I am large, I contain multitudes
June 9, 2011 8:27 AM   Subscribe

"How is one to know which aspect of a person counts as that person’s true self?" Does it lie "precisely in our suppressed urges and unacknowledged emotions, while our ability to reflect is just a hindrance that gets in the way of this true self’s expression?" Or is "the most distinctive and essential to a human being is the capacity for rational reflection?" Or is the authentic self "the ideologically-validated self"?
posted by AceRock (51 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Does it lie "precisely in our suppressed urges and unacknowledged emotions, while our ability to reflect is just a hindrance that gets in the way of this true self’s expression?"

Why would our inhibitions be any less a part of our "true self" than our suppressed urges are?
posted by Jpfed at 8:46 AM on June 9, 2011


The Knobe piece was interesting.
posted by oddman at 8:46 AM on June 9, 2011


Atoms are made up of subatomic particles working to produce the appearance of a whole. Matter is made up of atoms working to produce the appearance of a whole. Our bodies are made up of individual cells working to produce the appearance of a whole. Our society is made up of individual people working to produce the appearance of a whole. I'd imagine if we were large enough the universe would look like galaxies working together to produce the appearance of a whole.

I like to think of psychologists and neuroscientists as taking a magnifying glass to self and discovering "Holy shit, there are little pieces in there." I wonder what we'll be able to see in a few hundred years?
posted by 3FLryan at 8:52 AM on June 9, 2011 [15 favorites]


Quick! Somebody get Edie Brickel on the line.
posted by punkfloyd at 8:53 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


...parenting ranks just a bit higher than housework, and falls below sex...

You mean making the babies is more fun than changing their shitty diapers? Who would have guessed?!
posted by asnider at 8:56 AM on June 9, 2011


You mean making the babies is more fun than changing their shitty diapers? Who would have guessed?!

A fundamental human flaw: creation is more fun than maintenance.
posted by 3FLryan at 8:59 AM on June 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


So much of this article focuses on men in conflict with their homosexuality. Is their true identity the straight person struggling or the gay person struggling to come out? This seems to be what the article, or the Yale profs in the article are focusing on.

No. Homosexual is not an identity any more than pants-wearer or hair-comber is. It is a label that other people place on something you do that is more important to them than anything else you do.

Furthermore, this statement is grotesque:
"It's not really true, despite our fears, that we will be lost to ourselves if we forsake our defining values."

The statement is wrong because is assumes the existence of something that doesn't exist, "defining values." No one's identity is there relationship to some set of values that are established external to them.

This is a sloppy study and a sloppy article because it attempts to re-assert for cheap political purposes an idea that I had assumed was rightly and thoroughly junked long ago in intellectual circles, that identity is a fixed position in some identity space.

"The primary human means of survival is social cooperation." No, again. Evidence? Proof? There isn't any. Social this-and-that is fashionable right now, so we reconstruct the history of the human species to accommodate the need for a better fucking page-rank.

The primary human means of survival is has always been and will always be adaptability. The individual to the setting, to the climate, to nature, to others. To become that which is not hostile or threatening so as to no invoke a hostile or threatening response. To become in the moment that which you weren't and to become something else in another moment.

The conflicted closeted homosexual is not defined by their starting point (straightness) or the endpoint (homosexuality) or the state of conflict/progression between them. Their identity is the verb, what they are doing. Are they appeasing some social group? Are they worrying about consequences? Are they hiding? Are they exploring? Are they being curious, opening their mind, lashing out, etc. What is going on underneath the conflict is the identity. You are he who doesn't want to disappoint is mother, or parishonsers, or God. Etc.

The reason some people spend years in analysis and not get anywhere is the same reason people are conflicted and neurotic about almost everything they do in their lives. They want their identity to be a point. It can't ever be that. Your identitty is the flow, the movement between points. Our identity is our becoming-X. But it is not X.

Read your Anti-Oedipus.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:00 AM on June 9, 2011 [17 favorites]


None of these articles ever seems to question the assumption that things like "being happy" or accumulating "positive memories" should stand unquestioned as our goals for life. In other news, psychologists in the 21st century figure out what Walt Whitman discovered using only poetry in the 19th century. "I am large, I contain multitudes."
posted by nanojath at 9:02 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


A fundamental human flaw: creation is more fun than maintenance.

Is that truly a flaw, though?

