Social Question

ETpro's avatar

What am I?

Asked by ETpro (34498points) April 15th, 2010

Why do I think I exist? Why does a supercomputer have no idea it exists, and yet I know that I do? What is this thing I call a self? I know my foot is real, but it doesn’t know that. I know all of my body parts are real. But why does this thing called an “I” feel more real than any of the body parts that carry it about and indeed give it existence?

I don’t say that it is more real, but anyone who is honest with themselves will have to admit that it feels more real. And yet it is the most ephemeral thing about us.

What are we?

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52 Answers

Coloma's avatar

We are pure awareness.

Your ‘self ’ is pure awareness, the awareness that watches itself.

‘You’ are the observer outside of thought.

ETpro's avatar

@Coloma ‘You’ are the observer outside of thought. I really like that way of putting it. Thanks.

talljasperman's avatar

Because your seeing things from your perspective and point-of-view…I don’t know what we are but I feel better when I take care of myself and don’t worry about it… Buddism belives that suffering comes from unanswered questions… so maybe people will feel better if they focus on the present than the what if?

Coloma's avatar

Yes, can you be the watcher of your own thoughts, the presence outside of thought…THAT is you, the true you beyond form and thought.


Not information…awareness…just awareness, just looking without thought.

Try it.

Coloma's avatar


Not about perspective, POV, that is more thought.

Buddhism believes that all suffering originates from wanting and desire, unanswered questions would fall into the category of desire for answers. lol

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


Sorry, I Am more than a mere proto-cell with sensory perception.

I can think, I do think, I am thought. If I were without thought, I wouldn’t be.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I” is more than observance. ”I” is the thought about the observance.

Coloma's avatar


Um no.
Yes you can think, but ‘you’ are not your thoughts.

If you were without thought you would be pure awareness.

Pure awareness is consciousness ( God ) expressing itself.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Awareness and Expression are two different things. Only Thought is a form of Expression.

Awareness is the witnessing of Expression from Another.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

One who thinks jealously, has become jealousy incarnate.

One who thinks angrily, has become anger incarnate.

One who thinks kindly, has become kindness incarnate.

One who thinks patiently, has become patience incarnate.

One who thinks… IS

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

One who becomes aware of kindness, does not necessarily become kindness incarnate.

Factotum's avatar

We are damned unlikely is what we are, despite there being a lot of us. There is value in the unlikely. That’s the best I have come up with so far.

Coloma's avatar


In my terminology and that of other teachers, ‘awareness’ is universal consciousness emanating from the one consciousness.

So yes, awareness is witnessing the expression of thought, but the true self is the awareness not the thinker.

When ’ you’ become aware of your own thoguhts, that awareness is your essence.

Awareness being aware of itself.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I’ll think about it.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Factotum “We are damned unlikely is what we are, despite there being a lot of us.”

No doubt about it. Any way you look at it, ”I” Am nothing short of miraculous.

ETpro's avatar

@Factotum You got that right. :-)

@Coloma & @RealEyesRealizeRealLies what meaning we attach to awareness does seem to be a key component of what it means to have “I“ness.

Awareness, n. having knowledge of; “he had no awareness of his mistakes”; “his sudden consciousness of the problem he faced”; “their intelligence and general knowingness was impressive”

Computers can sense their surroundings. They just aren’t aware of being aware.

Coloma's avatar

Aaaah…you are catching on quickly…;-)

‘You’ are part of the miraculous.

Computers are not. lol

Coloma's avatar

Okay..‘I’ am aware, that my thinking mind is tired now and ‘I’ need to rest my body.

ETpro's avatar

@Coloma Same here. Good night, all.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


Are not computers simply an extension of human thought? They are a product of human thought. They are not a product of human awareness. They aren’t aware, because they do not think. They do not think, because they have no ”Iness”.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I don’t equate computing with thought. Computing is a thought assistant. Computing is a tool.

anartist's avatar

@ETpro Most ephemeral? could be the most enduring—depending on what happens when we die. Anyway it lasts as long or longer than some of the parts might.

When babies are born it takes them a while to realize that they are separate beings and there are other beings who come and go in their world. That is also true for baby animals. For there to be a discovery of separateness of self it may be necessary to have a consciousness before separation.

For there to be a conceptual awareness of consciousness as a center of being the mind must develop enough to entertain that concept.

susanc's avatar

Chopped liver, baby.

I waited for @AstroChuck to say this but he’s a little slow tonight.

beautifulbobby193's avatar

“You” are a non physical soul inside a physical body.

gorillapaws's avatar

According to Rene Descartes you are a thinking thing.

You’ve made the issue more convoluted by throwing in multiple questions at once. You have philosophy of mind, the identity problem, mind-body, epistemology, and some metaphysics all jumbled into one paragraph.

