The mind with it's thoughts, emotions, memories, perceptions, and various mental processes. Including the conscious and unconscious aspects of mental activity, shaping one's identity and influencing behavior. The human body which is complex biological system composed of various organs, tissues, and cells working together to sustain life. Including systems such as the skeletal, muscular, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, nervous, and more. When I say "I" what is that "I" ? is it mind ? Is it this human body ? Or is it amalgamation of this mind and body? Or something else? When I am awake the "I" is always present, when I am dreaming that "I" is there but it is different from that awake one. When I am in deep dreamless sleep, "I" has completely disappeared but my body is there working. Which of this "I" out of three is true one ? Are all this "I" real or is there fourth one which was present unaffected and I am that ?

  • 1
    The issue is not trivial, but roughly speaking, we are our body; the body is not something "external", like our car. Usually, we do not say: "I'll come, and I'll bring my body with me." Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 13:42
  • 3
    @MauroALLEGRANZA sir, it's an amazing point, as I observe when "person" dies we say "he is no more" ; now what is in the coffin? His body! He is no more, but his body is - as it was. So certainly he was not a body. He was something which is now no more.
    – user68850
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 19:03
  • 1
    @ChemMan the body in the coffin is not "as it was": it is no longer alive. Anyway, a form of speech does not prove anything. We say "the Sun rises" even though we are aware that it's actually Earth rotation bringing us into sunlight.
    – IMil
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 6:24
  • 1
    Looking for a canonical answer on philosophy? Is this an April Fools joke? Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 22:11
  • 1
    The bounty request does seem a bit unusual. Is this meant to support a report for a class or something along those lines?
    – Nat
    Commented Nov 18, 2023 at 5:02

22 Answers 22


You are


  • law
    A civilian.
  • society
    Mainly your job.
  • politics
    A vote.
  • your partner
    Ask them.
  • psychology
    A vulnerable human being, trying to cope with reality.
  • intellectually
    Someone trying to find answers.
  • microbes
    A host.
  • time
    A process.
  • physics
    Something out of nothing.
  • physics (with scientific jargon)
    A deterministic result of indeterministic interactions that are randomly caused by fluctuations in nothingness. (perhaps I got this wrong!)
  • Christianity
    Body, soul and spirit. (Although there are some internal disputes around the last one)
  • neuroscience
    a consciousness that no one knows why of how it exists.
  • shiva
    Shiva. (I stole this from another answer in this page)
  • me
  • you
    Read my other answer.
  • 1
    or a proposed broadness of a potential philosophical analysis. Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 22:47
  • 1
    According to the law you can be active duty military. Did you mean "citizen" perhaps? Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 4:14
  • 1
    @IoannisPaizis That's an interesting viewpoint. It shifts the question "Who am I?" to the question "In which roles do I act?"
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 6:39
  • 1
    @Michael Hal, I considered adding military too, but I left if out ... Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 13:43
  • 1
    @Michael Hall, I generally try to avoid stepping into politics... so I just kept it simple, sorry. Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 16:00

Human beings normally experience themselves as a unit. This unit can be named a “person”, in order to not split at the beginning the whole into its parts.

Experiencing oneself is the first-person stance, while all other beings experience the same person from a third-person stance. These are just two views onto the same person.

On the next level of human anthropology, medicine or psychology or other disciplines will focus on different parts and capabilities of the person.


In Zen they see understanding the truths of the Buddha as focused by answering the Great Koan, 'Who am I?'. They say this cannot be answered for all time, we answer each moment the question fills us, with all that we are, not by referencing other times and places, but in relation to the only moment we are ever in: now. Only by looking now, by being, is there ever any answer.

Hold an empty space in regard to the answer, offer to the world an empty cup, and so be in an active dialogue, with how to be, as you and the world find answers for each 'now'.


Our capacity for self consciousness and language use provides us various descriptions of ourselves according to a naturalized epistemology (SEP).

Some will claim you are nothing more than your mind and body. However, you are more than an embodied mind (SEP). While you have a body and a mind, awareness of the body and the mind are not sufficient to account for you. Other ways adding dimension to who you are is to recognize that you are or have:

When you have a description and understanding of yourself that considers these various theories, you have the beginning of a description of who you are.


Plessner argues that a person has three aspects:

  1. their physical body (Körper)
  2. their lived body (Leib), which is felt and can be acted with
  3. their self, which is posited into nothingness and only thereby gains the ability to have a perspective on both

Generally, there is no consensus over broad and fundamental questions like these. They will depend heavily on whether, amd if so, which ontology one adheres to.