If creation wasn't such a joy, would we be as creative as we are as a species? And would we be as willing to put up with the drudgery of maintenance if we weren't so excited at the initial moment(s) of creation that we want to see our creation succeed and endure, even if doing so is hard work?
posted by asnider at 9:03 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like to think of psychologists and neuroscientists as taking a magnifying glass to self and discovering "Holy shit, there are little pieces in there."
posted by 3FLryan at 11:52 AM on June 9


psychologists in the 21st century figure out what Walt Whitman discovered using only poetry in the 19th century. "I am large, I contain multitudes."
posted by nanojath at 12:02 PM on June 9


"When you will have made him a body without organs,
then you will have delivered him from all his automatic reactions
and restored him to his true freedom."

posted by Pastabagel at 9:09 AM on June 9, 2011


'Self' is an illusion.

Or rather, it's a fiction. People create an identity because it's convenient. "Helen is so X." Is she really? Well, not always. We all contain multitudes. We all change, if we let ourselves. We do our 'selves' a discourtesy when we allow ourselves to be calcified by how others see us and how we see ourselves.

Wait, sorry. What was the question?
posted by Eideteker at 9:11 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is that truly a flaw, though?

Depends on how you look at it. Right now, I am looking at it through the blackened lens of "the world is messed up, our resources are dwindling, our climate is changing due to us, and we seem to be moving further away from sustainability (maintenance) and towards destruction (a form of creation)".

If we loved maintenance more than creation, we would still create stuff, but just for the sake of maintaining it. It sure wouldn't be as interesting of a world, but maybe more sustainable. Though, I honestly don't know if that would be better.
posted by 3FLryan at 9:11 AM on June 9, 2011


The results showed a systematic connection between people’s own values and their judgments about the true self. Conservative participants were more inclined to say that the person’s true self had emerged on the conservative items, while liberals were more inclined to say that the person’s true self had emerged on the liberal items.

Conclusion: when confronted with an epistemologically fuzzy, metaphysical existential concept that is stuffed with implicit value judgments, people default to their preconceived ideologies. Super impressed by "experimental philosophy."
posted by nanojath at 9:12 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Work is often engaging and social; vacations are often boring and stressful.

Vacation: yer doin' it wrong. Also, if ever there was something that often earned the title "Boring and Stressful", it would be work.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:13 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


The body without organs is an egg: it is crisscrossed with axes and thresholds, with latitudes and longitudes and geodesic lines, traversed by gradients marking the transitions and the becomings, the destinations of the subject developing along these particular vectors.

I read that, and thought, "the Earth," which was then used as an analogy. Cool. Thanks Pastabagel, I will check out The Logic of Sense.
posted by 3FLryan at 9:18 AM on June 9, 2011


I believe it is a false question--I think the true self resides in the cumulative behaviors of the person. Thoughts, urges. wants, ideas, feeling are transitory, ephemeral, contradictory and often reified concepts. It is behavior, behavior and more behavior. While the other things may have chemical/electrical properties that is what they are until translated into behavioral expression. This maybe done solely by the person or with adaptive or enhanced technologies. Very simply, we are what we do. Does a person in a complete vegetative state have a real self? Got me--but I am putting my money on his/her true self being "a vegetative state" accompanied by certain electrochemical activity. Self is a dynamic, though relatively stable, phenomena that we use as a convenience to explain complex phenomena. To say one is not himself really means he/she is not behaving as we expect. To say I do not feel like my self means I am not experiencing my seff as I expect. Behavior almost always temporally precedes the values that develop around it. We value what we do much more than do what we value.
posted by rmhsinc at 9:20 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


So who sent the Wiener weener pics? The true Wiener or the faux Wiener? And was the weener in question the real Wiener's real weener or the real Wiener's faux weener or the faux Wiener's real weener.....this shit is confusing.
posted by spicynuts at 9:21 AM on June 9, 2011


A fundamental human flaw: creation is more fun than maintenance.

"They're fun in the breedin' and hell in the feedin'."
posted by octobersurprise at 9:27 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


So who sent the Wiener weener pics? The true Wiener or the faux Wiener? And was the weener in question the real Wiener's real weener or the real Wiener's faux weener or the faux Wiener's real weener.....this shit is confusing.
posted by spicynuts at 9:21 AM on June 9 [+] [!]


Don't worry, I heard he sent pics of just the shaft.
posted by 3FLryan at 9:28 AM on June 9, 2011


I am a rainbow made out of meat.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:29 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I tend to think that the self that emerges outward into the world is always a kind of "fiction," not in a negative way... it's a narrative of self.