This thought experiment might help you address the identity problem (or perhaps make things even more confusing than they already are). What is it that makes a river a river? If we took a snapshot of say the Nile, and then we replaced every single water molecule with a new one, would it still be the Nile? Or let’s say we replaced every part on your car with a new part, would it still be the same car? What if it all happened instantaneously, wouldn’t we then say it’s a different car? What if we kept the old floormats in, would that make a difference, or would we simply say it’s a new car with your old floormats? Would it be different if it were the engine? If so, why?

Arisztid's avatar

I am going to state what I am.

I am the result of a biological imperative of two organisms of the same species to reproduce. Emotions bind members of this species together to tighten the bonds that ensure its survival. Amongst the emotions that instinct gave these organisms were love for each other, sexual desire (is that an actual emotion?), and protectiveness of their progeny. These emotions (and more) combined are a very powerful insurance of survival of the species.

I am hyperaware of myself and what harms me because I would not survive to reproduce the species without this self awareness, which is the purpose of life. Life is designed to reproduce itself or life, itself, would cease to exist by, obviously, dying out. My instinctive actions of self preservation are just that… instinct.

Since I am here, I am going to make the best of it for myself and work to further the causes I advocate. However, that is secondary to the purpose of my life, which is solely to replicate itself. On that topic, I have gone against the biological imperative to reproduce and had myself snipped in the 80’s. Regardless of removing the ability to reproduce from myself, the instincts that drive me remain.

As an individual I am unique by there only being one copy of my genetic code. Everyone in the world shares that uniqueness unless they are one of a pair of identical twins.

wonderingwhy's avatar

You are you, everything else is just a descriptor. If you want to know more, look within.

mattbrowne's avatar

You are what your consciousness tells you that you are. Consciousness is variously defined as subjective experience, or awareness, or wakefulness, or the executive control system of the mind (Wikipedia definition).

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


I’ve learned a few things from Information Theory. I’d like to offer them to you for consideration, as you mentioned the genetic code.

Aside from the genetic code, there is nothing that separates life from non life. Basically, humans and bumble bees are made of the same substances as rocks and mudslides. Likewise, since tornadoes and ice crystals have no code, there is no predefined arrangement for them to become what they are. It is truly random happenstance that particles must react to whatever given circumstances that surround them.

But life is predefined. Our genetic code defines how the very same particles will form a very specific physicality. We can map and copy this code, and duplicate the physical form, whereas random code-less particles never duplicate exactly.

But code is still a physical object, made of particles itself, and present at a specific space/time coordinate. There is nothing unique about these particles, except that their specific arrangement represents another object before that object ever exists in physicality. Code represents something other than itself. Code is a pointer. And it points to a predefined, non physical concept of life. That concept is Pure Information. And that is why I claim that I, the true I, Am Pure Information.

But there is a problem here, as you wisely note the situation of identical twins.

What needs to be understood, is that there are in fact two codes that define us.

The first code, the genetic code, can explain identical twins. But it does not account for why one of those twins prefers vanilla over chocolate. If it were only the physicality of our original genetic code that defines the ”I”, then since those codes are identical, then so should be the preferences of each twin. They should have the same tastes in mating partners. They should get sick at the same times. They should laugh and cry at the same experiences as well. But they don’t.

This is because the genetic code only accounts for a portion of the ”I”. There is more to consider.

As @mattbrowne informs us, consciousness comes in different levels. The first three “subjective experience, or awareness, or wakefulness” are shared by all life forms to varying degrees. But the fourth, “the executive control system of the mind”, provides a crucial clue to what the ”I” actually is.

The “executive control system of the mind”... is language.

Language capacity is directly relevant to conscious awareness. The more language capacity that a being possesses, the more consciously aware that being is capable of becoming. A baby barely grasps language concepts of “ball”. But as her language capacity increases, “big, round, red, bouncy… throw”, then the more consciously aware she will be of her surroundings. Later as an adult, she becomes even more consciously aware of the ball, and specifically because of the language concepts she possesses to describe, “sphere, circumference, bounce effect, texture, diameter, polymer, plastics, spectrum, inflation…”

Thus, the human ”I” is defined by our ability to describe and relate to the world around us. Throughout our lives, we author a second code. It is the code of our lives. We speak our realities into existence. We get started with the original genetic code to define our ability to possess authorship skills. But in using those skills, we continue to define ourselves, for ourselves, as we author a second code to describe our observations and how we choose to relate to them.

We add to the original Information that got us started. We manifest thought In-to-form as Information. In doing so, we become the I-in-form.

anartist's avatar

@wonderingwhy Beautifully stated solipsism.

kess's avatar

You are one who came out of nothing and is all things.

The perception of life is the knowledge of all things.

The perception of death is the knowledge of nothing.

ETpro's avatar

@anartist Certainly we are either ephemeral or eternal. My guess, unfortunately is the former, and that is why I chose that wording.

