The time notes

A collection of philosophical essays on the subject of causality, determinism and time in general

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On the real world and the self

When the roman emperor Julious Caesar crossed the river Rubicon, and went in the enemy territory to start a war he coined the phrase “The die has been cast”, meaning that from that point on, battle was the only option and in this sense it’s outcome battle has been predetermined. I believe (although I have never seen anyone else claim it) that the die he was referring to was the one belonging to the Greek/Roman deity Decuma/Lachesis - one of the tree fates and who, according to the myth, determined the life of each person by throwing a die. I may be wrong about the reference, but at any rate, the phrase is a good illustration of the greco-roman view of fate as destiny - predetermined and immutable, like a thread that we are traveling through (another piece of imagery from the myth about the three fates).

But that view is nonsense - fate actually isn’t predetermined - at any point Caesar could retreat, surrender, spend a day fishing in Rubicon as well as a doing a thousand other things in addition to those, or in parallel with them. The reason why Julious Caesar didn’t see any of those options, is that he would not be Julious Caesar if he chose to do any of them - meaning that they wouldn’t fit the narrative that is himself.

In the same way, any of us has a thousand different options that would dramatically change their fate, but we rarely consider the bigger part of them, simply because we feel that choosing them would make us lose our identity.

The idea of the self (as of identity in general) is a personification of that which is knowable - your persona, your job, the things you know and believe are you. Any habit thought or urge that is outside of this narrative is not really a part of the self. And that is not because such habits/thoughts/urges are rare. Neither because they are better, worse or in any way different than the rest of your habits/thoughts/urges. They are not part of the self for precisely that reason - they are not a part the narrative.

0. The self is not who you are, but who you want to be (your projected goal).

The idea of God is a personification to the aspect of reality that does not adhere to the causality maxim and that is unknowable. Religious rituals can be rationalized using the following argument: although we cannot really be familiar with the aspect of reality which is unknowable, we must pay tribute to it, in order not to forget of its existence. In this respect, greatest mistake of those rituals and of religion as a whole is that they anthropomorphize (or personify) the unknown, that is they prescribe a self to it - God.

The idea of the human self is has certain similarities to that of God and is wrong for the same reasons - the self is not who we are, but who we want to be - our projective mental images/goals (how else would you explain the existence of internal conflicts?)

Here’s how: all conflicts that we have with ourselves are conflicts between different types of goals, which entail different mental images e.g. believing that A ⇒ B and seeing the world in terms of A-s and B-s would entail one role for us, while believing that X ⇒ Y and seeing the world in terms of X-s and Y-s would entail a different role. The common characteristic of those views is that they would both entail a role just because they wouldn’t exist otherwise. So in that sense we might say that there isn’t one M, but a many M’s which are all connected.

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