Filtering out Ourselves

Our ‘self’ is not homogenous — we are a multitude.   Here is an index my posts on my many-selves perspective.

Above I try to illustrate one obvious consequence of this many-selves perspective.  I show myself as a cloud (fuzzy bundle) of all sorts of habits, beliefs, likes and dislikes.  Depending on the filters people use when they look at me, only certain salient traits will stand out to them.  We can find readers on this site doing just that:

  • Some Christians see an Atheist (see: “Atheism as an Epiphenomena“)
  • Some Buddhists see a materialist
  • Some Common Culturists see a Buddhist
  • Some Atheists see a Religionist — an “accomodationalist”

A classic Buddhist story illustrating this principle is the story of Four Blind Men and the Elephant.

More important than how others view us, is what we do when we look in a mirror.  We often use a filters and ignore many parts of ourselves.   I think it is important to embrace our multitudes.

Question to Readers:  What contradictory ways do you find people viewing you?


Filed under Cognitive Science, Philosophy & Religion

6 responses to “Filtering out Ourselves

  1. Tim Smith

    Do the contradictory ways we are viewed by others arise from our contradictory thoughts spelled out in our actions, by a supposed or real ‘failure to be understood’ or by our own misunderstandings as we read/read into the terms of our respondents. Unlike light reflected from an inanimate body our ‘light’, viewpoint, emphasis, intention, call it what you will, is not dependable, predictable or strictly empirical. In our response to others it seems tenable to err on the side of charity if we feel we are being misread. After all don’t we contradict ourselves also? Social controls, real or perceived also weigh in here; would an agrarian culture have as prolific an amount of perceptual filters as a technological or richly historical culture? Do we create the continuum of our own contradictions? Sorry if I am off point of post. Love the ‘fuzzy bundle’ locution. Good stuff!

  2. Hey Tim,
    Yeah, probably all that.

  3. I’m probably too religious for some atheists too and am definitely too atheist for some religious folks. And it’s kind of unrelated but in the US people seem to think I’m younger than I am (somewhere in the 13-18 range) and here in Canada they seem to think I’m older (30ish). This could be a context issue: here I’m a foreign student in a Master’s program where the average age is probably somewhere around 26-32. And since it’s hard to tell physically and I don’t act any less mature than the other students, they assume things.

    Probably though, the Unitarian Universalists would have the same reaction to you as they do to me: “just like us!”

    Because they don’t much care what you believe, but they prefer people who are reasonably tolerant, and they kind of like it when you have an eclectic and unconventional approach to religion.

    Now I was partly raised among them, so that gets me cred too, I think.

  4. @ Thyrn
    That was funny — and looking at your blog shows why you could be read many different ways. Thanks for dropping in.

  5. wow! how did i miss this?! great tack on to your multiple-selves series. people see a minister, a hipster, a geek, an athlete, a Christian, a Heretic, a cold and fierce debater, and a compassionate oowie-gooey new-agey romantic. so it goes.

  6. @ Zero
    Yep, exactly, it is matches my multiple selves model — good eye!
    I can see how you would be viewed incredibly different in different circles.

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