  • 1
    "posited into nothingness" - what does this mean? How does "their self" fit as an entity into Plessner's ontology?
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 18:06
  • Sir it's wonderful that I got introduced to Plessner. For a moment assume a hypothetical situation, an uncontacted tribe get's a smartphone, they may use it as chopping board or they may use it to crack nuts, without knowing "what smartphone is" it's just useless piece of material for them. Similarly we humans have this "I" with this tremendous intelligence and capacity, but unless we have universally accepted answer to this question " Who am I ?" We are going to remain stupid. Why consensus don't exist? Is it that hard to answer or we have not tried to find out?
    – user68850
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 19:42

You are at least a part of your mind, the personality itself that's aware of its own existence (some call it "the soul", and consider it to be separate from the mind, but that doesn't really matter).

Whether you're more than that (such as the entire mind, or the entire mind + body, or something else) is arbitrary, it depends on your point of view, on what you control or on how much responsibility you take.

If you ever said or did something stupid or awkward while being fully aware of it, you've probably experienced the feeling of "you" helplessly observing a different part of your mind that is "not you" doing something that "you" didn't want.

Or, somebody with a split personality disorder probably considers the split personalities (other parts of his mind) to be "not him".

Or, somebody who hits you in a fit of anger might later say "I didn't want to do it", and if they're being honest, perhaps they actually don't consider a part of their mind that decided to hit you to be a part of "them". They don't take responsibility for their (mind + body) actions, because they think "they" are not the entire mind+body system.

But when you're collected and have your mind under control (or perhaps "take responsibility for your actions"), you probably consider yourself to be at least the entire mind. If the separate parts of the mind aren't acting up, you'll probably consider them to be parts of "you".

Then, there's the body. It consists of cells, and there are bacteria living in it, and while they're all individual living beings, you likely consider them to be a part of "you".

But if you have serious health issues, say, an autoimmune disorder, you'd probably consider your malfunctioning immune system to not be a part of "you", and so on.

There's no reason why we can't extend this arbitrarily to larger areas.

If you have a spouse, you take responsibility for each other and work as a team, there's no reason why you can't consider your entire family to be "you" (which doesn't imply that you should deny your spouse their agenda, just as you don't micromanage parts of your body that work on their own). And so on.

If you take this to the extreme, you end up with "I am the entire world/God/Brahman/...".

  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Meanach
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 11:32
  • @Meanach As I'm new here, I'm not familiar with the etiquette regarding sources. Your link doesn't say that supporting sources are mandatory, nor that original opinions are disallowed, and indeed around half of the answers here (including yours) don't list any sources. What's the consensus on that here? Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 11:35
  • I welcome the opportunity to give you personal feedback. For example, your last sentence could be bolstered by a reference to Schopenhauer. I find "The world is my idea" one of the most breath-taking quotations in history. Could you trim back your text as well - make it more succinct? Some people post links to references, other just say see x, others just mention subject areas. Some people like really detailed answers, others like them brief and succinct. My personal preference is for see x and keep it brief and succinct.
    – Meanach
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 11:50
  • @Meanach Thanks. Those ideas are mostly my own, I don't have a source that succintly sums this up. I'm also hesitant to trim it down, since the idea might be hard to understand without examples, which I try provide. Also I found this, which suggests that the this question should be closed as opinion-based, and half the answers deleted for the same reason. Yet, apparently, the consensus has shifted, as that doesn't happen... Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 11:59
  • 1
    Well done 👍 Don't worry too much about refs]
    – Rushi
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 12:48

tl;dr There're a lot of different ways we could define a "you" that would be thinking the thoughts that you're thinking and feeling the feelings that you're feeling. Objectively speaking, it'd seem like all of these notions of "you" could be taken to hold simultaneously. Though, folks who'd prefer to have a singular concept of "self" might develop an ego that concentrates focus on a more limited set of notions of "self", perhaps downplaying or even disregarding other notions of "self" in the process.

There're lots of notions of "you".

There're many different notions of "you":

  1. Some notions of "you" might trace you from a fertilized-egg to your current body and beyond.

  2. More specific notions of "you" might regard, say, the you over this very instant that might not be here in a second.

  3. More general notions of "you" might include a wider body of things, including other humans like yourself or maybe reoccurrences of yourself in other parts of reality.

Personally, I'd suppose that at least some of the notions of "you" probably exist out there. Even if this question was posted by a chatbot, that'd still be a thing that I could frame as being an entity in various ways.

Of course, if you're a human reading this on a website somewhere, you might be more concerned with exactly which "you" that's considering these words. And, well, it'd seem like a lot of framings with different notions of "you" would seem to fit that bill. For example:

  1. The "you" that was conceived and then grew continuously would seem to have thought the things that you thought a few moments ago.

  2. The "you" that exists only for a-minute-or-so would seem to have done the same.

  3. The "you" that recurs across many realities and hypotheticals would seem to have also done the same.

Though these notions of "you" might not all be the same. For example, "you" probably want to survive and continue existing, right?

