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JoeyOhSoClever's avatar

Can someone offer a different perspective or do you agree?

Asked by JoeyOhSoClever (969points) March 6th, 2013 from iPhone

Ok so this is a random thought that just popped in my head. It’s likely to change if someone can convince me that I am wrong for thinking this and why.

Ok so what if I told you that there is no such thing as mental uniqueness or mental individuality. That everything you are is based off the influence of someone else. Your views, your emotional responses, and your goals all conditioned. You are influenced to believe in a specific religion or to not believe. You are influenced to decide what’s right from wrong. Nothing is your own thought or belief. The only true individuals I can think of are the humans that are raised by non-humans (wolves or apes) and were completely secluded from human society. We view those kids as “wild” but think about all of the thoughts that run through their heads are uninfluenced. It’s all them. You can argue that the animals who raised them influenced their thoughts but I would disagree that even though the humans were raised by a different animal that still have human brains that probably still think differently. Am I right or is this a total blasphemous thought?

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34 Answers

deni's avatar

I think you’re right to an extent—we have all been highly influenced by outside factors BUT I think you are wrong about there being no mental individuality. Just because someone was made aware of something (religion, science, anything) doesn’t mean they a.) even necessarily believe it or b.) can’t think independently about that subject. So there comes the individuality….I think we are all different mentally, its simply that some people do not choose to use their magnificent brains to their full capacity—they hear something and therefore believe it. For those people maybe they are mentally similar. But I don’t think that goes for everyone.

JoeyOhSoClever's avatar

@deni ah beautiful beautiful answer! Except cant you also argue that our outside influences cause us to develop our own individual way of thinking on that subject causing to be not so individual ? Get me?

Blackberry's avatar

I also agree to some extent, but the brain is still a massive maze which is still a mystery to us. I feel there is still mental uniquness because we have such varied mental states in different humans. The large, complex physical, chemical, and biological interactions that form the brain and make it function have given us people like Einstein, but have also given us Snooki.

YARNLADY's avatar

You are overlooking the physical component of the brain, where our responses to outside stimuli are influenced by chemical reactions. No one from the outside can influence that.

JoeyOhSoClever's avatar

@blackberry lol I like that

JoeyOhSoClever's avatar

@yarnlady are the outcomes of those chemical reactions what gives us our views and perspectives?

josie's avatar

Don’t agree.

But it is not an original thought. Check out Karl Marx and John Dewey.

JoeyOhSoClever's avatar

@josie Well I’m sure it wasn’t. Like I said this whole idea was probably influenced by something else lol Do you want to extend on why you don’t agree?

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Your argument is that we are all merely a function of the impact of the environment.

Since there is ample evidence that our genetic make-up has a profound impact on what we can be and the environment has significant influence on what we do with our inborn potential, your complete discounting of the genetic impact makes your argument weak and easy to falsify.

CWOTUS's avatar

Even if we postulate that “you are only the effect of the collection of thoughts, influences and actions of others” (and don’t suppose that I agree that we are “just” that), then that doesn’t mean that “you aren’t unique”. No one else had the exact same set of circumstance and influences that you did at the same time and in the same place. That is, no one else experienced things through your eyes and ears and the filter of your experience.

You may argue a reductionist viewpoint of all things that you like, right down to the chemicals that make up our brains. That is not an argument against uniqueness and individuality, however. (And in any case, neither would the ape-man or the wolf-girl be free of outside influences, even if the influences were totally non-human.)

Pandora's avatar

As 1000 people what makes them happy and I bet you will get a huge range of things. Some may repeat but the point is no two persons think exactly alike. We may agree on some large issues but we each come to our own conclusions in different ways.
I grew up with 4 siblings and not a one of us, is like the other. Same for my husbands family. All grew up with the same influences and yet we don’t agree on so many things.

