Much debate over the origin of the selves, the concept of a self, has been generated over time. Daniel Dennet provides a view from a biological standpoint. Through a Darwinian approach, the sense of self evolved from a series of primitive stages in lesser creatures to encompass the whole species, such as in a human community. The sense of the self is important because it is what we are equipped with when we try to comprehend the world around us. We call this “world around us” the external world. There is a distinction between our minds and the external world because it is something outside of our immediate comprehension. But through perception, our own realities are created—what makes the external world personally real to each one of us is the way we perceive the external world and the tool we use to achieve that is the reference back to the self, therefore, no one person’s reality is the same.
You must login to vote
John Locke proposes that we are born with our minds as blank slates—tabula rasa-ready to be imprinted with ideas and experiences. This imprinting, achieved by sensation and reflection, is the “observation [that is] employed either about external sensible objects or about the internal operations of our minds perceived and reflected on by ourselves” and is what “supplies our understandings with all the materials of thinking” (Abel 127). Our senses relay messages from the external world to our minds: an object may be hot to the touch, sweet to the taste, or may be bright, blue, rough, smooth, happy, fast, etc. Through reflection, our minds interpret the information it receives through the senses and produces other ideas such as “perception, thinking, doubting, believing, reasoning, knowing, willing, and all the different actings of our own mind” (Abel 127). Our knowledge of the external world is therefore mediated through our senses.
Unlike John Locke, I do not doubt that a person is born with certain innate ideas, ideas that “are not dependent on our perceptions or on our own will [and] are inherently present in the reasoning of the mind” (Scott 2001). Basic primal feelings include happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and a variety of other feelings. If a person were to swipe his or her hand quickly towards a baby’s face, the baby’s eyes will instinctively close. How can a baby who has never been hit in the face before know to close its eye? How can a baby know that an object coming towards its face will have some sort of negative effect? Such inexplicable actions are called instincts, primal reactions that are innate.
These primal feelings and what we make of them are given form and take shape in a community. The natural step after the evolution of language is culture. Cultures are tailored to adapt to the external world to make living in that environment more efficient and less harsh, but because every human community inhabits different environments, no culture is the same. With different cultures come different stories to share, different traditions, values, ideas, and experiences, therefore ideas are context and culture sensitive. For example, I may come to know this object that holds liquid as a cup, but I talk to a person who does not have the word “cup” in his or her vocabulary, he or she will not know what I am talking about. If I try to tell a person about my anger and that person does not have the word anger in his or her culture, then he or she will not know what I am talking about. That is not to say that the concept of an objecting holding something or the notion of anger does not exist. Those notions do not exist because the terms “cup” and “anger” that has meaning to me does not give rise to similar things to that person because it does not exist in his or her culture. On the other hand, we can also learn the things that are shared in a community. D.Z. Phillips elaborates:
I am born into a community in which certain actions and reactions already exist, actions and reactions in which I share. Some of these actions are unlearned. From my earliest years, if I am hurt I cry. Others show sympathy towards me. If I am about to fall, others reach out to prevent it. Should they fail, I am held, comforted with soothing words, and so on. It is in contexts such as these that we come to learn what pain is. I participate in context in which these reactions are directed to me, and I react in similar ways to others (Phillips 55).
Due to the difference in cultures, the way we perceive objects, ideas, the kinds of morals we have, and our conceptions of what is right and wrong are differences that will exist, therefore culture can and will structure the way we perceive things.
These culture background differences (values, traditions, experiences, ideas, influences) and their interactions with one another shapes how we think and behave. The mind is shaped by these factors and becomes lens from which we perceive the external world-it forms our biases. This is the underlying reason why one person can never have complete access to another person’s mind and what we do understand from each other, we do so by referring back to our own culture background and experiences-our selves. Although we ay share a common world, your reality will always differ from the realities of those around you because it is your mind—your perception, your sense of self—that makes your reality.