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The Atomistic Self

Various influential philosophers have considered the idea that the self as continuously independent of other individuals, making it fully autonomous. Mason Cooley poetically presented this argument by stating, “The true self is the part of us that does not change when circumstances do” (Velasquez 99). Conventionally, this belief was widely developed and interpreted by thinkers of different spiritual and political backgrounds, as the questions of self have provoked colossal interest. Some argued that the self is tightly connected to the society surrounding each individual, and some believed that the self is entirely independent. Based on the evidence developed by Descartes and Kant, I argue that it is solely unique and self-sufficient.

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Furthermore, the concept of an autonomous self is perceived as an atomistic view. Thinkers compared a self to the atom, which is fully self-sufficient of other atoms (Velasquez 99). Thus, the self is an individual with distinctive qualities and experiences that are incomparable from the rest of the people. This concept attempts to comprehend and interpret people’s encounters in the context of relationships with others. Additionally, the self is a structure that persists comprehensively stable across numerous life events (Zhu and Han 1801). On the contrary, the concept of a relational self implies that people rely on others to define the self, as each person is highly influenced by the society surrounding them (Velasquez 101). Overall, both concepts represent the opposing viewpoints and definitions of self, mainly debating what affects it the most.

First, Descartes had attempted to understand his inner self by distancing from other people and focusing on his personal feelings, emotions, and thoughts. Thus, the only way to truly learn who you are is to be completely alone. Descartes’s primary claim is that the real self is a part of each individual’s mind (Velasquez 100). He states the idea of a mind influencing the self in his well-known saying, “I think therefore I am…. But what I am? A thing which thinks” (Zhu and Han 1800). The logical evidence he provides is based on the assumption that if I can think, then I am a unique being represented by my independent self. Therefore, personal qualities and performance do not depend on the influence of others. The way we experience, perceive desire, believe, and worry is a unique product of our independent self.

Furthermore, the well-known German thinker Kant had also considered the idea of an atomistic self. Immanuel Kant claimed that the essence of the true self is the capacity to determine the moralistic beliefs (Velasquez 101). These principles are also regarded as guiding ideas that contribute to an individual’s point of view. He supports his thoughts with the statement, “The will’s autonomy consists in its capacity to be its own law” (Velasquez 101). On the other hand, the thinkers who believed in the relational self, perceived that people are not capable of individual decision-making. For example, Aristotle claimed that “The individual, when isolated, is not self-sufficing; and therefore he is like a part in relation to the whole” (Velasquez 102). Therefore, Kant argued that if the person is rational, they are capable of making decisions and expressing their individual self.

In conclusion, numerous philosophers had analyzed the issue of self. Particularly, whether people are capable of independent self or they are always interconnected with others. The thinkers arguing for the atomistic self have built their arguments on the logical premises. Thus, Descartes believed that if one can think one has a unique self. Similarly, Kant stated that rationality allows people to make essential decisions independently from the rest of the population.

Works Cited

Velasquez, Manuel. Philosophy: A Text with Readings. 11th ed., Cengage Learning, 2011.

Zhu, Ying, and Han Shihui. “Cultural Differences in The Self: From Philosophy to Psychology and Neuroscience.” Social and Personality Psychology Compass, no. 2, 2008, pp. 1799–1811. Web.

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