JoeyOhSoClever's avatar

No what my point was is that yes we all have our own perspectives and things like that, but our own individual perspectives are actually created and formed off of what we see going on around us and off the actions of other people. Our own individual perspectives are not so individual because they are still somewhat influenced

Pandora's avatar

Influenced or informed? To me influenced means that someone gave you their side of things and you decide without being further informed on what to decide. Informed is when you look at all aspects of something and then decide for yourself what to believe.
In my younger years I was influenced to believe everything the Catholic church said was 100% the truth. My other 4 siblings have decided not to really believe in it much at all. I don’t agree with all its doctrine but it does not mean I don’t see the potential it has of being what it was meant to be. I have concluded that it can never be what it was meant to be so long as men rule the church.

ETpro's avatar

@JoeyOhSoClever How weird. I just answered this exact question here in response to a completely different question. I’ll just let what I wrote there stand for my answer here as well.

JoeyOhSoClever's avatar

@ETpro Not really fully catching how the two relate but are you suggesting that you agree with this idea?

JoeyOhSoClever's avatar

@Pandora in·flu·ence [in-floo-uhns] verb, in·flu·enced, in·flu·enc·ing.
noun 1. the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.

To influence is to affect somehow and if you think information influences as well. As long as people are within human society and around other humans for even a small portion of time that is how you learn and that is when the influencing happens.

ETpro's avatar

@JoeyOhSoClever No, I am saying that while it is impossible (so far) to prove that we actually have free will—that we are not the sum of our nature and nurture alone—the evidence is overwhelming that it is more profitable to reject the idea that we are like automatons, executing a program that some combination of genes, guardians and god determined for us. The evidence vindicates a belief in free will whether it turns out to be the truth or an illusion.

longgone's avatar

I don’t agree. I do think our views are influenced by other people – how couldn’t they be? I wasn’t born thinking about God, the environment or politics – but our emotional response, for example, is influenced by our genes to some extent. But even if “everything we are is based off the influence of someone else”, that doesn’t mean we’re not unique. Unless we all communicate with the exact same group of people about the exact same topics…
I don’t understand why humans raised by animals would be any exception here, because they will just have based their thoughts off interactions with animals instead. And, in addition, I don’t believe these individuals will think the way we do…
As to “am I right, or is this a totally blasphemous thought” – why can’t both be true?! :]

JoeyOhSoClever's avatar

@ETpro Oh ok I understand now.

Pandora's avatar

@JoeyOhSoClever But people only have influence over you if you allow it. This is where we are different from each other.
For instance. When I was a kid, I did things from time to time my parents disapproved of. It was often after being asked by my brothers to do something stupid but fun. Many times I knew it was wrong but I did it anyway. Not to please my brothers, but because I thought it was too fun to reject. I knew I would get in trouble if caught but I didn’t care or think it very wrong to do.

Then there were other times when I didn’t think the fun aspect outweighed the wrong of the action and would decide to be a thorn on their side and stop them if I could. We all have our own sense of morals and how far are we willing to sacrifice to keep on our own moral path. Yet not all of us will act the same. We each are unique to our own thoughts.

JoeyOhSoClever's avatar

@longgone Thats true. I guess blasphemy isn’t so bad lol. My whole thing with “wild humans” is that they still have a human brain that the anatomy of it all has the human thinking differently than the animals they were raised by. It’ll probably even more apparent in the adulthood of a wild human realizing they have different potential than the animals they were raised by. Which to my point that the wild human would actually not be as influenced and more individual than the normal societal human.

JoeyOhSoClever's avatar

Ok guys let me try clearing this whole thing up by asking you to ask yourself another similar question.

For humans to actually become successful in every aspect of living, wouldn’t you need some type of influence to get there?
Education is an influence. Do you need atleast some type of education? Don’t you believe we all need to have some type of communication? Well someone invented languages so in a sense aren’t we influenced by the person who allowed us to communicate verbally. To communicate our own deep thought ideas we need this type of language and communication. The people who have invented all of these types of things in a sense have influenced us to create our own perspectives of the world. But my point is, since we’ve been influenced somehow to create our own ideas would they really be our own? Or a product of someone or something else’s influence

CWOTUS's avatar

Well, of course.

