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Your Brain is a Computer

December 4, 2008

“If, in short, there is a community of computers living in my head, there had also better be somebody who is in charge; and, by God, it had better be me.”

Jerry Fodor, Philosopher

Paul Bloom recently wrote First Person Plural for the Atlantic.  He explains that current research from psychology, neuroscience, economics, and philosophy suggest that people are made up of multiple selves competing for primacy to control conscious thought and dictate action.

Snippets:

  • “Each of us is a community of competing selves, with the happiness of one causing the misery of the other.”
  • “”The capacity to spawn multiple selves is central to pleasure…the most common leisure activity is not sex, eating, drinking, drug use, socializing, sports, or being with the ones we love.  It is, by a long shot, participating in experiences we know are not real–reading novels, watching movies and TV, daydreaming, and so forth.”
  • “Enjoying fiction requires a shift in selfhood.  You give up your own identity and try on the identities of other people, adopting their perspectives so as to share their experiences.”
  • “If you ask people about their greatest happiness in life, more than a third mention their children or grandchildren, but when they use a diary to record their happiness, it turns out that taking care of the kids is a downer–parenting ranks just a bit higher than housework, and falls below sex, socializing with friends, watching TV, praying, eating, and cooking.”
  • Self binding is the act of an individual blocking impulsive (and potentially harmful) selves and forcing the long term, more responsible self to abstain from a particular activity.  For example: Dieters who purchase foods in small quantities to avoid over eating.  Smokers who tell their friend to never give them cigarettes no matter how much they beg.  Retirees who don’t check their 401(k) to avoid pulling their investments prematurely.

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