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What is a knower?
(The Self)
René Descartes (1596 – 1650)
• French philosopher, mathematician and
early scientist
• “I think therefore I am”
• He was a...
The Ghost in the Machine*
• Descartes believed that since the body has mass but the mind
doesn’t, ‘you’ (the mind) don’t o...
Plato (429? – 347? B.C) and the Soul
• Although Descartes is seen as developing the idea of dualism,
Plato believed in a s...
The Problems of Dualism
• Remember Descartes had no concept of modern ideas of neuroscience (i.e. how
the brain is structu...
John Locke (1632 – 1704)
• Has a different idea of the self compared to Descartes
• He says the self is derived from memor...
The Lockean ‘Self’
• Locke defined a person as “a thinking
intelligent being that has reason and reflection
[through memor...
Problems with the Lockean Self
• Carl Jung – “I am not what happened to me.
I am what I choose to become”
• We now know th...
Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804)
• Kant had similar views to Locke (that a human is not
necessarily a person)
• But he was a ra...
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The knower

IB Theory of Knowledge

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The knower

  1. 1. What is a knower? (The Self)
  2. 2. René Descartes (1596 – 1650) • French philosopher, mathematician and early scientist • “I think therefore I am” • He was a dualist • Dualism is the idea that there are 2 parts to the self: – The physical (the body) – The mental/spiritual (the mind) • ‘You’ are your mind, not your body • ‘You’ are a ‘ghost in the machine’ Steve Martin – All of Me Sam Worthington – Avatar Judge Reinhold – Vice Versa
  3. 3. The Ghost in the Machine* • Descartes believed that since the body has mass but the mind doesn’t, ‘you’ (the mind) don’t occupy space and can’t therefore die • This is the modern idea of the soul • Since you can’t see a soul, Descartes said you never see the real person, and you can never be sure the person you see today isn’t a different person from yesterday (in the same shell) • You could develop this into the idea that you are not the same person you were 10, 15… years ago (or are you?). Therefore does the soul change over time? (John Locke looked at this question) * Note, this phrase was coined by the Oxford philosopher Gilbert Ryle in the 1960s to describe Cartesian dualism to a contemporary audience (not by Descartes himself)
  4. 4. Plato (429? – 347? B.C) and the Soul • Although Descartes is seen as developing the idea of dualism, Plato believed in a similar idea – the idea that the real ‘self’ is the ‘soul’ • Modern Christianity developed to an extent through the study of the philosophy of Plato and his student Aristotle • Plato believed that once the body dies, the soul is free and can be part of true reality (the World of Forms). Although this is not really the same as the modern concept of Heaven • The Old Testament does not say much about the afterlife (and nothing about Hell) • The idea of an immortal soul (and Heaven) was originally a Christian idea which later influenced modern Judaism and Islam • Hinduism and Buddhism developed the idea of the soul (Atman/Brahman) separately • Hindus and Buddhists believe in reincarnation • Here the soul seeks ultimate wisdom rather that immortality (Nirvana)
  5. 5. The Problems of Dualism • Remember Descartes had no concept of modern ideas of neuroscience (i.e. how the brain is structured and how thoughts/memories are formed biochemically) • Most neuroscientists would now say there is no difference between the mind and the brain. Therefore, if you are anything, you are your ‘brain’ • Even in Descartes time, people realised that the ‘body’ and ‘mind’ don’t really exist as separate things. They must interact • How can a mind feel pain (if the body is not part of the self)? • How can a mind order the body to lift up an arm? • Daniel Dennett (“Dualism is crap”) “We can’t say that the self is non-physical and then allow that it can do physical things” • It’s also a problem in modern ghost stories – how can a ghost float through a wall and then also move stuff about?
  6. 6. John Locke (1632 – 1704) • Has a different idea of the self compared to Descartes • He says the self is derived from memory • He was approaching this from the question of whether the adult you is the same as the baby you • For Locke, there are 3 components of the self: – Reason – Consciousness – Self-consciousness • He believed memory gives personal identity • Memory is what persists through your life and become the common thread that makes you yourself • If you lose your memories you therefore become a different person • He doesn’t approach the idea of dualism or the soul Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (is the self something deeper than memory) Dark City (aliens experiment with people’s memories to see if they become different people) Total Recall (are Quaid and Hauser two different people?)
  7. 7. The Lockean ‘Self’ • Locke defined a person as “a thinking intelligent being that has reason and reflection [through memory]” • You can be a human, but without memory you are not a person
  8. 8. Problems with the Lockean Self • Carl Jung – “I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become” • We now know that false memories and implanted memories exist • You can convince yourself that you have a memory of something that never happened • e.g. In 1987 pediatricians in Cleveland, England, identified 121 cases of suspected child sexual abuse and removed the children from their families • It turned out that memories of abuse were implanted into the children’s memories as a result of psychotherapy • Under Locke’s definition, people who lose their memories are no longer ‘persons’ – or at least the same person as before child abuse and false memories why we lose our early memories finding out your memories are fictional
  9. 9. Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) • Kant had similar views to Locke (that a human is not necessarily a person) • But he was a rationalist – he believed it is reason (rather than memory) that bestows personhood (this is the essence of of the moral imperative) • Locke’s and Kant’s ideas of the person have been subverted for centuries to justify the idea of the sub-human, e.g. The Holocaust, The African Slave Trade. It is also a common theme in science fiction Star Trek - The Measure of a Man The Elephant Man Blade Runner

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