  1. The "you" that was conceived and then grew continuously is, I'd guess, probably going to live on.

  2. The "you" that was to exist only for a-minute-or-so might be somewhat more constrained.. at least in a flowing-time sense (though we might say that that "you" will always have existed?).

  3. The "you" that recurs across many realities and hypotheticals would seem to be relatively immortal. That "you" could get hit by a meteor right now (and in fact may be, in some senses) yet still persist.

Though what about the "you" that's had a seemingly-unbroken stream-of-consciousness since you woke up? That "you", should it intend to survive as long as it can, might dread going to bed. That "you" might be wanting a coffee right about now. Though the "you" that endures through sleep and might want to get up earlier tomorrow might have a different interest.

All of these "you"-s would seem to be thinking the same thoughts in the moment, even if this might be biased against the interests of some of the "you"-s in favor of others.

And maybe you accept that, in one direction or another. For example, maybe you're more YOLO-minded, favoring the interests of the "you"-right-now, disregarding the well-being of more enduring notions of "you". Or, maybe you're more long-term-ist, willing to enslave the "you"-right-now for the enrichment of the more enduring notions of "you".

Escaping the ambiguity.

This answer contends that "you" might be an ensemble of different entities that co-occur, overlapping even in thoughts that regard itself/themselves. This might be pretty dissatisfying for someone who wanted a straightforward answer with a single, concrete solution.

For example, if someone values their own survival and continuation, what're they to do with an answer like this? How's this even potentially useful to anyone?

Escaping the ambiguity: Option #1: Egocentrism.

Presumably most folks would just look past this by developing an ego – this is, a sense of self.

Then it's just a matter of being a bit egocentric:

Egocentrism is the inability to differentiate between self and other. More specifically, it is the inability to accurately assume or understand any perspective other than one's own.

"Egocentrism", Wikipedia. [reference omitted]

This is, whatever "you" develops the ego is just.. you. There's no other "you".

What about all of the other notions of "you" we just mentioned? Obviously, they don't matter. Those were stupid ideas not worth regarding or giving another thought. Whatever happens to those "you"-s will just happen – and no-one will care (so long as nothing affects the "you" that does matter).

Escaping the ambiguity: Option #2: ???.

Any other ideas?

Thought-experiment: Analogy with the identity of a country.

It might be weird to think about oneself as having many constituents, so it might be helpful to think of a country's self-identity. Probably best to think of a country that you know well (e.g., your home country).

For example, as an American, I might go with the United States of America (USA). The USA was founded in... 1776, maybe? I mean, that's one decent notion of when the USA started. Of course, it's changed a lot since then. Also, I guess it's less of "the USA" now and more of "the US".

So, let's say that as a patriot, we'd like our home country to endure. What's necessary for that?

  1. Do the exact borders of the country matter? Does it matter if the borders expand/contract? What if the borders shift to cover a different area of land from its founding? What if it moves to space, into an ocean, or into a virtual-reality?

  2. Does the name of the country matter; would renaming it change its identity?

  3. What if the population's partially replaced? Or totally replaced by entirely new people, none who directly descended from the original founders?

  4. What if the country's laws change? How dramatically before it matters?

  5. What if the country gets deeply in-debt, so they try pulling a move where their army "rebels" to start "a new country", then "conquers" the "old country", taking over everything except the old-country's debts (and other unfavorable international entanglements) – because they're totally a new country that's not the same one that incurred those debts. Then is it the same country (as the debt-holders might argue) or a new one (as the country itself might argue)?

Anyway, the point's just that considering the concept of a country's identity might be a helpful thought-experiment.

  • I think this is the most appealing answer, atleast it gives proper direction to further inquiry thanks for this.
    – user68850
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 9:51

There are four basic modes of philosophy, which can be found in all times and places. Some philosophers specialize in one mode, but many go across modes. Each mode has a different characteristic answer to your question:

  • Skeptical: Focuses more on questions than answers, uses paradox as a way of breaking down people's ordinary modes of thought. Some thinkers who can be associated with this mode include: Socrates (as presented in the early Platonic dialogs), Hume, Chuang-Tzu, the Zen Buddhists, Pyrrho, Ecclesiastes, Descartes (in the early Meditations) and Sextus Empiricus. Skeptical philosophers would not have an answer for you on what "I" is, but would focus on the ways in which your concept of "I" is inadequate. Some well-known paradoxes of "I" include the Ship of Theseus as applied to the human body (being recreated with new cells), split-brained patients, identical twins (who started as a single embryo that divided in the womb), false memories, and "brains in vats" (who are deceived about all aspects of their existence).

