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How Many Selves Make Me?1

  • Stephen R. L. Clark

Cartesian accounts of the mental make it axiomatic that consciousness is transparent: what I feel, I know I feel, however many errors I may make about its cause. ‘I’ names a simple, unextended, irreducible substance, created ex nihilo or eternally existent, and only associated with the complete, extended, dissoluble substance or pretend-substance that is ‘my’ body by divine fiat. Good moderns take it for granted that ‘we’ now realize how shifting, foggy and deconstructible are the boundaries of the self; ‘we’ know that our own motives, feelings and intentions constantly escape us; ‘I’ names only the current speaker, or the momentarily dominant self among many fluid identities.

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2 Wilkes, Kathleen V., Real People (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988).

3 See Churchland, Patricia S., ‘Replies to Critics’, Inquiry 29 (1986), 241–72.

4 Wilkes, op. cit. (n. 1); Brennan, Andrew ‘Fragmented Selves and the Problem of Ownership’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (19891990), 143–58.

5 Plotinus, , Ennead VI 7. 41, 22f.

6 Armstrong, A. H.Enneads (London: Heinemann, Loeb Classical Library, 1988), vol. 7, 78.

7 Palmer, G. E. H., Sherrard, P. and Ware, K. (eds), Philokalia (London: Faber & Faber, 1979), 186.

8 Thigpen, Corbett and Cleckley, Harvey M.A case of Multiple Personality’, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 49 (1954), 135–51 (reprinted in Sarason, I. G. (ed.), Contemporary Research in Personality (Princeton: Van Nostrand, 1962), 367–83; see also The Three Faces of Eve (London: Seeker & Warburg, 1957), 50.

9 McDougall, W., ‘The Case of Sally Beauchamp’, Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 19 (19051907), 410–31.

10 Sidis, B. and Goodhart, S. P., Multiple Personality (New York: Appleton & Co., 1909), 65.

11 Cory, C. E., ‘Spanish Maria’, Journal of Abnormal Psychology 14 (1920): Crabtree, A., Multiple Man (Eastbourne: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1985), 41f.

12 Cory, , Psychological Review 26 (1919).

13 Prince, M., The Dissociation of a Personality (New York: Longmans, Greene & Co., 1908), 78ff.

14 Crabtree, , op. cit. (n. 11), 39ff.

15 Hawthorn, J., Multiple Personality and the Disintegration of Literary Character (London: Edward Arnold, 1983).

16 Prince, , op. cit. (n. 13), 147ff.

17 Prince, , op. cit. (n. 16), 489.

18 Hawthorn, , op. cit. (n. 15), 18.

19 Ibid. 8.

20 Wilkes, , op. cit. (n. 1), 110.

21 Spanos, N. P., Weekes, J. R. and Bertrand, L. D., Journal of Abnormal Psychology 94 (1985), 362–76.

22 Thigpen, and Cleckley, , op. cit. (n. 8), 165.

23 Crabtree, , op. cit. (n. 11), 211f.

24 Wilkes, , op. cit. (n. 1), 111.

25 See Hawthorn, , op. cit. (n. 15), 11ff. It is also widely claimed that such ‘multiples’ were often or always victims of sexual and other abuse as children. It is not surprising that such victims should exaggerate the normal tendency to forget unpleasant or disgraceful episodes.

26 See Lewis, I. M., Ecstatic Religion (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971).

27 Spanos, et al. , op. cit. (n. 21).

28 Thigpen, and Cleckley, , op. cit. (n. 8), 195.

29 Aldridge-Morris, Ray, Multiple Personality: an Exercise in Deception (London: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1989), cited by Snedegar, Jean, The Independent, 20 03 1990, p. 15.

30 Thigpen, and Cleckley, , op. cit. (n. 8), 271. It may be they have other, better, reasons for their conclusions: how could we tell?

31 Plath, Sylvia, The Bell Jar (London: Faber & Faber, 1966), 80; cited by Hawthorn, , op. cit. (n. 15), 117.

32 Dunne, J. S., The City of Gods (London: Sheldon Press, 1974), 125.

33 Prince, , op. cit. (n. 16), 560.

34 Ibid. 514.

35 Guin, Wyman, Beyond Bedlam (London: Sphere Books, 1973), 15Off.

36 As Eve White apparently thought: Thigpen and Cleckley, , op. cit. (n. 8), 206.

37 Keyes, Daniel, who wrote The Minds of Billy Milligan (New York: Random House, 1981), is better known as the author of the science fiction story, Flowers for Algernon. They are both touching stories, but I prefer the latter.

