Becoming a Self: The past, present and future of selfhood

Altona, MB, Canada: FriesenPress (forthcoming)
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Abstract

What makes us persons? Is it our bodies, our minds, or our consciousness? For centuries, philosophers have sought to answer these questions. While some believe humans are physical or biological, others claim we have an immaterial soul. This book proposes a new alternative. Selves were formed in evolution through connections and commitments to others when early hominins lived in tribal groups and developed languages. As humans learned to fulfill these commitments, they not only cultivated relationships but also created their personal identities. Their habits of responsibility established their characters and therefore their reputations within their communities. This naturalistic approach proposes that a self is defined by the history of its commitments to cultural and personal norms. While brain processes are required, the self is not some internal, private mind but primarily a role within its community. As technology advances, selfhood could in the future be enabled by electronic, quantum, or other non-biological means. So if a self is formed through norms, could artificial intelligence evolve to have self-identity?

Author's Profile

David L. Thompson
Memorial University of Newfoundland

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