“Antonio Damasio on What Makes ‘Me’, Me” Comments, Page 1

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4 Comments on “Antonio Damasio on What Makes ‘Me’, Me”

  1. I like those distinctions. Although they don’t seem tight – our breathing is automatic but we can be conscious of it – and being conscious of how it changes when we see our beloved seems to involve all three levels.

    I’m not sure about his approach to emotions. Why do they need to be outwardly directed? Does this include emotional response to a memory (which I think of as inner)?

    I’m not sure why a sea-anemone isn’t proto-self rather than possessed of consciousness.

    I hope Damasio gets around to specifying the interrelationship between the processes – to have a useful map of this could be incredibly valuable I think. At the moment the best process I know of is to play and observe ourselves.

  2. Please read his books – he goes into a great deal of detail, and makes the distinctions pretty tight and concrete. This is just my ultra-simplified blog post ;-)

  3. His idea that the origin of the self is its (relative) stability (in relation to the environment) makes good sense to me.

    I like that he has a sense of the person in relation to the environment. I’m glad he takes the biology of people seriously.

    My interest isn’t neuroanatomy or brain damage, though very valuable to medico’s.

    I guess the self that is illusory/delusory for the buddhists is some part of the autobiographical self (or some understanding of it).

    The idea of the autobiographical self being based on memory seems sound. The idea that it consists of parts of our genetic inheritance, early patterns and unique personal episodes (pp.222-3) makes sense.

    If the proto-self is basically automatic homeostatic mechanisms and feedback processes this seems sensible. I do think this can be modified though by the autobiographical self – eg the high-wire artists learning a finer sense of balance. It seems that there are at least a subset of these processes we can be aware of – breathing, digestion and so on. Unless he means that it is just the brain structures, in which case I agree that we are never aware of them.

    I think the core self’s perceptions are modified by the autobiographical self – for a musician what appears immediately in conscious is different before and after years of training. In this sense I think the changes to the core self across a lifetime can be quite significant. Though maybe he doesn’t find these significant. Though he talks about the “mechanism of production of core self” (p.174) – if this means biology then I would agree that it not modified much. Though I do think the ‘biological essence of the core self’ being the second order map of the proto-self (p.175), is significantly modified by the acquisition of skills. Maybe this is just an argument about what it significant(?).

    For me the relations between the ‘three selves’ are more dynamic than he envisages (if I understand him correctly).

  4. I see you got hold of the book – did you enjoy it?

    It seems to me that Damasio in ‘The Feeling of What Happens’ concentrates very much on where the bottom lines are – building a model of how the “higher” levels rely on the “lower” levels to function, rather than looking at the interaction which can go both ways – I like your emphasis on that, Evan. Maybe he leans over in that direct in order to counteract models which tend to underplay the biological basis of life in favour of, say ‘language’ to explain everything about our presence as human selves.

    Breathing seems to be our only ‘gateway’ into the levels of proto-self, as you point out, we can be conscious of it and control it – which makes it pretty special – hence it’s role in meditation maybe…

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