To coincide with the broadcast of the Christmas Lectures, my UK publishers are giving away a free electronic extract of my new book, “The Self Illusion” today on amazon today. If you have an iPad or a Kindle, then you can read the opening chapters and a later one about the way we represent our selves on the internet.
I think that the message of “The Self Illusion” is going to be very controversial and upset a number of people. I already know that some colleagues disagree with the premise. In effect, I am challenging the idea that we are autonomous individuals but that rather we are a product of the history and influences of those around us.
The notion of no self will be familiar to Buddhists and philosophers alike. Buddha of course, taught that the path to enlightenment required attaining ‘annatta’ (no self) and Hume argued that there was no single core self but rather a bundle of experiences and sensations. There are not many neuroscientists who disagree with this as we are constantly reminded that the experience of the self is a product of the brain and as such, is an emergent property out of a constellation of separable processes – processes that can fail and fragment revealing the composition of the self.
I think the controversial aspect of the denial of a self is the implications and ramifications of this idea. However, there are many aspects of human experience that are similarly more apparent than real. Just because something is an illusion – not what it seems- that is no reason to try to ignore it. After all, it is there for a reason. We interact with individuals and selves – not apparitions and collective histories that define who someone is. And of course, the greatest illusion is the self illusion. Even when you know this, you cannot get rid of your self.