Narrative Construction of the Self: Listening to Alva Noë, Out of our Heads

24. Language is socio-cultural, and meaning is determined by use. Noë refers to Hilary Putnam in this regard.

25. A self-narrative requires a socio-cultural context to be meaningful.

26. Socio-cultural models of the self both create and constrain. They contribute to the construction of the self, assisting the person to define who they are, and at the same time constrain the range of options available to the person.

27. One form that these socio-cultural constraints on self-narratives take is the forms of religious ideals. Although there has been some argumentation that the “saint” is a universal category, or at least one that can be applied productively across religious cultures (e.g., Reginald Ray, Buddhist Saints in India), one cannot help but wonder, well at least I can’t, whether they would be recognizably “the same” (quotes indicate that it is unclear what “the same” means in this context).

28. An argument against this would be the relatively universal role of austerities in religious practices, i.e., the active embrace of discomfort and pain. Perhaps this may be rooted in universal human physiology and psychological responses to stress (sleep deprivation, starvation, etc.). This points back to the argument found in Huxley’s Doors of Perception/Heaven and Hell.

29. In terms of the narrative construction of the self, extended cognition provides a possible causal model by which the environment feeds back the self-narrative, thus assisting in the process by which it comes to be adopted as the self of the person.

30. Critiques of conscious control based on studies of neurological sequencing (movement of the arm begins as a neuroanatomical process before the thought of moving the arm is formulated consciously) sometimes conclude that there is no free-will. This, however, is the wrong conclusion. It is based on two errors. First, the false dichotomy between there either being free will or not, and second that conscious thought as the controller is the only relevant aspect of human conscious existence. Thus, it is the nature of conscious thought as controller (which delightfully Noë calls the intellectualist model), that should come under scrutiny as a consequence of these studies.

31. Language is created out of speech, not vice versa–contrary to the Chomskyan model.

32. Similarly, there is a problem with the game metaphor for language. Games have explicit rules which must be followed to play the game. The rules of language are extrapolated from use.

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