Psychology Magazine

Some Rambling on "Selves" and "Purpose"

By Deric Bownds @DericBownds
I've decided to re-post the following text from a MindBlog post of Oct. 9, 2007, which I found while cruising old posts. A bit terse and disjointed, but I like the general sentiments.
Self conscious "Purpose" of the sort we humans experience, in the service of crafting new political movements or environments, is an evolved psychology that (sometimes) helps pass on our genes, and requires our distinctively human self reflective "I". Our behavior and that of other animals also reflects a kind of purpose that has been formed by our evolutionary and developmental history. In other animals such behaviors are acted out on the cusp of an eternal present - there is no evidence that they "know that they know" in the way that we can.
Both modern neuroscience and Buddhist psychology inform us that the self and the purpose that each of us experiences is an illusion or confabulation of our brains - hopefully a useful one - whose utility is tested by how it enhances our energy and individual survival. This 'illusion' is a powerful instrument of downward causation, regulating our psychological, immune, neuro-endocrine robustness.
What is especially amazing is that our human body/brain can sometimes use meditative or other techniques to bootstrap to a level of metacognition that rests antecedent to - and can be the detached observer of - the generation of this illusion of a self and its purposes.
The maximum power of our self illusion, for most of us, goes with our heartfelt immersion and belief in it (i.e., our delusion). From such a immersion, it can be more difficult to discern or appreciate the different selves and purposes of other humans, and their cultures and historical eras.

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