Be it any professional interview or just a format chat, one question that always makes the round is,
Who are you?
And of course, you could come up with a variety of answers, ranging from extremely witty ones to the most basic ones. Let’s not talk about any of these here. Your name, educational background and the place where you live in, hardly matters here. Let’s talk about the bigger perspective. Let’s have a philosophical enquiry on who you actually are.
Every year, 98% of the atoms of your body are replaced. How can you claim to be the same person you were last year, or even worse, 10 years back? What is your true identity? Is it your body or your thoughts?
Derek Parfit once proposed a thought problem: What happens to a person who is destroyed by a scanner in London and rebuilt cell by cell in New York by a replicator that has received infinitely detailed information from the scanner about the state of each single cell, including all of the person’s memories? Is the person still the same person? Or did the person die in London?
So what actually makes a person? Is it his body or his psychological entity?
Take another example for instance, If a person’s psychological state that includes his memory,beliefs, emotions and everything is replaced with a different psychological state, does that change the person?
The question that we are eventually trying to ask is that what defines you? Is your entire body as a continuum or the set of your psychological affairs or both?
Let’s dig deeper into psychological entity!
Some scientists (and Albert Einstein with them) have argued that consciousness must be fabricated by reality, that what we feel is simply an unavoidable consequence of the state of the universe, that we are simply machines programmed by the rest of the universe.
Other scientists believe the opposite, that consciousness fabricates reality, that we have the power to alter the course of the events. They believe in free will.
Do we think or are we thought?
The question, while popular, is misleading. The question is, in a sense, already an answer: the moment we separate the “I” and the body, we have subscribed to dualism, to the view that spirit and matter are separate and spirit can control matter.
A free will grounded in the matter is not easy to picture because we tend to believe in an “I” external to our body that controls our body.
But, in a materialist scenario, the “I” is supposed to be only the expression of brain processes. If that is the case, then “free will” is not about the “I” making a decision: the “I” will simply reflect that decision. What makes the decision is the brain process.
So where does free will stand?
In a materialist scenario, free will does not require consciousness: consciousness is an aspect of the brain process that “thinks”. The question is whether that brain process has free will.
If consciousness is indeed due to a physical process if consciousness is ultimately material, does this preclude free will? For centuries we have considered free will an exclusive property of the soul, mainly because we deemed the soul to be made of spirit and not matter, and nothing in Physics allows for the free will of matter.
This particularly means free will is something we have been sold for years but doesn’t really exist. We as a materialistic possession or just a soul do not have free will and this is how we live with it. Grounded with society rules and ways, We carve our own ways where we are given the paradox of life.
Is it bad?
Of course, it is not. The entire world is tied up in this game and there should be no way of you thinking something bad is happening to you. If reality is the same for everyone, the reality is not being prejudiced. So the laws don’t change for you and hence you still have an amazing chance of exploring your true self and identity and finding out, “Who are you?”
“Who are you?”