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stump's avatar

Where do you end and the 'outside world' begin?

Asked by stump (3835points) February 3rd, 2010

When does air stop being just air and become your breath? Is it when it enters your nose or mouth, when it enters your lungs, or when it passes through the cell wall?
When does food stop being food and become you? When do our wastes stop being us.
What about ideas? Is your unspoken idea part of your mind? If so, when you speak it is it no longer part of you? When we share ideas, does it mean we share part of our mind?
What about actions? Are the things we do part of us?

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19 Answers

CMaz's avatar

It is all semantics.

stump's avatar

@ChazMaz May have moral and ethical implications. As well as legal. Intelectual property is recognized by the law.

CMaz's avatar

Common sense will take car of that.

ragingloli's avatar

On the surface of my epidermis.

lifeflame's avatar

Actually, when you consider that every atom in our bodies get changed every 7 years (I think it’s 7 years) the idea of “self” is a construct.

You might want to check this out. It’s a analogy that some Greek philosopher came up with called “The Ship of Theseus”

If you define “yourself” as a pure physical entity, it actually doesn’t make too much sense. Rather, it may make more sense to define yourself as an organisation of matter.

Harp's avatar

We have to draw this inside/outside boundary line in order to function. But we make a tragic mistake when we begin to take it too seriously. It’s being taken too seriously whenever it’s a cause for greed, hatred, anger or jealousy. It needs to be seen as permeable, flexible, temporary, and disposable when necessary.

CMaz's avatar

I thought our Atoms went on for ever.

lifeflame's avatar

Ah, atoms may last forever (as far as I know—forever seems like another philosophical question), but individual atoms get interchanged as cells, etc, renew themselves.

Oh, I found another link It is an average of 7 years.

Although there is this question about tattoos which question this 7 year-myth.

Anyway, the point is not whether we get completely renewed or not in X number of years. I have no doubt that some parts of us get renewed, and the point is, on a microscopic level our individual components are in constant growth, decay, and are swapping in and out.

Shuttle128's avatar

Why do you need to define where you end and the outside world begins?

zookeeny's avatar

I really like this question. I have gotta go but I will be back. It gives me something to think about today – thanks :)

stump's avatar

@ragingloli Is your hair part of your body? Only the part under the skin?
@lifeflame I agree with you that your body is better defined by the organization of matter, but do you apply that to your mind also? Are your ideas part of your mind, or is it the pattern of thought that is your mind?
@Shuttle128 I don’t. I just find it entertaining to think about. Kind of like playing with reflections in a mirror.

lifeflame's avatar

“I am large, I contain multitudes”

In my mind the difference between the “inside” and“outside” are even more fluid.
People whom have influenced me, or whom I love “live on” in me, in the sense they have shaped the present “me”. When I love, the boundaries between me and other have the capacity to drop.

The Buddhists have an analogy. If I light another candle with the first one, which is the original fire? I think of ideas that way too.

Barbs's avatar

Does it really matter? Is it really necessary to consider such precise conscepts of reality?

Shuttle128's avatar

I find it impossible to define as to where the line should be drawn. It’s one of those things that are a product of humans classifying things. When physical objects are classified there are always fuzzy lines between when something you observe is one thing or another.

The natural answer that is expected would be that a person ends at the outer layer of their skin. This sentiment has developed because humans are very visual when defining the boundaries of physical objects. However, we know that food in a person’s stomach was at one point not a part of them. If we consider the environment’s effects on a person’s behavior you would have to conclude that the environment is part of a person as well. A person also produces a noticeable effect on the environment as well so this effect on the environment might also be called a part of you. The interactions you have with the things “outside” are as much a part of you as what is “inside” of you.

I have to say that @lifeflame is hitting exactly what I just said. When two people share many experiences and interact in close ways it seems impossible to define where one person ends and the other begins. Too much is shared to be able to define some separating line.

I find it funny that I should have found this conclusion through exploration of physics, neuroscience, computation, and philosophy when Buddhism seems to have come to this conclusion quite differently. There is no individual, the individual is an illusion that has been created in order to quantify the world. The belief in individual is is caused by our brains’ necessity to organize observations about the world. I dunno if it’s possible to understand the world without this feature of our brains though.

josie's avatar

It is clear that we are a part of the cosmos and not isolated from it. So the question where do I end and the rest of the universe start depends on the context of the conversation. If the conversation is about your job, or if you are overweight, or happy or on vacation, then you stop at the visible physical boundry of yourself. If you are talking the law of physics that says that matter can not be created or destroyed, then the truth is you are just part of the cosmic milieu. It is more practical from a survival stand point to think of your self as ending at your skin.

stump's avatar

If for practical purposes you end at your skin, when you give blood is the blood no longer part of you? If you receive blood, is it you, yours, or someone else’s blood IN you? If you had a limb amputated, is it still part of your body even though it is no longer attached? What if you had a limb amputated, put on ice for a year, and then reattached? Is it part of your body the whole time? Is that analogus to reading an old diary?

Trillian's avatar

I know I’m going to get jumped for this one, but you do actually have a field of energy that surrounds your body. Plants have it, as do animals. Some call it the aura, and you can photograph it with a special camera. I believe it’s called “kirlian” photography. I’ve heard debates about this before and the conclusion was that the field was extended far enough out that you couldn’t help but overlap with that of others.
(sits back and waits for the storm…)

DrMC's avatar

It is not where you end, it’s where humanity begins and where it ends.

You are part of a hive, that behaves like an organism. You are one of many cells that have the illusion of free will and independent thought. You have been fooled.

You are nothing but a component.

It’s thoughts, your writing, my writing – a collective consciousness loosely intertwined. Our bodies mortal, our actions producing immortal effects. We were misled into thinking it was about us.

We die, it goes on.

Those we teach, and raise and help, contain pieces of our memes. The better memes survive and proliferate. The lessor ones weeded out by our good friend Darwin.

Remember. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

candide's avatar

the window

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