Monday, November 16, 2009

Our, We, Ourselves. . .

In last week's Film Friday column, we pondered what makes us who we are. Are you the product of your environment? If you grew up in another place or time, or with a different family, would you still be you? What if you lost your memories or had someone elses? What makes you you? Any thoughts?

17 comments:

rlaWTX said...

I'm first!!!!!!!!

I've wondered that - nutrure vs nature. Repeatedly, I have been thankful that my parents were mine (not only) because they recognized certain of my limitations and were not the kind to cause grievous harm by ignoring them (my social phobia!). Also, I am bascially lazy. Would I still be if I was raised like my cousins on farms/ ranches?

Seriously though, I think that there are certain quirks that are part of the mental map, but how "life" is imprinted on those quirks determines the manifestation. For example, with no evidence whatsoever, I think that sociopaths are born, but that they have a choice in "direction": they can choose to learn the proper social responses or they can throw off the bondage of society and go their own ways - and how their parents treated them comes into that directionality, but their choices ALWAYS remain as variables.

SO, would I be me? - sorta, with the differences that parents/ siblings/ home life / choices add to the original canvas.

(I have a whole "sins of the fathers" thing that can play into the sociopath / genetic thing, but that's another discussion.)

BTW - I love this site!!!!!

Writer X said...

Such a cool question.

I'm not sure you can equivocally say that you are completely a product of your environment. How do you explain siblings within the same family who are completely different? I wonder if we're genetically predisposed to certain personality traits.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks rlaWTX, we're glad to have you here!

Good answer by the way. I certainly believe that no matter what we are, we still have choice to act or to refrain from acting.

I too like to think that there is something that makes me who I am, and that wouldn't change no matter when or where or to whom I was born. But it's hard to pinpoint that because I do realize how much of what I know and believe, and how I behave came to me from my experiences growing up.

Very difficult question.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: For me it's easy. It's my sunny disposition.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, Psychologists love studying siblings for that reason -- particularly identical twins who were separated. It lets them look at the environment versus genetics aspect very clearly.

My understanding is that we have a very strong genetic component that can overcome many things in the environment, but that environment is still important.

But I don't know if either environment or genetics explains the core that we look to as forming the our "self" part.

As an aside, this the problem that Descartes ran into. He wanted to prove the existence of God, so he started with the question of "what do I know." His first response was "I know that I exist." And that's where it all started to go wrong. He eventually came up with the famous, "I think, therefore I am," to prove his own existence, but later philosophers shot that down because it presumes that he exists.

In the end, I don't think anyone has come up with a way to prove our existence. So that kind of leaves us hanging. . .

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I'm sure. LOL!

Writer X said...

Hum, curious. If we didn't exist, why would we need to die? Just thinking (or typing) outloud.

AndrewPrice said...

The problem that the philosophers ran into was that they couldn't prove that we weren't just a dream, i.e. that we weren't just figments of someone else's imagination.

Eventually, they decided that they couldn't solve the problem, so they just took existence as a given and moved on from there.

But proving our existence still remains a fundamental problem in logic and philosophy.

StanH said...

I believe that much of who we are is our attitude, and belief in our ability to succeed. The best example for me is the wonderful book and movie “Being There,” and the incredibly poignant line as a man is reading the eulogy, and burying Ben (Melvyn Douglas,) as Chauncey (Peter Sellers) wonders off, and walks on water, the man reads the line, “life is a state of mind.”

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, There is a lot more truth to "life is a statement of mind" than people realize. We are capable of so much more than we realize.

patti said...

my belief is that god made me to be me for his purpose. he gave me the me i needed to be in order to fulfill that journey. the monkey wrench in all of that is free will. will i be the me he had in mind for the purpose at hand, or wlll i be the me i chose to be, purpose be damned?

i fail all the time at his me, but i have to believe that he is amused by mine. i have learned, through being my own me, that when you can make someone laugh at your failings, you can be forgiven most anything.

Tennessee Jed said...

Just got back from a long weekend to see grand daughters down in Biloxi, Miss. Incredible weather--took them to a Scottish festival so lots of good pipe, strathspey & reel bands and border collie exhibitions. Still lots of nice foliage on Lookout Mountain in Chatanooga. Didn't get in until last night so not much chance to catch up on Commenterama yet. Saddened to hear about Edward Woodward; he was a great actor.

I think we are a combination of our genes, heavily influenced (in my case) by early learning from my parents, and my own personal experience. To what extent some our character traits are genetics vs. learned behavior is the question.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I saw that -- very sad. He played one of my favorite characters (Breaker Morant).

freedom21 said...

Hi Ya (sorry for the hiatus but I will be sharing some big news with the commentarama crowd that will totally excuse my absense)!!!

This question always strikes an odd chord with me. I know it seeks to find an answer to the age old question "why are we the way we are?" but it seems as if it is more a question designed to shift responsibilty. Essentially, the question gives two options-- you are either designed to do something or someone has programmed your actions. The question ignores the idea of free will. By design, the question says that even if you do demonstrate your will is not of your control.

After reading the comments, it seems as if we are a group that leans more to the "personal responsibility" side rather than the "I was made like this" side

AndrewPrice said...

Freedom21, Welcome back! I take it your good news is that you've been appointed to replace Biden? :-)

I wasn't aiming for a free will question, but it's a valid point. I was aiming more at the question of whether or not our personalities exist separate and apart from our genetics and experience.

freedom21 said...

AP: There isn't enough money in the world to entice me to take that job...

As for your question, I suppose I would have to be a believer in the "it's our experiences that shape us" position. At least with that position our experiences our subject to our own autonomous interpretations.

AndrewPrice said...

Freedom, LOL! I'd take the job and I'd have a lot of fun with it!

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