9. Pinocchio : Self
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Nature’s Craft Behind the Experience of Our Lives

Abstract:  The division of the world into ‘self’ and not self creates the dynamic psychodrama of our experience as persons involved with life.  An explanation of the way that we experience the world as individuals is woven from the fabric of all the explanations in the papers that have gone before.

Statistics: 5 printed pages, 2044 words, 32kb  
Published: March 29, 2000

You are made in the first person perspective in the starring role of a navigation psychodrama.  For a brief moment in time, the life of your organism blooms in the organization of matter and your person blossoms in the mind of your organism.  The experience of the world represented in our minds is divided into self and not self.  Intelligence (which is the basic ability to reason and execute action plans) identifies the ‘self’ as itself and thereby empowers the ‘self’ to be the agent of the organism.  By entraining experience into the computer like processes of the mind that represent the relationships of our organisms and the environment, the very experience of our existence is created. 

Even if you know that your experience of the world is phenomena being enacted inside your head it is almost impossible to stop the functioning of the belief that you are a person looking at the world.  In the model of the world in your mind, there is a set of proprioceptive sensations that is coordinated with the visual experience of the forward fascia (the view of your body from your own eyes) of your body to create a visual/tactile body image of your organism.  When your ‘self’ is associated to that body image it becomes you.

The intrinsic relationships of your ‘self’ are such that they accommodate identifying with the body image of your organism.  The action plan, from which the ‘self’ evolved, had its origins in the association of a patterned motor response (to sensory stimulation) to the muscles that would articulate the action pattern.  The association to the muscles evolved into an association to a proprioceptive body image (the summary of inputs of afferent neurons mapping the relative positions of body parts in a model in the brain). That body image became the subject of action plans.  The action plan is the fundamental way in which the brain processes response to the environment in navigating the organism.  An action plan is the virtual creation in the mind of a relationship between a subject, the action of that subject and the object of that action.  The action plan thus formulated can be used to initiate motor responses to the environment either immediately or in the future.

In humans, the ‘self’ is an organization of the subjects of action plans into an aggregation that has identified itself with the power to initiate actions.  The recursive system set up by this processing formulation allows the ‘self’ to modulate the responses of the organism to the environment upon a criteria of its choosing and thus it acts as the agent of the organism.   The fundamental empowerment is not truly that of the ‘self’ but rather that of life itself.  It is the organization of basic physical forces and energies into the organism that drive the brain to process stimuli from the environment.  A convolution of the mind’s processes creates the notion of the ‘self’ that then reinforces itself.  It identifies the body image as itself and then assigns the learned responses found in action plans to itself as well.  It thus becomes the self-recognized agent of the organism and believes that it initiates the activities of the organism, which in fact it does by processing responses through its own criteria.  The ‘self’ is a virtual agent/entity/being that exists because it recursively maintains its own existence.  There is no fundamental substance of the ‘self’.  It is completely the product of processing relationships.  It is completely intangible, a spirit.  That is not a significant point because the world that we experience is completely a virtual world but it is a world that is related to a real world outside of our experience.

We divide the internal world of our navigation Maps into what is ‘self’ and what is not ‘self’.  This distinction is theoretically arbitrary because ‘self’ is a function that is identified to things represented in the Map.  It is imaginable that a deranged mind could see its carrying organism as being against its ‘self’.  Its ‘self’ would have to imagine some other embodiment for itself other than the organism’s body image.  So you see, it is what the process of the ‘self’ is dressed up as that identifies it or what it is identified with that becomes the ‘self’.  It is essentially a relationship between a function and subject.   Therefore, though the body image is the normal foundation of a ‘self’, the ‘self’ can be extended into the environment outside of the body image of the organism.  The ‘self’ can confuse its possession of property with its own (virtual) being.  An abuse of its property or internal attributes can be an abuse of its own being which will cause the organism to become angered.  A ‘self’ can project itself into dominating another human being.  A person can dominate his or her spouse. A dictator can dominate a society.  We can look in the other direction and find the ‘self’ may be afraid of the organism carrying it or even its own ‘self’ over which it may feel it has no control.  In these cases, the notion of the ‘self’ gets in the way of better organizing the organism’s relationship to the environment and it becomes necessary to reduce the dominance of the recursive notion of the ‘self’.  The ‘self’ is the aggregation of subjects of action plans held together by the idea that it is a whole entity.  Nevertheless, it is the effectiveness of the underlying action plans that determine the effectiveness of a ‘self’ in representing the organism.  The meta organization of the ‘self’ sometimes needs to be suspended or at least partially suspended in order to fix the underlying functions otherwise the meta organization demands consistencies that might not permit repairs. 

