The Ego Trick (2011)


It’s not the first time I’ve came upon this idea, basically that our egos, our I, doesn’t really exist and is merely a narrator of things that have happened, creating an illusion to cover what we really are. When I stumbled upon this idea the first time (Susan Blackmore’s Meme Machine) it really blew my mind, and even now that I’m used to it, it’s still an intriguing.

Julian Baggini explores this with a strong focus on personality, what it is, how it is created, what it means when there’s actually no real I, and how resilient it is to change, both bodily harm as well as the ravages of time. He looks upon it from a lot of angles: philosophy, religion, psychology, science and this extensive process unearthed a few insights (not exactly groundbreaking, but Baggini managed to connect the dots in just the right way to make them easily visible) that I hadn’t seen touched upon elsewhere.

Just because there’s no core-ego, no I as many of us believe most of the time, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing there. Something is, and even if it does not conform to old-school ideas of who we are, neither is it absolved from its action and responsibilities.

That’s actually a nice touch that most of those who go completely ego-nihilistic miss. Whatever we are, the decision space that lies before each of us is not entirely determined by things outside our control (even if we are often more deterministic than we’d like to be), and at the end of the day, our actions are the embodiment of who we are, whatever this is.

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