The Elements of Scientific Psychology

By Knight Dunlap | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
THE EMPIRICAL SELF OR "ME"

One of the most obvious distinctions in the content of experience is the distinction between the self and the not self, between me and the remainder of the observable world. This distinction in the content must not be confused with the distinction between the content and the ego, I, or knower, and does not involve the conception of a "soul", or "spirit".

In out survey of experience, we have found the content to be analyzable into sentienda, relations and feelings; and have found further that the distinction between feelings and sentienda is purely one of convenience. Unless we can find a me, or objective self sui generis which somehow accompanies, pervades, or is experienced with these contents, we shall have to conclude that the known self is also composed of these same elements. Actually, no unique self-content is discoverable, and careful analysis shows, as we might expect, that the empirical self is a synthesis of all the sentienda and feelings which together make up the experienced organism. In other words: the fundamental "me" is the experienced body (soma and viscera), as it is experienced through the functions of my visceral, somatic and external receptors. This is the central self, or the central part of the self. But the total self includes more than this mass of content and its interrelations: it includes also the relation of these contents to other, outer contents. Family relations, social relations, and business relations, for example, tend to become relations with the self, which, metaphorically speaking, enlarges to include them. The self of another person is, for my experience, his body and its conduct in so far as I can experience it. My experience of your self is limited, therefore, to the processes dependent upon my visual, auditory, olfactory and cutaneous receptors. I cannot perceive your feelings: that part of your self is your own private property in so far as perception is concerned. Yet even this privacy is a limited one,

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