I am interested to know whether you subscribe to the idea of an essential self – do we have a unique individual essence or are we made up by the flows of words, concepts and practice that complicate our present time?

Sincerely Stephen

Philosopher's reply

Dear Stephen,

Neither! I am this human animal, feeling the sun on her face, and the desk edge on her forearms – and who will one of these days be dead. But what it takes for us to ask the question ‘what am I?’ tends to get mixed up with the answer. I hope that this does not come as a deflating – depressing – reply. I don’t think it should: humans run deep and we unearth things – sweet, shocking, sad – about who we are, and how we work, if not what we are – all the time.

This might seem like an answer we would have given as children – but given our current capacities to reflect on death, change, and what seems possible, it takes a lot of philosophy to regain it and understand what it means for us.

Lucy O’Brien

Philosopher's profile

Lucy O'Brien

UCL, UK

Philosophy is really looking.

Lucy O’Brien

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