But more interesting to me is the ground of my own being which is the only self that matters. I think of it as having some basic attributes but the outward expression of that inward thing is so highly contextual, mutable, and dependent on others that it isn't really a "self." It's more like a "social identity."
posted by madred at 9:30 AM on June 9, 2011


"What is identity?" is always a question with political implications. If I argue that being queer is innate, then de-gaying people is wrong and there's some traction for equal rights; if I believe that sexual identity is completely fluid and situational, then I can argue that it's better for society if queer folks use the fluidity of their sexual identity to perform straightness, and I can say that it's not cruel or abusive to try to de-gay people, because you're just lobbying them to make a choice.

You can, of course, argue that "identity politics" is a problem and political choices should be based on rationality/consent/autonomy. But then you have a whole different can of worms - who is rational? what is consent? what factors negate autonomy?

I don't think there's a definition of "identity" that is suitable to all occasions. My "identity" as a citizen is different from my sexual identity; both are different from whatever nebulous concept of identity we may use to show that something called "Frowner" was here yesterday and is here today.

I mean, it's turtles all the way down - there's no effective foundational explanation for why we want what we want - the biological/neurological/ev psych explanations give outcomes that most of us don't like; the political ones may yield better outcomes but are much less rigorous as definitions.
posted by Frowner at 9:35 AM on June 9, 2011


I am a rainbow made out of meat.

Rump Roast
Orange Chicken
Yeti
Ground Beef
Bison
Irradiated Quail
Venison
posted by 3FLryan at 9:36 AM on June 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


I don't think there's a definition of "identity" that is suitable to all occasions. My "identity" as a citizen is different from my sexual identity; both are different from whatever nebulous concept of identity we may use to show that something called "Frowner" was here yesterday and is here today.

So identity is relational. You only have identity in relation to some other thing (a sports team, your workplace, your family). In a vacuum, you have no self, because you define self against other things.

I could work with that definition.
posted by 3FLryan at 9:41 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


So identity is relational.

It's not necessarily that identity is relational - I could argue, for example, that public policy about gay rights should be determined based on an assumption of "innate" sexual identity because saying "sexual identity is fluid so if someone feels coerced to perform a particular identity it is really no worse than being "coerced" to get a job and pay rent". It's that the concept of identity that we use at a given moment is best based on the type of problem we're trying to solve. We don't need to establish one eternal perfect definition of identity; it appears that we probably cant' anyway.

Of course, there is the age-old contradiction in this anyway - how to define the problems that we're trying to solve? I think that violence is awesome and should be encouraged because it improves the species through culling the weak; you think that violence is bad because it injures and kills people. How can we solve the problem of how to live together? You can't prove that a world without random murders is better in some foundational sense; I can't really prove that "improving the species" means anything.

The solution? Move to the woods, become a hermit and go mad from solitude.
posted by Frowner at 9:49 AM on June 9, 2011


nanojath's got it.

Also--there is no true self, just a host of narratives that can be negotiatied and mediated with and by others.

Also--to researchers and psychologists--stop trying to turn those many narratives into an "it" to be quantified and measured.

If you're only interested in what has been, or what should be (establishing norms) you'll never get around to seeking what's possible.---Deleuze via Winslade via vitabellosi.
posted by vitabellosi at 9:50 AM on June 9, 2011


"because otherwise you end up saying "sexual identity is fluid so if someone feels coerced to perform a particular identity it is really no worse than being "coerced" to get a job and pay rent""
posted by Frowner at 9:50 AM on June 9, 2011


Hurrah, modern psychology after all these years, finally picked up on what Siddhārtha Gautama called "an-atman"--or "no-self"--back in 4th century India. Steep learning curve, apparently.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:51 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hurrah, modern psychology after all these years, finally picked up on...

Some variation of this complaint about scientific insights about the human condition pops up pretty frequently around here but in my opinion is off-base. Sure, pretty much any finding in psychology may have been predicted by a philosopher. But you could say the same for any corresponding opposite finding. The point is that psychologists believe that these are empirical questions that can be understood and answered more fully using the tools of scientific inquiry.
posted by AceRock at 9:55 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


A "true" self, or the "search" for one, is a culture-bound reification (requiring some judgemental arbiter or calibrator of authenticity) often expressed through religious or philosophical quest parables (for example, in the West: The Grail). Another way of ranking psychcological cardinality in a pseudo-quantifiably objective sense is using functional outcomes (and our modern societies have many direct and indirect measures and currencies that facilitate this). Therefore, analysis of the process, the neurobiological work of the self, becomes subordinate to the attainment and maintenance of optimal functionality, which itself demands a flexible adaptability capable of cycling through dynamic equilibria if and when the environment changes. In essence, I'm agreeing with Pastabagel and rmhsinc in and favouring a process-oriented or transactional idea of the self.

