There is a tendency in K groups to talk about thought as though it were an agent of responsibility: “thought wants this, thought doesn’t want that”, etc.
But is ‘thought’ an entity in its own right that can be held responsible for good and evil actions? What is the difference between thought and ego (in this usage)?
At its most fundamental, thought is a neurological movement in the brain that aids an organism in making sense of its environment. It is essentially a cognitive extension of the senses.
Can a sense be considered ‘selfish’? - or is this a projection onto thought of our traditional ideas of moral agency?
That is, all moralism concerning selfishness - being accountable for selfish actions - is based on the idea of the self as a moral agent, as being a bearer of moral duties.
But is this moral agent anything more than a psycho-social construct?
We shame people for being selfish because there is an entirely reasonable social necessity for doing so - i.e. to stop people from being criminals, terrorists, etc.
But is there any fundamental ‘bearer’ of this social morality?
Usually we say yes there is - it is the person or self. The person or self is considered the bearer of responsibility and agency, capable of performing good actions and bad actions, and so culpable of reward and punishment
But what is this ‘self’?
Traditionally there is the assumption (usually not made explicit) that the self is a unique, irreducible, indivisible entity - a fundamental essence (something permanent, unchanging, real).
But is there such a thing?
Although various parts of the brain are involved in creating our sense of self-consciousness, the ‘self’ as such is not a physically detectable entity (it does not weigh 21 grams!).
All organisms have their own uniqueness (based on their particular sets of genetic make-up, individual experience and learning, etc).
But what we call ‘self’ or ‘ego’ is the concentration or focus of sensibility (in an organism) that enables the organism to make sense of its environment to help it survive.
This functional centre is not ‘real’ (in the sense of being a transcendentally real ontological subject) - it is merely a centre of sensory information like the iris in the eye.
All animals have this functional centre - it is probably connected to proprioception (the body’s awareness of itself in relation to its environment).
So there is no way to get rid of the functional centre without destroying the body.
This functional centre, like a centre of gravity, draws to itself associations and memories (i.e. knowledge) that enable the organism to thrive in its given environment.
Over time this creates an illusion of personal identity. This personal identity is not fixed. It is impermanent and constantly changing.
The ending of the ‘self’ is therefore not the ending of the functional centre, but of the accumulated psychological contents that have become unnecessarily associated with this functional centre.
It is these accumulated psychological contents that create selfishness and psychological suffering in the organism.
‘Ego death’ or ego-loss is the temporary or complete cessation of any identification between the organism and these psychological contents.
What do others think about this?