The Triune Self

Consider, if you will, three statements and ask yourself which is true of you;

(1) I am like everyone else.

(2) I am like no one else.

(3) I am like some people and unlike others.

Notice that in logical form, these propositions seem to be exclusive of one another. So which of them is true of you? In what way? What are the consequences of emphasizing any one of these at the exclusion of others?

I will pick up the discussion tomorrow (hopefully) in a follow up post, but I am hoping you will think through these three propositions and reflect how they each apply to you. Please show your work…


4 thoughts on “The Triune Self

  1. This question demands a yes/no, either/or answer to statements that I think most people would naturally want to qualify. Not allowing for that, it reveals our conception of personal identity.

    On one hand, we imagine the “I” as a singular, indivisible unit; on the other, as consisting of parts, fluid and without definite form. Personally, I subscribe more to the latter view and think the notion of a unitary self exists only for the sake of expediency. (Is this where the idea of the soul comes from?)

    To choose any of the three given options assumes that we consider ourselves and others to be monads. I don’t know if I agree with that assumption.

    • Thanks, Quay, for you comment. Please don’t interpret my question as making any such binary demand. Qualify away! I certainly think that the three statements are not mutually exclusive and that each needs to be qualified. In fact, that’s just what I’m interested in.
      Your comment got me thinking: to what extent does the truth of any (or all) of these propositions gesture towards a “soul” that is not unitary or distinct? Is there a sense in which we are monads and another sense in which we are not monads? Must that be either/or?

  2. I am like everyone else:

    – similar physiological characteristics
    – all use language
    – behavioral phenomena/emotions, not necessarily particular ones, but all express/possess emotion (even the sociopath is a behavioral phenomena expressing emotion)

    I am like no one else:

    While I share common traits, no one has a full understanding of me (perhaps not even me which is how I am indeed still like everyone else, lacking perfect self-knowledge). Not withstanding imperfect self-knowledge, no one has the same self-knowledge I possess. No other days “I am David” and means the exact same thing by it which I mean. This extends to other knowledges also. No ones knowledge of anything is like mine and I am unlike them.

    I am like some people and unlike others:

    Isn’t this already expressed in answering the above thoughts? My similarities with others will be stronger with one group, weaker with another. If I were drawing instead of typing, perhaps I could diagrammatically or symbolically express this, but I lack the language for it here. Perhaps this is the place where the other two truths become concrete expressions and in some sense measurable?

    Or is it saying I am categorically like one group, thus included, and categorically unlike another group, thus excluded?

    Though I desire a unified expression of the three statements, I’ve been unable to reach one so far. So, for now, these thoughts must suffice for my answer.

  3. Good. I think think you are on the right track. All three statements are obviously true in some respect and the trick is to isolate those respects. And I think that different philosophies tend to emphasize one of these at the expense of others. Just to give some quick examples: I think Enlightenment thinkers stressed #1. Existentialists stressed #2. Communitarians have stressed #3. And it is interesting to see how hostile one form of allegiance can be toward the others. To me, some sort of balance-in-tension is called for.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s