I've found it interesting that I can meet people with extraordinarily fractured selves (ie, schizophrenics), and people with much less fractured selves but terribly disordered, orthogonal thoughts (ie, OCDers), or people with grossly maladaptive "selves" that we label as personality disorders but which often seem to have roots in the same prefrontal cortex suboptimality. Who's to say which self is less "true" when we give chemicals to alter the neurobio substrate and these people's behaviour changes? We tend to focus more on outcomes.
posted by meehawl at 10:05 AM on June 9, 2011


The point is that psychologists believe that these are empirical questions that can be understood and answered more fully using the tools of scientific inquiry.

I don't mean to criticize science too much here if that came across as snarky (I'm a big fan). I'm just pleased the idea's finally getting its due as a scientific idea. It's silly how we insist on this social and legal fiction of a unified, unchanging self. The Buddhist model of the self as a thing that arises and evolves, provisionally, as a result of the functioning of the various mental and sensual components of consciousness (the five aggregates) has always seemed like a remarkably subtle and sophisticated model of the self to me, and far ahead of its time.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:07 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


We don't need to establish one eternal perfect definition of identity; it appears that we probably cant' anyway.

If we were to try, though, it seems it would have to be relational, as in require outside inputs to solve for a particular answer.

To use a mathematical analogy, perhaps there might be an equation for identity, like there is an equation for a parabola. The specific point (maybe your identity with respect to, for example, sexual preference) is determined by the inputs, but different inputs yield different results. And everyone has their own identity equation.

It's just a bit more complicated than a parabolic equation.
posted by 3FLryan at 10:07 AM on June 9, 2011


The holographic principle as applied to identity. We only know a person through their actions; words count as actions, though weak ones. We do not know what is going on inside that surface. Only the individual has a chance to know.

Some identify with that surface, in the future hopeful tense: I am who I would like to present myself to be. What makes a good impression? What will scare people away? What's my narrative arc? Does this fit in with my political stance? With what my church thinks? I am a -ist; is thing this acceptable or should I condemn it?

It would be a hollow way to live.
posted by adipocere at 10:37 AM on June 9, 2011


I've put this in my queue of neat blogs that I'm going to print in semi-durable pamphlet'y form for yakking about at parties or whatever. When I pasted it into Word, the # of headings made me giggle;

usually a heading sort of has the cadence of someone straightening their index cards, while nodding, giving an understated smile, and curtly clearing their throat all at the same time. This has the cadence of someone swinging a big floppy fish at your head 6 times.

The Economist
American politics
Democracy in America
Ideology and the self
The politics of authenticity
(date, time, author, location)


/o_O
posted by herbplarfegan at 10:59 AM on June 9, 2011


They want their identity to be a point. It can't ever be that. Your identitty is the flow, the movement between points. Our identity is our becoming-X. But it is not X.

Remember the Bush v. Bush segment from the Daily Show a few years ago? The cynical "post-ideological" subject that represents itself as a narrative or a flow, rejecting the point of consistency or fidelity to a truth, is the right-wing ideal. As Max Horkheimer said about fascists, "Even their sentences no longer have meaning, only a purpose."

Speech is no longer understood as expressing any kind of fixed meaning, belief or commitment, it's merely said to gain some kind of benefit in that particular situation. In another context, you might say something inconsistent or contradictory if you so choose.
posted by AlsoMike at 11:26 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


To me, the fact that neuroscience and psyshology is getting to where philosophy has been for a while strikes me kinda like when Economists are wowed when they found how cool partial differential equations are.

Yes, it is a big breakthrough for your field, but no, it's not something nobody ever thought of before.
posted by chimaera at 11:26 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


"True self" is a deeply flawed term. I suppose it's fine for casual use, but, as has already been remarked, when you look closely at something dynamic, you don't see hard edges, but fields of intensities. I can be a radically different person if, for instance, I haven't had enough to eat recently. Even relatively gross personality traits like sexuality are by no means easily reducible to a bipolar definition; the terms we use in order to separate phenomena from reality for the purpose of discussion are convenient and useful, but unlikely to be true in the absolute sense.

