An examination of the neurology behind the concept of the Self with consideration given to the effects of neurological impairment

Hirst, Ian (1999). An examination of the neurology behind the concept of the Self with consideration given to the effects of neurological impairment. PhD thesis The Open University.



The argument that I present in this thesis is that while the idea of the Self is an illusion, a myth which our brains create, it is one that is necessary for our survival. However, by understanding its neurological origins we are able to take advantage of it without being victims of egocentricity. My first chapter, Neurology of the Self, lays down the neurological foundations for our concept of the Self and goes on to argue that, while biology and neurology must remain the basis of our understanding, we need to transcend our purely scientific concepts in order to integrate them with art and spirituality. Our transcendental view, I argue, seeks to establish values that make life worth living for and are essential to our survival. I consider some possible implications, both real and imagined, of neurological impairment. The second chapter, Consciousness and the Self, considers the neurological and chemical basis for consciousness and develops the ways in which the imagined Self can be used to create a balanced life that is not highjacked by ego. In the third chapter, Human Nature and the Self, I continue to argue for a liberated view of the Self bearing in mind its neurological origin which itself is the creator of our received reality. Compassion, which Schopenhauer's philosophy argued for as the basis of morality, is shown to be facilitated by the concept of a centred Self which I apply to the subject of morality in the fourth chapter, Morality and the Self.

With the fifth chapter, Illusion and the Imagined Self. I come to the very heart of the argument to which tny considered research findings and previous chapters have lead, namely, that the illusion of the Self is neurologically created by our brains and that we do not have an unchanging Self which is other than the experiences and ideas from which our whole Being derives meaning. Nonetheless, this Self and other values we create are essential for our well being and should be cherished in themselves as being crucial for our healthy individual and collective survival. Furthermore, since we are now aware of the origin of our idea of the Self we can gain our freedom from a manipulating ego and become centred Selves able to creatively transcend and transform the limits of our neurologically given reality by being I "" .... viii actively involved in the ongoing process of change. This is the subject of my sixth chapter, Spirituality and the Creative Self, and is endorsed in my concluding chapter which, neglecting a view which carefully avoids accepting absolutes that just might be falsified tomorrow, argues that the best values that we create today should be used as absolutes from which to derive principles for living and continuing to live which could, at least, lessen the threat to our survival.

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