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03/29/2015

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Eddy,

Absolutely! These are fantastically interesting questions, and I would be really excited to see the results of anything you ended up doing to go after them.

I've been following this thread and I want to ask a probably stupid question. (My deeper self, whether true or not, is identifying with some of my students right now.)

Does the background for explanation here presume that the concept of "true self" posits some sort of diachronic identity of the self that stably relates some persistent axiological pattern (the referent of "true") to some persistent referent "self" to which that pattern attaches? If so, would a Humean bundle theory of the self at least complicate this explanatory background? What I mean is that it seems possible (and for me, the actual case) that axiological identifications with diachronic desires, attitudes, beliefs, etc. might shift and change over some designated durations, and might depend on contexts of what constitutes identification given external circumstances quite beyond a self's control at any one given time.

Ok, here's what I mean. I adore my Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Brewers. I watch most all their games, and am even emotionally invested in their outcomes. I analytically criticize how coaches and players might perform better in order to succeed, and when they fail my considered expectations, I am pissed. At the same time, in class I use the fact that Wisconsin deliberately invests so much in making these teams successful that might be better invested in improving poverty, education, preventing crime, and so on, as an example of utilitarian-justified best uses of resources that champions Mill over Bentham (qualitative goods over quantity). And I really like Mill on all this.

So in some ways I identify with my in-class self: if society were transformed suddenly to devalue sports and move to support of education and the like, I'm there--that would be incredible and wonderful. But given that money drives everything, and things are as they are, well, go Aaron Rodgers!!

Am I a Humean bundled true self? Could be. Maybe I am at any given time what I value given what I am presented at that time in society as possible real values, and my reflective values and those given values may change over time in some sort of (I hate this term) reflective equilibrium.

But that would mean that my "true self" may very well change over time, and given circumstances, may change over a very short period of time.

Does that make sense? My true self arguably wishes to know.

Hi Alan,

Nice point. Suppose that your values keep changing, shifting this way and that from moment to moment. Then, if the hypothesis we've been describing is correct, the prediction should be that your understanding of your self should keep changing right along with it. In the moments when you think your love of the Packers is valuable, you should be thinking that this love is part of your true self, while in the moments when you think it is all a mistake, you should be thinking that this very same mental state isn't part of your true self at all.

Not sure whether that prediction would come out, but it would certainly be a very striking phenomenon if it did!

Josh K:

Thanks again for the replies. I think you and your collaborators have provided strong evidence for a true self explanation of the effect of moral valence on attributions of WoW. Perhaps there is room for other explanations for other aspects of WoW attributions (as you say to Mathieu), and I wonder how powerful this effect is. Regardless, though, it's such a plausible explanation now given how it provides a unifying explanation for so many other effects.

Thanks so much Joshua!

I tend to be skeptical about the persistent identity of the self, and of course that makes transtemporal claims about responsibility more difficult. But it seems to me that change is the real marker of who we persistently are. I see your point about the compatibility of that with your studies though--and that's helpful to me.

X-Phi has certainly transformed our field--and for the better without a doubt. Thanks for all your hard work.

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