@gorillapaws Great answer. I’ve heard those examples before. My answers are same Nile. It gets new water molecules year after year, yet remains the Nile. Complete or near complete replacement of parts makes for a new car, though, because the old ones were partly worn out. Given the choice, I’d keep the old floor mats and definitely swap out the motor. Here is a question about a thought experiment that demonstrates how confused this area can get.

Thanks to all who have contributed such enlightenment, and as in the case of @susanc humor to this discussion.

anartist's avatar

@ETpro And I still stand by my interpretation of that wording—for all things ephemeral that may comprise a person, consciousness is one of the the last things that person loses. Upon death an individual no longer owns his or her body parts, and may well have lost some of them—uch as appendix, teeth, limbs, hair—along the way. Actualoly all elements of the physical parts have been replaced so many times the physical parts are not the same one was born with.

ETpro's avatar

@anartist I disagree. Terry Schaivo is a perfect example of someone who lost that spark of consciousness while most of the body was still intact and operable. Strokes, accidents, traumatic brain injury, tumors, Alzheimer’s disease, degenerative brain disorders all can rob an otherwise intact human being of their essential “I“ness.

Even if the soul is eternal and immutable, it’s grip on reality experienced through a living body is anything but abiding.

anartist's avatar

Terry Schaivo is a unique and profound example. Maybe there is a higher percentage of brain damage issues than I have allowed for.
But, grip on reality? That is often lost or damaged [and possibly recovered] without losing a sense of oneself.

ETpro's avatar

@anartist True. Interesting thought that it is possible from it to slip away, then return.

JustmeAman's avatar

My understanding is that we are members of all life and that the thinking part of us is that of spirit that has always been. It is the breath of life that a child breaths that begins this mortal journey and the spirit enters the mortal shell prepared for it by the physical parents. Once the spirit part of the life leaves then the mortal shell is laid to rest but the thinking part, the spirit continues on. All things belong to this existence and experience life in their own way.

ETpro's avatar

@JustmeAman Thanks so much for offering your thoughts. I find no evidence other than tautologies that would support the ide that a spirit even exists, though.

JustmeAman's avatar

I understand that @ETpro and respect it. I communicate with that world and have been there just a few years ago but I was recovered and brought back. So I guess my experience has taught to believe how I do.

ETpro's avatar

@JustmeAman Well, welcome to Fluther and I’m really glad you are still around so we can have this debate. I am aware of the experiences people report after their hearts have stopped. But that is not death. After the brain dies, whatever it does cannot be restarted and that is death, even when machines keep the body running. What you experienced may have been being out of the body and a spirit, or it may have been the creation of your brain, which was not dead or even permanently damaged from oxygen deprivation.

JustmeAman's avatar

Well @ETpro I was there and I know what it was. I was fully aware even down to entering my body again. And ever since then I have had communication with the other side.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Can you share will us anything from the other side that we would not otherwise be capable of knowing on this side?

JustmeAman's avatar

Well a friend of mine wanted to leave his wife a message after he had a hunting accident. He said she would ask me and then he told me what to tell her. Which I did.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Does your communion with the other side come upon you randomly at any given moment, or do you induce it somehow, at your discretion? Are you just constantly plugged in and you’re walking between two realms all the time?

Aside from the message of your friend, what other knowledge have you gleaned from the OS?

JustmeAman's avatar

It sometimes is out of my control but most of the time I can control it. I have had two experiences that petrified me and I have not done it on purpose since then. Most people will never experience being terrified but there are things that can do it. It is not something I wanted nor do I want it to this day. It has been a burden and often times get me in situations I really can’t handle. I have learned so very much but each time I have tried to express some of the things I have learned I get show down so I am gun shy. LOL I will not cast my pearls before swine anymore. If you know what I mean? I’m not calling anyone a pig just a phrase from the Bible about keeping what is sacred to oneself.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

The same Christ that made the statement about the swine also said to share with those who do want to share openly. Save your pearls against those who would trample and reject them.

I’m not one of those.

JustmeAman's avatar

But this open forum is.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Well if you ever get the time or have the interest to share, you may PM me at your leisure. Otherwise I will respect your privacy and thank you for what has been shared.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I once heard a pastor say:

You are who your friends think that you think that they think that you are.

I’ll be wrestling with that one today.

JustmeAman's avatar


Thank you I appreciate you saying so. Many of the things I have learned this world is not ready to hear as I have found out. I know that all will be ready and things will be brought out weither I share them or not so I have finally learned to be patient and allow things to occur as they will. It often times is so hard to keep to oneself when our nature is to share and expand our comfort base and knowledge base.

JustmeAman's avatar

I hope that doesn’t sound like I think I’m superior to anyone else it is not meant to be and I am NOT. It is frustrating to say the least not to be able to share things. I cannot even share much with my wife because she is not ready to understand or hear it. Example Let’s say you lived during the age when they said the Earth was flat but you KNEW different. Because of your knowledge you try and share it with a few and the result is. You are pegged as a heretic and taken and hanged because you are a witch or an Evil person.

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