Title of Paper : What is the 'Self'?
Grade Received on Report : 100

This essay will analyze the ideas presented in Franz Kafka’s "Metamorphosis", Rene Descartes’
"Meditations", Aldous Huxley’s "Brave New World", and B.F.Skinner’s "Science and Human Behavior",
applying each to the understanding of the self, and the theory of determinism as related to the self.
In order to analyze theories concerning the self, we must first look at what constitutes the self, and how it is
defined. There are several views on what characterizes the self, one stating that it is the act of thinking
which most logically determines the self, while another claims that it is the summation of all the things that
one does during his entire life that constitutes the notion of the self.
Descartes believed that the act of thinking proved his own existence, and that if he ceased to think, he
would then cease to exist. I understand this argument in that to be able to show that one exists, one must
merely think it to be so. Arguing to the contrary leads back to the original statement: If we say that the act
of thinking does not show that we exist, then we must show how we can not exist while at the same time
we are thinking. This does not follow as a reasonable argument because in order to think, there must be a
‘thing’ that is doing the thinking. That ‘thing’ which thinks is us, which brings the argument back to the
initial statement.
Another theory as to what characterizes the self touches on the idea that the summation of all the things that
a person does during his entire life is what determines the characteristics of the self. This is the argument
that appeals more to my ideas on what the self is, but I also believe that a person’s physical body also plays
a large part in determining the attributes of the self. Kafka believes that one’s physical makeup does not
play a part in what the self is, only the actions of the person. I think that a person’s physicality largely
influences both the actions as well as the ideas of that person. For example, if I was a heavy-set man, I am
sure that I would have a completely different outlook on life than I have right now. I would probably view
physical activity as a task better left to young kids, rather than the source of excitement and tension-reliever
as I now see it. The physical attributes of a person partly determine how others react to that person, which!
in turn plays a large role in how he acts around others. This leads to the next step, to examine the self and
find out if it is deterministic.
Let us begin with the hypothesis that the ‘self’ does not actually have any free choice, and everything that
occurs can be explained by the laws of science. Theoretically, if a person could gather every single piece
of information about another - everything that has affected him in the slightest possible way since his birth,
including all of the neurological processes occurring inside of him - that person’s actions could be
predicted for anytime in his future. This theory concerning the ‘self’ is known as determinism, which in its
basic form states that every action a person takes in life has already been slated to happen. This has created
many problems with those opposed to the theory, who argue that if our lives are already laid out for us,
then how could we say that we are free to choose what to do in life? Determinists believe that we cannot
truly say that we are free. I agree with the determinists, with the additional argument that it is wholly
impossible to know eve!
ry single factor affecting a person up until, and including any given time. "It does not follow that human
behavior is free, but only that it may be beyond the range of a predictive or controlling science." (Skinner
249) Skinner is arguing that even though he believes that the self is deterministic, he cannot show that this
is true because of the limitations of our scientific knowledge. There are so many variables to account for in
this prediction that it