Imagining other selves

The following reflection might help you imagine how it could be that you have another self at a different level than your individual self:

When we are born, others teach us how to speak, how to think, how to reason and how to interpret our feelings and emotions. Every concept and idea we have about the world (trees, houses, parents, good & evil, joy, science, color, beauty, truth etc.) has been foisted upon us by our parents and teachers, broadly speaking. None of our thoughts originated with ourselves, but rather were directly or sometimes indirectly implanted in our brains by a pollyty, that is, by some other self that has our own self as one of its many parts. What we consider to be true, the methods we use for reasoning, the things we consider good or bad, the direction in which our desires lean, the accuracy of our emotional knowledge — all of these intimate aspects of who we are were given to us by the pollyty (except in those very few instances where we inventively gave them to the pollyty). We needn’t believe any of this was intentional, that some other foreign self is controlling us (intentions as such might  be only something individuals have), but we can imagine that we are unavoidably part of something that exerts a very great deal of control over us as individuals — like our brains exert a great deal of control over our bodies. We would then be a small node doing some of the thinking & feeling of this distributed pollyty. So, you are not only an individual but also another self, one that existed long before your individual self appeared and which will continue to exist long after you individual self disappears.

This other self is, however, very much your self, in a very practical and moral way. You just have more than one self, some extending much further than others, but all being ultimately important to you.


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