Einstein on Self


Albert Einstein once wrote:

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe", a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.

This resonates strongly with comments by philosopher Daniel Dennett on how big a "Self" really is—how it's not just a pointlike mote of a mind, or a little homunculus inside a head, or a spongy network of brain tissue. "Self" extends out to encompass the whole body, its interactions with objects including other "Selves", and beyond that the entire world.

Granted, most of those interactions are slower, more intermittent, and less causally-crucial than what goes on deep in the core of the neural network. But the book in the library down the street is still a part of "me", ever since "I" read it some years ago. It continues to influence mental states and processes.

Likewise the tangled web of ^zhurnaly notes-to-"self" here ...

(Einstein quote from Chapter 12 ("Glimpses of Wholeness, Delusions of Separateness") in Jon Kabat-Zinn's Full Catastrophe Living, from the New York Times in 1972, from a 1950 letter; cf. FoamOnTheOcean (2000-07-23), UpheavalsOfThought (2002-06-29), EinsteinianAdvice (2002-11-25), EinsteinCredo (2005-01-20), Unselfing (2009-01-14), Indra's Net (2009-06-21), Unselfing Again (2009-11-01), Total Interconnectedness (2009-12-25), ...) - ^z - 2010-01-31