Issues in Philosophy Is the self an illusion? (IAI video)

Is the self an illusion? (IAI video)

From Hume to Dennett, philosophers often claim that the self is an illusion, and neuroscientists and psychologists are inclined to agree. But are they wrong?

In this Institute of Art and Ideas talk, moral philosopher and “The UK’s foremost scourge of scientific pretension” Mary Midgley attempts to debunk the establishment’s attack on the self.

This video was produced by The Institute of Art and Ideas and is republished here with permission.  It was filmed at HowTheLightGetsIn 2013 alongside 200 other debates and talks, all available for free at IAI TV. Their new podcast, Philosophy for our times, is available here.


  1. I can honestly say that it is of no use as an individual person to attempt to give a renewed view to any class or form of academia. They are not interested in any view from the public at all – they will only advice you to go and read one of their own books, representing their own thinking or reasoning. Perhaps they might even advise you to go and read someone else’s book – “I do not have to read a book in order to apply my own logical reasoning mind!!” a personal quote which states a fact of personal ability. The constant and ear-deafening repetition of who is who and who said what, is as numbing as the use of the words “something” and “thing”.
    The short and sweet of it all is: that all life is of method, system, arrangement, order, sequence, constructs, constitution, abstract notion, condition, process, etc. which involve structure, pattern, numbers, terms, principles, elemental parts, interaction, relationship, models, foundation, basis, fields, etc. which involve creative forces, energies, principal life-giving ability, etc. which combine with purpose, intent, motive, morality, free will, responsibility, discretion, personal reasoning, choices, transformation, change, willingness,, etc.
    I choose to give a definition of: Purposed, Principled, Patterned Mentality as the driving force or life-force behind all existence, experience, consciousness, awareness, reality, identity, history, language, society, nationality, humanity as a whole, and the world as a totality, etc.
    Luckily, after saying all of that, every individual rational mind can still come to its own conclusions, perception, interpretations, understanding, impression, clarification, explanations, concepts, theories, ideas, opinions, etc. The self still chooses on which systems the self wants to focus its attention – political, religious, scientific, philosophical, etc. Which constructs are acceptable to the individual person – even if you put all the fact, evidence and proof in front of the self. The self is of different levels of growth, habits, traditions, tendencies, environments, conditions, mental capacities, interests, etc.
    That said: I have come to the conclusion that the constructs of mind, consciousness, awareness, identity, logical rationality, experience, history, the past- present- future, reality is of an infinite system. These simple infinite systems include already known Hermetic knowledge which need only to be structured as to reveal the patterns of their existence. The ONLY priority is the willingness for each individual mind to consider these patterns and to test their existence as fact, evidence and proof. To weigh the structure of conscious mind with the way or manner in which they think their mind is operating on an every day basis. If the process or system is in fact reflective of the manner in which they themselves view their own individual mind to operate.

    The system which represent or reflect conscious mind is:
    Mentality-Polarity-Vibration-Gender-Cause and Effect.
    The system which represent or reflect subconscious mind is:
    The system which represent or reflect super-conscious mind is:
    Mentality-vibration-rate and rhythm-gender-harmony.

    I have defined a specific concept and I have supplied a specific definition without using the words “thing” or “something” but I fully realize that there will be no reaction from the side of academia because I did not stick to the formula of who is who and who said what, so my logical reasoning will be of no value, worth or meaning to them – even if it might bring clearness to the individual mind, it will still not gain any recognition. What answer are they searching for or is this suppose to be an ever-lasting search of “something”, or the “thing” which they can not define – the “hard problem” of consciousness? Just wondering?????

  2. Theresa, I agree that the “thing” which academia can not define – the “hard problem of thingness of a self – is the source of hardness of the solution.

    I remember that Popper gave this core-argument against the physicalist model of a mind as a machine. He imagined that this machine was the engine which, when sees a cat, screams “Mike” (!).
    This is a very funny argument, which explains why are desperately wrong the theories of materialist causation and those analyses about non-sense of mind-soul arguments exposed by academia.
    Popper claimed, in favor of such invisible reality like mind and soul (even if pertaining to invisibility), that our common human ability to describe the facts and give arguments in favor or against of a particular description cannot, in any way, be reduced to a material causal connection of body members movements or to observable brain functions.

    He said that if the machine see-cat-scream-“Mike” can be observed, we can have different types of descriptions of this machine (several descriptions of a descriptive-machine) or different model of causation of a causal-descriptive-machine. This is as saying that we can have many arguments and doubts about the fact that the machine is a causal chain (here Popper is citing Gödel, arguing that the system observer-machine is incomplete or inconsistent).

    Following this perspective (doubting that a self is a “thing”), I could outline the following old-fashion logical conjecture about a “causa sui”: the Tomistic form of the body is the “body which animates itself”, this self-reference is a curvature, which according to Godelian theorems is an open system, open to other further dimensions, where time is, even, frozen and 4D space-time is without entropy.

    Is our body attracted (proof is its curvature) by these further dimensions? As by a non-physical curvature?

    Only a conjecture…in order to explain “reditus” to God of all creatures and all selves?


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