Matthew Ricard: THE DECONSTRUCTION OF THE SELF; part three

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As to the “self,” we’ve believed to be the very core of our being.
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We imagine it as an invisible and permanent thing that characterizes us from birth to death.
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The self is not merely the sum of “my” limbs, “my” organs, “my” skin, “my” name, “my” consciousness, but their exclusive owner. .
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We speak of “my arm” and not of an “elongated extension of my self.”
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If our arm is cut off, the self has simply lost an arm but remains intact.
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A person without limbs feels his physical integrity to be diminished, but clearly believes he has preserved his self.
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If the body is cut into cross sections, at what point does the self begin to vanish?
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We perceive a self so long as we retain the power of thought.
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This leads us to Descartes’ celebrated phrase underlying the entire Western concept of the self: “I think, therefore I am.”
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But the fact of thought proves absolutely nothing about the existence of the self, because the “I” is nothing more than the current contents of our mental flow, which changes from moment to moment.
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It is not enough for something to be perceived or conceived of for that thing to exist.
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We clearly see a mirage or an illusion, neither of which has any reality.
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The idea that the self might be nothing but a concept runs counter to the intuition of most Western thinkers.
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