal entity will fully contribute under “the aggregate assessment,” though not for “the average.” (In chapter 11 I will use this “aggregate sensations” idea to theorize “social welfare.” Thus each positive sensation which occurs in a defined society over time will be “good for it,” while each negative sensation will impart an associated deduction.)
To now pause for a quick review, the entire operation of “life” has been partitioned into classifications of self, and a complement that lies beyond it, or instinct. As the manifestation of positive/negative sensations, self will exist both to the degree and for the duration that sensations are experienced. Furthermore, even though a given self will not technically exist continually over time, in practice a subject may still function effectively over time, given that memory of past sensations, as well as the anticipation of future sensations through “hope” and “worry,” can bring associated present sensations. And finally, when the concept of self is nevertheless defined over time, an “aggregate measure of sensations” should be a useful idea, since each “individual self” will fully contribute under such an assessment.
To contrast this secondary system with its primary complement, instinct concerns dynamics which occur beyond the punishments and/or rewards associated with sensations. Hair grows, the heart beats, infections are attacked, and so on… under a system which is apparently not incited by sensations. The presented “self” is the manifestation of sensations, and sensations theoretically motivate the conscious mind. “Instinct,” however, addresses all remaining aspects of existence.
((This three paragraph discussion observes that a definition for “life” is not required to support these models, and that all “alien good” should inherently be addressed here as well.
“Instinct,” or “life’s primary mode of operation,” has been presented under an “everything beyond sensations” definition, which in turn opens the question of how “life” should be defined. I can avoid this consideration, however, by simply omitting the term “life” from this definition. So here “instinct” addresses the operation of all reality (“living” or not) to the extent that it isn’t motivated by sensations.
Nevertheless, perhaps a definition for “life” would be useful to help describe the nature of “self.” But “life” is only presumably required in order for sensations to be experienced. If it is indeed possible for a machine to be constructed such that it can be punished and/or rewarded, which is to say, such that it can experience sensations, then the presented theory will address a personal entity “in the absence of life.”
Observe that these definitions address the nature of “alien reality” as well. As noted above, any subject which is “punished” and/or “rewarded,” regardless of where, when, or any other dimension of existence, will also contain associated “self.” All such punishments and/or rewards may then be termed “sensations,” and the means through which they are experienced may then be termed “consciousness.”
Though instinct is relatively simple to describe under its “everything else” definition, self does still harbor various important dynamics to address. If sensations are to exist under the medium of “consciousness,” then how shall this idea be defined? In order to prepare for the coming model of human consciousness, however, the following two chapters consider the more basic ideas of “mind” and “non-conscious mind.”