I have no doubt, though, of the utility of being able to convince people who they, or others, truly are. My favorite part was where "self as an evolutionary construct" is examined entirely through the optics of contemporary American politics.
posted by Casimir at 11:28 AM on June 9, 2011


Identity isn't a thing, it's a process. Such a view represents a much more dynamic, multidimensional model of self-hood than one that, say, tries to build up a permanent, immortal self out of speculative, independent, metaphysical self-parts, like Leibniz's quasi-mystical theory of Monadology. But it doesn't necessarily mean "anything goes." In my own take, self is the system of perceptual apparatus and biology that gives rise to consciousness. Consciousness, meanwhile, is a machine independent (for lack of a better term), metaphysical phenomenon--a specific pattern of consciousness, while a product of a particular physical system, isn't necessarily dependent on just one particular physical implementation. Consciousness is more a kind of abstract pattern, like a particular, abstract mathematical result set that can be derived using any number of different algorithms; the algorithms that give rise to conscious experience and the perception of "self" are carried out in particular physical systems, but could perhaps be carried out with identical results in different, functionally analogous physical systems. That used to be a big area of debate in PoM circles, when I was considering going to grad school: is consciousness an emergent, fully-dependent property of the physical stuff of the brain/body, or is it a loosely coupled, independent phenomenon? You don't need a particular calculator to get the numbers to add up to five, and you don't even necessarily need to carry out the same series of operations to reach that result, but five is five regardless. If consciousness similarly exists independently, then that challenges a lot of reductive assumptions about self-hood and identity.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:29 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The cynical "post-ideological" subject that represents itself as a narrative or a flow, rejecting the point of consistency or fidelity to a truth, is the right-wing ideal.

There are degrees of this. What you describe is the use of verbal complexity and ambiguity by charlatans to confuse. This doesn't mean that nuance doesn't exist, or that positivism is inherently moral.
posted by Casimir at 11:43 AM on June 9, 2011


Whoa, look at the experimental philosopher use argument and appeal to sensibility and intuition.

Apart from that, there is something seriously flawed with the following claim in Knobe's piece:

This answer, endorsed by numerous different philosophers in different ways, says that what is most distinctive and essential to a human being is the capacity for rational reflection.

This is a mistaken depiction, if not a most convenient subreption. Not only is the question of what is essential to a human being not the same as the question of what individuates this particular human being as 'my' self, i.e. is the self appearing in this behavior/ moment/ intention my 'true' self (let alone the question of how the self appears in the first place). Moreover, many interesting and compelling answering have been given to this latter question, which do not rely on 'the capacity for rational reflection' as the basis for determining the true self.

But of course how stupid of me; who has time for the history of philosophy in an op ed piece.

posted by rudster at 1:15 PM on June 9, 2011


sorry, forgot the '/i' after "reflection" above.
posted by rudster at 1:17 PM on June 9, 2011


Previously
posted by Obscure Reference at 1:48 PM on June 9, 2011


No one's identity is there relationship to some set of values that are established external to them.

Well, I think they all are. Identity is a cultural construct (or set of constructs) and culture arose independently/externally. If you're a Lacanian (I'm not one, but one of my selves is) an identity is created in the mirror stage in which a child sees himself in a mirror and thus learns to conceive of himself as a unity.
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:19 PM on June 9, 2011


To me, the fact that neuroscience and psyshology is getting to where philosophy has been for a while strikes me kinda like when Economists are wowed when they found how cool partial differential equations are.

Yes, it is a big breakthrough for your field, but no, it's not something nobody ever thought of before.


How terribly condescending. The point is not that nobody out of the 107 billion people who have ever lived has thought of the things that psychologists are studying. The point is that today's researchers are shedding new light on old ideas and applying better tools when studying age old questions. The economics/math analogy does not make sense either. Its not like anyone has ever accused philosophy as being more empirically rigorous than modern psychology or neuroscience.
posted by AceRock at 2:21 PM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


The analogy of a political structure of multiple selves is a good one. There may be something that some of me very much want to do, while the majority of me is against it or apathetic; the pro-X group lobby hard for it, the anti-X group do the same, and whenever a decision must be made, a vote is taken. Both use the outcome to their advantage, at least until it is clear enough that one side or another is correct, and the swing voters and all but the most committed partisans accept that this is what we are going to do; and by virtue of us having done it, we are now a person who does that.

The most entrenched of the losing group may form a guerrilla resistance, and I think that's the case with the self-hating gay conservative; he is at civil war with himself. One group of impulses or the other is in ascendance, both attempt to destroy the intellectual and emotional resources of the other, and the losing group become ever more desperate.

