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The Self as a Center of Narrative Gravity

I love Daniel Dennett’s thought experiments. They make tricky philosophical problems comprehensible. In The Self as a Center of Narrative Gravity he argues something that I’ve been pondering for a while: that the self is a story. He compares the self to a center of gravity which has no physical embodiment. Both are useful fictions.

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I am not my personality

Here’s a couple of data points in support of my view that personality is not a core attribute of our self: Getting into character and I Feel Like a Different Person. For example, I have at least two personalities: the professional, efficient me whom I use at work to get things done and the zany, cuddling daddy whom I use at home with my girls. (Really, should a grown man be able to skip through the house, singing made up songs?) People who don’t happen to live with me would not recognize me at home. And those who know me from when I was younger would recognize a pretty big change in how I behave socially.

Neither of those personalities is the real me. When I say that I use those personalities, I mean they represent my natural reaction to my context. I suppose you could say that they represent aspects of an underlying personality, but most of my behaviors are quite changeable and extrinsic.

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Conversation With Myself – Alan Watts

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