Monday, December 11, 2023

David Byrne on The Self, and How We're Social Animals

A few answers from the always interesting David Byrne in an interview with The New York Times.

On the self:

"Lots of other people, scientists and philosophers, think about this more than I have: Where is the difference between yourself here and here and here? Is there any continuous self? You could say you’ve retained memories from various parts of your life, but memories are very malleable. We reshape them every time we remember them. They’re not fixed. Every self you go through, you dredge something up and make it apply to whoever you are at that moment. It’s a hard thing for us to intuitively accept the idea of “self is an illusion.” It’s very Buddhist, but it’s also increasingly more scientific. It’s not just a spiritual concept. It’s also a kind of neural concept."

And our socialness:

"Well, in our culture there’s a lot of emphasis on the individual: I have a right to do this, I have a right to do that. There’s a sense that you’re making these decisions about your life or what you want to do or say and that they’re all coming from you. But they’re not! Who you are at any given moment is defined by the social context. We’re not quite ants, but we’re social animals. To pull one ant away and say, That ant decided to do that! No. We do things because we’re part of a larger community. I feel like the pendulum in our culture here has swung maybe a little too far into the individual zone — away from a sense of community. It’s all about me, me, me. That’s what you think, but everything you’re saying is coming from people around you or the internet. You’re not making this up yourself. We do some things as individuals, but a lot of things we do are socially determined. Way more than we would like to admit. I mean, we tend to look down on arranged marriages, for example, but then you look at who people connect with and you go, I could have arranged that. You think that you’ve had this freedom of choice but, well, your parents might have picked the same person for you."

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