This is similar to one of the subtle concepts in the Portal series that I liked most: in GlaDOS, the personality cores, each dedicated to a small subset of driving impulses, collectively inform and decide the overall system's action. But in a human being, the "personality core" equivalents are to a much greater extent (if not completely) amenable to persuasion, by emotion and by reason (which in any case amounts to the emotional appeal of logic and truth).

This points the way out of mental civil war, which most of us are intuitively aware of and generally practice: peace talks, compromise, and integration of the overwhelming majority of our selves into an aligned whole. Can the self-hating gay conservative do this? Sexuality is clearly inborn, or almost entirely so. (Though I suspect that the specific way in which underlying sexuality actually manifests, eg aesthetic preferences such as for particular body types or personality traits, is at least as much driven by early imprinted experiences as by nature.) But political modes of thought may also be inborn. (Obviously to a lesser extent than sexuality, in that people are definitely less committed to their politics, although this in turn may just be a measure of its relative importance to our lives and identity.) And that raises some very interesting philosophical questions.

I'm inclined to err on the side of self-determination. You have a fundamental right to define yourself, and to the extent that you can, you have the right to bring your mind and body into alignment with that definition. You have the right to decide, against and over (but ironically, with) your biology and neurology, that you are to be straight, gay, male, female, fat, thin, even old or young. If the Hard Pill existed, you have the right to take it. (Or to choose exposure to the Gay Bomb, if that worked.) I'm pro-drug rights, too, up to a point; that point being, where your intentional self-determination puts others at unreasonable risk.

Your sexual and political/religious identities risk others' views of you, they risk others' emotional and financial and social dependence upon you (our exemplar's wife, if he had one, and gay lover, if he had one, are at risk from his decision to the extent that they love him, and are deeply involved in his internal civil war), and in turn they risk your own emotional, financial, and social places in the world. But except in a few cases where the individual is in a position of extraordinary influence, they don't really risk others' livelihoods and health and lives. Same with most, but not all, drugs: where your addiction and dangerous behavior genuinely pose serious risks to others, it is justified to prevent or moderate your use of drugs. Even to yourself; I would suggest that you only have a right to shoot up drain cleaner, however brief and wonderful the high may be, when you have fulfilled all of your obligations to everyone in your life, and made yourself ready to die. (Which is a hell of a high bar to jump over.)

Truth and falsity are not just binary. There are a lot of things that are just plain true or false, regardless of our desires, and that will always stay that way: the laws of physics, for instance, or the record of our past actions. Or that are so entrenched, like the spelling of the word "entrenched", that they may as well be "true", from any reasonable point of view that we have access to. This does not, in the main, apply to our personalities and our present and future experiences in life. There are a lot of things where we get to choose whether they are true or false.

I believe that with sufficient rational, emotional, psychological, and biochemical (it's all biochemical of course, but I mean more grossly so, such as with the use of drugs) influences, sexuality and ideology can be changed, and you have the right to (attempt to) change your own. You also have the right to influence others to change theirs, and an effective demonstration--the exemplary life--is a very powerful source of influence. But you don't have the right to force them to change, except where their actions, prompted by their underlying self-definition, will cause harm to others; and again, sexuality almost never does cause unreasonable harm (I believe that broken hearts and regrets are within the boundaries of allowed harm), and to get into a position where their ideology is harmful, an individual has to accumulate a lot of sociopolitical power. Unfortunately there is no clear bright line there, and the decisions will always involve weighing-up of competing considerations.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:25 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


"True self" ... heh.

"Self" ... ha.

Illusion.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:44 PM on June 9, 2011


There's no such thing as truth. Any self you find is, therefore, false.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:59 PM on June 9, 2011


Personhood? I thought it was settled here. It's your DNA, from conception to death (of course, religious people believe you take your DNA with you to Heaven, right?)
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:10 PM on June 9, 2011


How terribly condescending.

No condescension intended. Perhaps my reaction is more to the breathless "look what we just figured out!" vibe in the Atlantic article than the research itself -- which is DEFINITELY notable in neuroscience, but hardly an alien concept.
posted by chimaera at 3:14 PM on June 9, 2011


I am large, I contain multitudes

Maybe if you didn't buy multitudes in the first place they wouldn't be in the fridge and I wouldn't eat them and you don't love me anymore
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:54 PM on June 9, 2011


I am large, I contain pulchritudes
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:57 PM on June 9, 2011


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