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Ego Trick: In Search of the Self Paperback – March 1, 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
Julian Baggini adds rigour and readability to what could easily be a dry and confusing subject. Having said that the first half of the book is devoted to what the self 'obviously' isn't and is perhaps overlong, but then things start to hot up.
The author makes a convincing case for his theory that '"I" is a verb dressed as a noun.' It is not a 'thing' but what brains and bodies 'do'.
So is self 'just an illusion'? No:
The self is really a 'bundle' of thoughts not a hard fixed 'pearl', but it is still 'real', just not what we generally assume it to be.
The self as 'no-thing' can't be destroyed by death but this doesn't mean it survives it! In as far as the self is real it will end in death! This is even less comforting than the often used non-dualist idea of 'how can something that was never born die?' But this isn't about comfort of course, neither is Stephen Batchelor's (Buddhist) idea that there is nothing (no-self) beyond the veil of appearances - all is impermanent and contingent. There is no 'transcendent' self.
Christine Korsgaard's theory of 'self-creation' is examined next: the sense in which the self is created from what is chosen and enacted. We are responsible because we are 'agents' and we 'are what we do'. This sounds very like existentialism to me. We are nothing beyond what we do and are condemned to freedom since we must do something.
This 'living without a soul' is explored further: according to Susan Blackmore bundle theory lends itself to determinism rather than free-will. This is quite convincingly explained.Read more ›
Part one deals mostly with shredding once and for all the "pearl" view of the self. This view is the idea that somewhere there is a true core self of some kind. The view has taken the form of the idea of an underlying core personality as well as some sort of pure spirit that is attached to the body without being physically affected. It is a largely successful part with some weaknesses.
The first section of Part One deals with the idea that we are somehow separate from the body. To illustrate this, Julian uses stories of transgendered people who could not overcome the fact that their body did not correspond with their psychology. While this is an interesting idea, I think it makes a fairly weak argument. It leaves too many other possibilities open even if you include the theories presented in the rest of the book. It would be easy to say that one part of their brain or psychology was wrong for their body rather than their body being wrong for their psychology. This would effectively disconnect the body from the mind once again. I think this section would have been much better covered by a discussion on the clear and demonstrated impacts of biology on the mind, puberty for one. Fortunately this section is not the sum total of part one.
The second section of Part One deals with the self and the brain.Read more ›
As a Buddhist, I am familiar with how Buddhists challenge the idea of the self. I lazily assumed the Buddhist way was the only way to take it apart - how very wrong of me. Baggini carefully examines the Buddhist view, with the help of Stephen Batchelor, the beloved "atheist Buddhist" renegade, and he finds much that is useful - and much that is unnecessary.
The book is enlivened by discussions with transgendered persons, theologians, transhumanists, psychologists, prostitutes and neuroscientists. That he manages to include all these people in a way that seemed to me both a propos and respectful seemed to me a remarkable feat of both writing and sensitivity. (That said, I would be especially interested to hear the response of transgendered persons to this book.)
This book is so lively and readable that it would serve as good company even at the end of a very long day, as you drink a glass of red wine and look to revive your weary mind. Only the most crucial chapter, chapter 7, "The Ego Trick", will require a clear head, a bright morning, and a strong cup of coffee. Or maybe just a few re-readings. But that is no problem at all, not for this, the trickiest of investigations!
I remember being a young man, sitting in a Buddhist monastery, listening to discussions about the nature of the self. I felt like I sat there for years before I understood anything at all! Baggini is a wizard of clarity - though, unlike a wizard, he endeavors to show you each part of the trick.
It is delightful to find a work of popular philosophy that is so graceful, respectful and convincing. I can't imagine a clearer introduction to this subject, nor one as fun to read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Wanted to like it. Baggini seems to delight in finding the most difficult way to present a concept. I found his writing style painfully dull and circuitous. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Dylon
Mind blowing. Unless yours already is a Zen mind, perhaps. I suspect Julian Baggini has revealed an intellectual pathway to a state of mind that you might otherwise reach purely... Read morePublished 20 months ago by ASK
This is an excellent primer on a complicated subject put in plain english. Baggini knows his stuff and leads the reader carefully through the maze that is the theory of identity.Published on May 2, 2014 by Gerard Culhane
We are not the same person in old age as we were in middle age, as young adults, and when we were born. Read morePublished on February 23, 2014 by MGSWS
This is a very good book. The author takes a philosophical approach rather than a neuroscience view that a lot of recent books have taken. Read morePublished on January 25, 2014 by Book Fanatic
What a wonderfully easy read and comprehension of the complex subject of being human. The self is indeed an ego trick as Baggini says, for it is nowhere to be found and yet it is... Read morePublished on September 12, 2013 by Ted
This is such a great book and a great author - really is some food for the brain! Will love it!Published on June 25, 2013 by Daria
I have rated this with 5-STARS not because I love it - I hate it. It is just TRUE. I have had to re-adjust my beliefs as to who or what I am. But I wanted to know what is real. Read morePublished on May 30, 2013 by Bill McLean
First off I haven't read the book. But wait, don't shoot me. I am also more inclined to the "bundle" view of self. Read morePublished on November 2, 2012 by James A. Woolsey