How To Understand the Self Beyond the External World
Updated: Aug 24
Words On Individualism
As many know, since the beginning of my philosophical journey towards self-actualization, I have always been drawn to the theory of individualism. I even developed my own ideology, which presents a more radical form of it. However, despite the insights I have reached during my contemplations, I have never found anyone who fully agrees with me.
Nevertheless, this does not stop me from aspiring to ascend further and further from the depths of mainstream-agreed assumptions, so that I may seek to explore greater horizons of thought.
One of the current, overall-agreed-upon assumptions (as there is no such thing as an “objective opinion”) is that the individual is a product which constantly stays in a state of dependence on the environment for his or her existence and consciousness. And it, unfortunately, can come to the point that he or she is always dependent on the environment for just about everything. Hence why unnecessary dependance is faulty.
I find this assumption, although highly convincing, quite problematic when compared to the definition of the individual. A concept which is widely used in English and, I assume, in other languages as well. Who exactly is the individual? And why can the claim that the individual is always dependent be considered illogical?
Well, it is because the definition of the individual (A distinct, autonomous being) in addition to the said mainstream assumption creates a paradox. Is it logical that a free, autonomous being is an entity which constantly remains in a state of dependence on other objects, other than itself?
This fallacy may lead to a very drastic, and even underestimating conclusion: that the concept of individualism is a lie which needs to be reshaped in accordance to our globalized, interconnected society of our world.
Evidence of the decline of individuality is clear, and may unfortunately become more pronounced as our technology advances. Decreasing privacy, high levels of social anxiety, reinforcement of conformity, and constant attempts to avoid loneliness rather than facing it head-on are all important examples that may indicate that, unless addressed and handled, these trends may jeopardize these virtues of individuality in the future:
* The courage to venture beyond the various conveniences of our collectives.
In this article, I will attempt to prove that individuality is not a lie, but a logical and convincing assumption, even if it may awaken controversies.
A Proposed Aspect of the Self
After some thought, I came up with the idea that each and every one of us, besides our environmentally-dependent traits, may also contain environmentally-independent traits, which consist of an inner self that I call the Autonomous Self.
In accordance, I hypothesize that the elementary definition of "self" may be the collection of its traits. Before I proceed with examples of such possible traits, I will give the required characteristics for a trait to be considered of the second type (AKA "Independent"):
The trait must be able to operate regardless of the environment. This is what we strive to achieve in this article: the possibility of a trait which can exist with no dependence on a specific environment for it to rely upon.
The trait can be "autistic," or in other words, inner-directed. As an advocate for individualism, I claim that we all have our own inner lives, which do not depend upon other entities for them to exist and to persist. It is important to note that this does not necessarily mean egoistic, although it may be regarded as such. Even when one introspects in solitude, it doesn't always have to be about the person themselves, even though every person is the creator, and perhaps master, of their own inner lives and whatever happens inside them. Similarly with emotions.
The trait can exist without external display. The philosophical approach of behaviorism, which claims that a mental state is identical to a certain behavior or to a set of behaviors, has been proven to be false, regardless of the support it used to have. This proves that the states of the self can exist without external projection (AKA behavior), which may depend upon interaction with the self's environment, and that interaction is not necessary for such a self to exist.
4. The trait can be created by the means of mono-action. Unlike interaction, mono-action, as the name implies, is an action which is created solely by one individual, and does not require further cooperation with other entities, for it to happen.
With those circumstances in mind, I shall give a few possible examples for potentially autonomous traits, which, of course, exist in various degrees and qualities among different people. They are presented here as actions:
1. Contemplation: An individual can be contemplative regardless of the environment or space they are in. Whether country, era, or place you are placed in, you can still be contemplative. This is why there are thinkers, mystics, philosophers, and the like all around the world, at all given periods of time in history. In addition, contemplation is obviously an internal action, which does not require external projection of any sort, and it can be done independently.
2. Dreaming: There is no living being which does not dream. Whether it is day-dreaming or night-dreaming, we all have dreams, which can exist and function without anyone but the individual themselves to be aware or engage in it. One can say it is always fundamentally inner-directed, and if an external eye were to simply watch us sleep or day-dreaming (not including exploiting advanced technology), it wouldn't have any idea what we are dreaming about. Of course, it is done autonomously.
3. Bodily functions: All organisms share some common functions in general, to a certain degree for each individual entity. Metabolism, physical activity, sensuality, ability for reproduction, and even death. Although they are based on something, every organism is in constant activity regardless of environment. Even if an organism dies due to a certain environment, it is still a bodily function that occurs generally. Each one of us has our own metabolic rates, heartbeats (or no heartbeats if we're dead), physical capabilities which can exist without external demonstration – all to a certain degree.
It is important to note that I am not discussing about specific bodily functions, but those we have in common on one side, but to a certain degree and merit – on the other. Some of us may lack some bodily functions which the general population has in common, such as hearing, listening, and the like, but as said those are just specific functions.
The entirety of this article has been written in an attempt to conclude and reveal the following, that a person isn't necessarily or entirely the product of their environment and the socialization they receive, and that there is a sense of self beyond the sphere of society's framework. In other words, interpersonal interactions aren't necessarily the only factor in the determination of how an individual's sense of self would go and evolve.
There are also other reasons that grow from the second category of the self, the environmentally-independent traits, which build the autonomous sphere of the self.
There is still an element out there that is often minimized in value, by those who advocate the dominance of society in our lives. That element nonetheless exists, even if that aspect of ourselves isn't as dominant as socialization and its effects on us are.
Please note that there are traits that were not covered in this article, and that is because I am not sure yet if they fill the criteria I myself have proposed.
Either way, we can even further this argument by claiming that we are more than passive blank slates. We are "slates" that, with methods such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), can try to channel the influencing stimulation we receive from the External World, AKA, from society, further strengthening the possible fact that we are not completely and passively prone to the authority of external interaction.
Much of it, in fact, depends on us and on our ability to endure, receive, and interpret the communication we receive from the outside of ourselves, without letting that communication dictate everything within us.