Is the self a work of fiction?

Theme(s): MemoryCreativity

Is the self a set of stories? Can we think about the work of the brain, continuously telling, retelling and editing memories, as the creation of a fictionalised self? Is what we perceive and remember accurate or real, and how is autobiographical memory central to how we build and maintain a sense of ourselves and our life narrative? Is the human being a ‘story-telling machine’, and what does this mean for our understanding of ourselves, our past and our present?

Is the self a work of fiction? Take a look at the video below and add your thoughts to the forum. For more information on the question, refer to our Memory and Creativity themes.

Nick Payne (Playwright) & Anil Seth (Neuroscientist): A Conversation on Memory & Self

Research for my play Constellations (2012) forced me to accept that I was a random collection of atoms operating in a meaningless universe, itself a tiny spec in a vast ocean of meaningless universes. More recently, my research in to all things neuroscience was now asking me to confront the notion that ‘me’, my personality and my continuous self, might in fact be a work of overall fiction.

– Nick Payne


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