Memories, Morals & Me [Identity]

Memories, Morals & Me

– looks at issues about identity with Sean Nicholls, an experimental philosopher looking at how people perceive things
– research has found people care about moral character (whether a person is nice)
– moral character traits were defined as selfishness, courageous, honest
– John Locke believed memory was fundamental to identity & that there was a continuity in character
– loved ones – partners & family often focus on a person’s character
– people cared much less about another person’s desires for certain foods, activities, music etc., compared with their moral character (& yet our internal view can be at it is more important to others than it actually is found to be)

– also looked at people’s thoughts about not existing
– this is a very disturbing thought for all people
– he looked at attitudes towards death by Hindus & Buddhists in India
– he found that when people think that the self changes a lot, people become more charitable (give money to charity), are less punitive & also think that they should not be punished for things that had happened in the past

– experiment: Tibetan Buddhist monks believe self changes a lot (in fact the self changes constantly) & hypothesised that therefore there would be less death anxiety (they in fact showed greater fear & anxiety despite telling themselves that there was no self over time)
– it may be irrational, but death is a difficult issue to face directly
– he believes the greater fear was a result of Buddhists constantly thinking about death & that this is no good for quelling the fear of death & in fact raises the anxiety about death (& therefore explaining why they found death more terrifying than western atheists)
– the rational thing may be to not fear death, but that the best therapy is to not think about death & the best thing is to say this to yourself (that is to not think about death) & to do something else/ think about something else – to live life – because when I think about death / face it directly, I will have primitive reactions of fear

– people evolve over time – in particular their psychological structures, including: desires, needs, knowledge, morals – we have memories of who we were in the past & yet we are so different too (& yet many people think/have the intuition that we are the same person we were 10 years ago) – our memories make us think we have not changed & reinforces our sense of identity | our emotions are linked to memories & are in fact triggered – & it is therefore very difficult not to feel guilt/regret about something we have done wrong in the past – he suggests a way to process is to say to yourself: but I am not really the same person anymore – I have experience & learned much since then

– philosophy does not grow out of Oxford, but comes from everyday reflections
– Nicholls has looked at free will which is in conflict with determinism

Source: ABC RN | The Philosopher’s Zone | Podcast date: 30 October 2016


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