If we all tried to reinvent language, the wheel and the rest of civilization from our own births, we wouldn’t have very good wheels, for one thing. And none of us could understand anyone else describe his wheel, for another.

Isaac Newton himself expressed this in his famous quote: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

This is why education is sine qua non regarding advancement in civilization, science and thought in general.

JoeyOhSoClever's avatar

@CWOTUS Good quote. And I agree with all of your points.

I want people to understand I am not simply stating that I don’t believe we all have our own way of forming our own ideas. But let me make the point and people try to follow me here lol that we form our ideas based off of what we know, and what we know is what has been learned, and what has been learned is what has influenced us and what has influenced us has also to some extent been created by someone else!! Am I making a point or no? Someone give me an idea of yours that has no influence what so ever.

CWOTUS's avatar

I think you’re starting to get wrapped up in too much significance of “thought” and “education”. Those are both necessary and wonderful things, but they aren’t everything.

That is, personal experience counts for something, as well as asking, “What can I learn about this thing that no one has been able to tell me about?” For example, “What does the dark side of the Moon look like?”

Well, now that we’ve done some research, we know how the dark side of the Moon appears. So there’s science, experience / experiment and synthesis of other knowledge to advance all knowledge.

josie's avatar


The whole point of having a mind, instead of merely having a brain, is to be able to integrate sensory data into perceptions, which are then used to develop abstractions, which is what humans use in most cases to survive, and equally important to humans, thrive, in their environment.The more input you have, the broader based and more accurate your conceptual can be.

Certainly some information is going to be borrowed from others. But conceptualization is an individual experience,and is governed by volition.

The imaginary child raised by wolves is not pure. He is merely somewhat stupid, and at risk in his existence.

Lots of critters have a brain. Only human has a mind. Mind must be developed. The more data, combined with a reliable epistemology, the better off the human.

JoeyOhSoClever's avatar

@CWOTUS No I get you on that. I understand personal experience is a type of education. But I don’t believe we would even care to ask questions like “What can I learn about this that no else has been able to tell me about” without being influenced in some way to think like that. Then when someone does figure out like you said what the dark side of the moon looks like, ok he’s an inventor, but he got influenced to figure that out for 1, and for 2, someone will now use his discovery to formulate their own questions and curiosity about things around us. But it’s all starts with influence. I don’t know lol maybe I am getting too consumed by a specific and maybe I am too ignorant on the anatomy of the human brain but I am sticking to this perspective but I thank you guys for giving me different ways to think.

JoeyOhSoClever's avatar

@josie I somewhat agree to what you’re saying.

I agree that we have all been influenced in some ways to develop our own individual thoughts but the influence is necessary for us to be successful and productive. As you pointed out the imaginary “wild” child’s existence would be at risk. And I agree because he has no influences to show him his full potential (or to the extent that human evolution is at now as far as human potential goes), as a human being. But this farther backs up my point that where we are evolutionary wise and who we are as people has all been created through influence

josie's avatar

In my opinion you equivocating. What you are calling influence, I am calling information.

Influence is persuasion. In the extreme it can be coercive persuasion short of force. Force can make people act against their will.

Persuasion usually causes people to consider alternatives before they act.

Our epistemological method (in the West, it is a bastardized version of Aristotle’s non contradictory identification) is what eventually determines how we draw conclusions and take action.

JoeyOhSoClever's avatar

@josie Thats good insight. Like I said I probably am being equivocal and this thought is probably wrong but from the answer I’ve received I still feel I should give my perspective some consideration along with others. So thank you for your help.

One question though. You mentioned the epistemological method, is that method researched or is it just a philosophical theory?

josie's avatar

Philosophy precedes the standards of theory and research.

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that determines how and what we know. Without epistemology, there would be no such thing as research. Your philosophical epistemology would determine how you conducted research and the standards by which you accepted something as true.

JoeyOhSoClever's avatar

@josie Interesting. Thanks for the info.

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