38 Taylor, Charles, Sources of the Self (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 34.

39 See ‘On Wishing there were Unicorns’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (19891990), 247–65.

40 McDougall, W., Outline of Abnormal Psychology (London: Methuen, 1926), 541f.

41 Ibid. 546ff.

42 Sidis, and Goodhart, , op. cit. (n. 10), 4.

43 McDougall, , op. cit. (n. 40), 546f.

44 Prince, , op. cit. (n. 13), 186240.

45 Ibid. 399.

46 Crabtree, , op. cit. (n. 11), 52, after Keyes, op. cit. (n. 37).

47 It is a clumsy methodological error to suppose that—if there are real multiples at all—they must all end up requiring therapy. It is therefore quite wrong to claim that we know that all or most multiples (if they exist) must have been abused as children.

48 Sidis, and Goodhart, , op. cit. (n. 10), 193.

49 Ibid. 199.

50 Ibid. 364.

51 During discussion at the Conference I inflicted this elementary exercise on my audience, and concluded (from their unanimous failure to achieve a tensecond thought) that we could hardly be said to control our thoughts at all. İlham Dilman responded that he had at least thought of the thing I had asked them to, and so must have controlled his thinking at least for a moment. True enough: but now (if you control your thoughts) don't think of a white mare.

52 Philo, , On Cherubim, 114f.: Collected Works, trans. Colson, F. H., Whitaker, G. H. et al. (London: Heinemann, Loeb Classical Library, 1929), vol. II, 77.

53 Philo, , De Mutatione, 293f: ibid., vol. V, 265f.

54 Sangarakshita, , Survey of Buddhism, 6th ed. (London: Tharpa Publications, 1987), 196f.

55 Midgley, Mary, Wickedness (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984), 123.

56 I have discussed some of the difficulties in attempts to explain the existence or nature of consciousness by referring only to such things as can supposedly exist without consciousness in From Athens to Jerusalem (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), ch. 7.

57 Hawthorn, , op. cit. (n. 15), 34.

58 Potts, T. C., Conscience in Mediaeval Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980).

59 Allison, R., Mind in Many Pieces (New York: Rawson, Wade, 1980).

60 Sally: Prince, , op. cit. (n. 13), 166.

61 As ibid. 150.

62 BI: ibid. 209.

63 As in Stapledon, Olaf, Last Men in London (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972; first published 1932).

64 Anquttara-Nikaya 1, 10: cited by Sangarakshita, , op. cit. (n. 54), 104. Edward Conze emphasizes that Humean comparisons are deeply misleading: whereas Hume ‘understood our personality after the image of inanimate objects, which also have no “self”, or true inwardness of any kind… the Buddhist doctrine of anatta invites us to search for the super-personal’ (Thirty Years of Buddhist Studies (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), 239f).

65 Prince, , op. cit. (n. 13), 316.

66 Ibid. 152; see also 221.

67 Ibid. 234.

68 Ibid. 238.

69 See Merlan, Philip, Monopsychism Mysticism Metaconsciousness (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1963).

70 See Robinson, H. M., ‘Aristotelian Dualism’, in Annas, J. (ed.), Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983).

71 Plotinus, , Enneads III 4.3; see my ‘Reason as Daimon’ in Gill, C. (ed), The Person and the Human Mind (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 187206.

72 Evans, C. O., The Subject of Consciousness (London: Allen & Unwin, 1970), 144.

73 Prince, , op. cit. (n. 13), 525.

74 Blake, W., ‘Jerusalem’, 49.72f, in Keynes, G. (ed.), Collected Works (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), 680.

75 See Suzuki, D. T. (ed.), Manual of Zen Buddhism (New York: Grove Press, 1960).

76 There is a related doctrine in Augustine, on which see Nash, R. H.The Light of Knowledge (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1969), 94ff.

77 See my ‘Is Humanity a Natural Kind?’, in Ingold, Tim (ed.), What is an Animal? (London: Unwin Hyman, 1988), 1734.

1 Earlier versions of this paper were read to the Philosophical Society at Stirling University, and to the conference at St David's. I am especially grateful to Kathleen Wilkes, David Cockburn, Andrew Brennan, and to Barry Dainton, currently of Liverpool University, for their comments. My conclusions were brought more strongly into focus by Ramchandra Gandhi's comments at the second Anglo-Indian Convivium held in East Sussex in September 1990.

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