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kmanning's picture

More on the relating self...

I too find Sophie's post very interesting. I think the difference between the definition of oneself as a stand alone "self" and the definition of oneself as related to others definitely creates internal conflict. However, I don't know that it I would say that our culture tends to define people based on the "self" rather than on relationships to other people - I would actually be tempted to say just the opposite. I definitely think there is a conflict here, but I think it is not being inflicted from culture, but rather from within. More than culture defining us based on the "self" I think we are constantly striving consciously to define ourselves in such a way. Where conflict comes in is because we are inherently "related" beings - if, as we have been talking about, we must create meaning because it does not exist a priori, that means it is necessarily a relative concept. When we try to define or understand ourselves as a "self" we are trying to divorce how we find ourselves to be meaningful from the things - relationships - that create that meaning. We are trying to create objective, "un-related" meaning in the form of the "self" from inherently subjective, related meaning, and that definitely creates conflict!

More generally, I think that the term "self" when we apply it to other people is a completely different concept from the term "self" we must use to define ourselves. My definition of myself is not something separate from me but a constantly updated set of conscious and tacit knowledge and “memories” that exist inseparably from my body/mind. How I define other people and conceptualize their "selves" is secondary however, because I can never know/experience how they actually relate to the world, but rather can only understand how they relate to the world through the lens of my own relationship to the world. Trying to conceive of ourselves in the same way we conceive of others - similarly to what I was saying above - could also provide conflict, because conclusively it is an impossible goal!

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