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Me, Myself and I: or, You, Me, It


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Things have been a bit slow here, as you may have noticed. It's that zany mixed up place called "real life" I would suspect. Things like jobs and making money and socializing tend to be higher priorities than writing. Don't get me wrong, I love everyone who will actually take time to read by inane ramblings (and especially those that comment), but on the totem pole? Near the bottom.

Also, it's summer. Maybe we still hold residual memories of when "summer" actually meant "three whole months off with nothing to do except NOTHING AT ALL!!!!" and want to relive it. I don't, but that's another story that involves references to "a lack of a childhood" (and qualifying statements), why I think The Incredibles is actually a horrible movie, and those long slender plastic-wrapped tubes of flavored frozen ice that I can't remember the name of, but I know it's going to be something stupid and obvious like "flavored frozen ice". No, summer means one thing: heat.

I feel sorry for those that live in legitimately hot places and feel a little (but only a little) bad for whining so much about the heat in the upper midwest. All I can say, though, is that when you want to work a 12 hour day because the job has AC and your apartment doesn't, you got a problem. Besides, we're cooling down a bit, so maybe I can get some work done: for when it's hot, nothing is more important than standing in front of the freezer with the fewest amount of clothes on wondering if Alaska would really be that bad.

So I'm doing this and, as I occasionally do, am thinking about Mormon doctrine, specifically the one that says we all made the premortal choice to come to Earth and whatever. And then I think, if that's true, I want to go and ask my premortal self why oh why did you choose all this and slap the Premortal Self upside the head--the same head that is currently thawing out the frozen burritos. And then I look at the frozen burritos longly and remember why...

No, actually, frozen burritos aren't the answer. "An" answer, perhaps, but not "the" answer. But this is an interesting question. At Issues in Mormon Doctrine, Jeffrey has a series of posts about baptism (that are more than worth a read); in one of them is this sentence, which is the catalyst for this post:
Instead, I suggest that a form of social contract ethics applies to the relationship which we have with God, for clearly He does command us and we willingly accepted this relationship in the preexistence.

Am I the only one that has a problem with this? Not "problem" as in "this is screwed up and I just can't accept it"; but as "this doesn't make sense and I'm having a hard time getting my head around it".

The question is, how could "I" make any sort of decision before "I" was on Earth. It's a question of personal identity, the question of how to define "I" and what makes the "I" the same through time. I've thought about this question before--it's not a new one in philosophy by any means--but since I've tried to suppress all my schooling and, at best, am a third-rate philosopher who might (on a good day) be able to hang out with the big guns, I don't know how to go about this.

This is one of my favorite questions in philosophy, but I don't want to rehash/summarize it here because (a) better people than I have spent years doing this and (b) I think the personal identity problem might be unique in an LDS contest. I'm not entirely sure about this, but it seems to me that Mormon doctrine does alter the question.

Here's the deal: I have no recollection of premortal existence--that is, there is a break in memories and experiences between the premortal and mortal spheres, and there's no way (presumably) to get those memories/experiences back (at least before dying--and even then?). In fact, I know nothing other than my own experiences on Earth--the only reason I would even think that the premortal-I and the present-I are the same "I" is because doctrine says so.

So, given the doctrine, how do we make a rational theory of what constitutes the "I"? As it stands, it doesn't make sense that the premortal-I and the present-I are the same I; and if they are not the same I, then present-I should not be bound by decisions premortal-I made because they are actually two different people.

(Apologies for the haphazard, brief, and unnuanced talk of personal identity, but like I said, I've done my best to forget all of it. In fact (*hint hint*) I would love to see someone smarter than I do a better job of discussing this. I wouldn't even yell "poacher", I swear.)


18 Responses to “Me, Myself and I: or, You, Me, It”

  1. Anonymous Sue M 

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  2. Blogger D-Train 

    Here's a brief take. I don't think we're accountable for the decision we made to come to this life because we can't remember it. Those that chose not to are accountable for that since they remained in the state in which they were and were cast out. There was no veil, hence, they're not accountable.

    We can't be held to account for things we don't know. We don't know about what we learned in the premortal life (which included at least some things that we don't have here, presumably), which is why many on the earth (such as children and those that have not heard the word of God) are not accountable to the gospel law.

    For me, "I" is obviously a moving target. The only way that it isn't is if you define "I" or "you" as a specific instance of a species, which doesn't seem all that sensible for gospel purposes.

    We only have a social contract relationship with God when we remember the covenant that we made with him. Even if we agreed to the veil, we can't be held accountable for that until we've crossed it again.

  3. Anonymous ed 

    So did Christ remember his premotal 'I' or was his 'filled with wisdom' taught by our Father and/or angels? (Not that it really matters!)

  4. Blogger Arwyn 

    I'm in much the same boat as Pris -- that is, I've got a real life these days, and it's eating up my time.

    But a few thoughts:

    I tend to subscribe to Buddhist philosophy to a certain extent, and the definition of "I" -- or, how I consider myself to be -- is one of the things that influences.

    I don't think the premortal and the present 'I' are the same. In fact, I don't think 'I' is static; it changes from moment to moment with each thought, decision, and experience. If 'I' made a decision to come to earth, it was not the same 'I' that decided to have a piece of chocolate cake last night, or the same 'I' that spent the morning reading Harry Potter.

    In that way, 'I' am accountable for any action; but once the consequences of that action are carried out, 'I' am a different person for them.

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