The ‘self’ only represents the organism by association.  Common sense tells oneself that his ‘self’ is his organism but the ‘self’ is not the organism.  The ‘self’ is a function that recursively relates itself onto its own self.  Generally a ‘self’ will be a body image, a set of self recognized attributes and skills, certain appearances and situations over which the ‘self’ exercises control.  These are determined by individual circumstances.  A person’s ‘self’ may be more strongly identified with his automobile than with his or her health but both are part of his or her ‘self’ by association to the function of the ‘self’.   The function of the ‘self’ divides the world we experience into a world that is identified as ‘self’ and a world that is identified as other. 

The ‘self’ believes that it possesses the attribute of being able to see.  The circumstances of vision accommodate this belief.  The ‘self’, which is identified with the body image, must be inside the body looking out through the eyes because it can only see the forward fascia of the body.  The error is that the ‘self’ has presumed its own self and has attributed to itself the ability to see.  The ‘self’ has identified action patterns as being its own creations (and there is nobody except reason itself to contradict this) as well as the body image as being its own self and so when it sees the body moving in the environment it feels that it itself is moving.  It is on account of the consistency of the picture created by these mental artifacts in the Map that we are seduced into believing that we are different than that which we experience even when thinking of our experience as a Map in our minds.  It needs to be this way to work as a navigation system.  We must believe that it is the world itself that we are relating to even if we know that it is a mental analog for the world.  We, our ‘selves’, must be different from the world in order to relate to it despite any understanding we might have of how it works.  For the navigation system to work correctly the notion of one’s agency must be identified with the organism it serves.  It must be identified with the artifacts (body image, attributes, skills and etc.) representing one’s own organism and to some extent the accessory property of one’s organism.  To understand experience we are trying to transcend an evolutionary bias that has deep roots in the integrated functioning of mind, body and environment. 

You are somewhere reading this paper.  That is just how it feels.  It is how it feels to be an intrinsic part of your mind’s navigation protocol.  You are the first person in relationship to the party of the second part, the rest of the world.

We experience only what happens inside our minds.  We can’t experience the relationship of our organism to the external environment but our minds represent this relationship.  By dividing the experience in our navigation Maps between ‘self’ and other there is created a dynamic relationship between our ‘selves’ and the environment.  This virtual experience reflects a real experience to which we cannot be privy on account that the method of the navigation system creates the only knowledge or awareness there is of the environment in the first place.  The environment has no appearance; there is no motion without the mind and therefore no function.  It is like the gray world we imagined in PINOCCHIO: Thought.  The relationship we experience with the world is the artifice of our navigation systems but we also have a real relationship with the world that we cannot experience that has a direct effect on our navigation system.  It is the sense of behavior that we don’t control that emphasizes the otherness of the rest of the world.  The behavior associated with the ‘self’ is controlled by the ‘self’ through action plans.  This can be extended to the immediate property of the  ‘self’ but at some point the ‘self’ no longer has control of the environment and it becomes other than ‘self’.  This blurred boundary of control makes for the drama of our experiences.  Whereas in fact the experiences are all taking place in our minds, the artifacts of the mental model are engaged in a struggle with each other.  Some of the mental artifacts are the analog for the real artifacts in the external world and their representations are controlled by the nature of the real artifacts and are faithfully represented by the mind in the presentation phase of navigation. The ‘self’ controls the other artifacts. 

The experiences of our organisms’ relationships to the world are psychodramas plotted in the navigation systems of our minds and are the only world that we experience.  Navigation is the continuous computation and adjustment of actions set in motion by action patterns and plans initiating motor responses the results of which are reported by feedback through the senses.  The Map charts the events in the real world by visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory and gustatory representations.  It is exactly the world that we experience and the only world that we experience.  The experience of resistance by real things is reflected in the feelings of muscle tension.  The affront of assaults on the organism is felt as pain.  The excitement of involvement is accompanied by the emotional content of need, desire, fear and gratification.  All the inputs are woven into the experience of our lives presented in the Map.

Even in something as simple as eating a slippery peeled grape with one’s fingers, the psychodrama of navigation is in full display.  The ‘self’ is fussing over the skill of its fingers in taking control of the grape away from gravity.  You only need to remember that the event has blossomed from the organization of matter, first into an organism and then into a mind and lastly into a ‘self’ in the midst of a psychodrama, to be struck by the wonder of the Universe.  We are like Pinocchio.  Life, consciousness and personhood have been crafted into our material beings by nature.