Self as artifact of grammar


In your gross form, the so-called YOU is a collection of gelatinous blobs hanging onto rock-like sticks made of calcium phosphate.

What about the ghost-like self that seems to be running the blob-covered sticks? The self is an artifact of The Voice—the commentator who prepends “I think …” to its announcements. The Voice is the source of all truth and knowledge, and real existence is an artifact of syntax. Existence is a property of the grammatical subject. The existence of the self is an artifact of putting the “I” in the subject position. Saying “I think …” forces attention to believe that there is a referent of the “I.” From this we come to believe that there really is and “I” that is running the blob-covered sticks.

The object of “I think …”—the truth about existence that is known—is also a proposition. We say I think this leaf is green. The content of the known is sensation. The entire surface of your body is bombarded with environmental garbage all the time. If the garbage is massive enough, sensation (always in tandem with consciousness) arises. When the energy of impact is high enough, the peripheral nerves produce a signal that registers pressure and mass. This is your tactile sense. It is a very rough sense—it only knows force of impact along with roughness, heat/cold, chemical burn, stinging, itching, electric shock. No other information is gathered.

Electrical and magnetic waves hitting our skin stimulate no sensation. To actually feel light hitting your skin would require a hundred thousand Watts per square centimeter. We can only feel the impact of light as heat. However, there is one part of the body (the head) that houses a cluster of impact amplifiers that tell us about more than just impact. Our eyes focus light on a 2D array of amplifiers on their back walls, and if the waves are between 400–700 nm apart we “see” something. Chemicals are analyzed by shape on the tongue and olfactory bulb, and we “taste” and “smell” something. Vibrations in the air move our eardrums, and we “hear” something.

Each kind of sensation is a fabrication. Energy is processed until it becomes a quale—an entity that does not exist in physical reality but does exists inside consciousness.

The onslaught of qualia produce consciousness that is then gathered up into a single “I” thanks to our capacity for making first-person indexical truth-claims by means of the subject–predicate relation. That is, the myriad of tiny robots that are really you can be gathered up and named by a single symbol, carried by the grammatical subject.

Above the myriad small and automatic (autonomic) decisions made throughout my body, I believe there is another decision maker over and above them all. This is the so-called self, which pops up as real whenever you say “I.”