  • Mystical: Focused on a deeper level of reality said to underlie the ordinary physical world. Noted exponents include Plato, Lao Tzu, Zoroaster, Rumi, the Sufis, the Buddha, Aldous Huxley, Plotinus, Kierkegaard and most religious thinkers and philosophers of religion. For some mystics, "I" might be your soul, your spirit or your intellect. For others, "I" is an illusion--you are a drop in the ocean, a piece of the worldsoul, a reflection on the cave wall.

  • System Building: Engaged in understanding the deeper, larger patterns of the visible, physical world. Aristotle, Kant, Sun Tzu, Descartes, Newton, Freud, and the pioneering thinkers of most sciences. Each system builder would have a different answer to the question of "I," one based on the specifics of their own system. Most of the enduring arguments about what "I" is stem from the disputes among this kind of thinker, and their antagonism with the mystics.

  • Pragmatic/Rule-giving: Engaged in creating prescriptive codes of behavior. Moses, Hammurabi, Confucius, the average self-help or business guru. From this perspective, you are what you do. Your self is your existence, your identity is your footprint in the world.


The question of "what am I" has no single canonical answer, as philosophy has not arrived at a single view. Both selfhood, and the mind-body problem, are open questions, under significant debate within philosophy, and have been for millenia.

The problem is that our frameworks for answering the question arrive at radically different answers.

Start with phenomenology, and one gets:

  • A core perspective that one has a "what is it like to be me" experience, and this seems to be central to "I"ness
  • A sense of unity of selfhood, and continuity of identity over time.

Start with skeptical observation, and falsification test cases based on brain injuries, and one gets to:

  • Selfhood appears to be highly variable, and can lack significant features at a given time and change radically over time
  • selfhood, "I"ness, seems to be modular.

Start with materialism and a reductionist assumption, and:

  • there does not appear to be any MATTER that is "I"
  • and the method by which an "I" might be created by matter, is not clear, and whether it is even possible is suspect (the hard problem of consciousness)

For both selfhood, and for the mind-body relationship, there are thousands of published competing proposals. You could literally spend all your free time over the next year reading highly divergent proposals. A starting point to begin to dig into these options would be the SEP article on personal identity: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-personal/https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-personal/ Also useful would be the SEP entry on consciousness. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consciousness/

My answer

Any individual's answer will by definition not be canonical, but you elaborated in your question that you REALLY want an answer, so I will give my POV.

I am a spiritual dualist. I consider myself to be a spirit, that is animating a body, which provides massive feedback into my selfhood in an interactive process. The key starting point for me in abandoning the materialist physicalism that is common among most philosophers is the importance of values, and of valuing. Values are abstractions, not material, but are the MOST IMPORTANT THNGS THERE ARE. And VALUING is the most important activity, and requires a selfhood, and agency. Abstractions, values, selfhood, agency -- none of these really make any sense in a materialist worldview, so pragmatically I found I needed to break from what is a near-consensus perspective.

Spiritual dualism has its own challenges, as for example the effect of brain trauma on selfhood is readily demonstrated. For spiritual dualism to match our data, the matter of our bodies has to influence our selfhood, often dramatically.

So -- I am a self, inhabiting a body, but that body dramatically modifies and shapes my self. How this works, explicitly, is as yet not well understood.

The extreme lack of dualist researchers into mind/body has limited the degree of insight that has been developed. The best theoretician I have found is John Eccles, but his specific model is almost certainly incorrect.

Parapsychologists have been collecting very useful info on mind/world interactions, and remote viewing, telepathy, and telekinesis have all been confirmed in multiple lab experiments, but all are clearly weak phenomena. But their existence is significant.

Direct mystic exploration of any spiritual realm is another important avenue of investigation, and for this, there is an excellent methodology and framework developed by Ben Swett. See http://www.bswett.com/1990-03TwoWayPrayer.html


Here is my organization of what is me, Perhaps this is also true for me.

  1. "I", the deepest level of me that can be unit-fied is the true me. This thing is difficult to explain. I call myself a "Zero-point consciousness". It is not a physical thing (though it may arise as a result of a physical structure). If my zero-point consciousness where to stop existing, I would no longer exist.
  2. My mind: Surrounding my zero-point consciousness is my subconscious. I don't consciously experience what it does, and sometimes it seems quite magic. Take a simple example of remembering what you had for lunch today. Where do those memories come from? They were not within my zero-point consciousness, and then suddenly they were. I am very thankful for my subconscious mind for everything it does (memories, simple tasks (mindless tasks), and control of my body. If my subconscious were to stop working, I would still exist, though I don't know in what form. It might be that without the subconscious, the conscious mind is dumb as a brick. I wouldn't have any memories, I wouldn't be able to do almost any task, except the absolute simplest. Anything I'm not actively thinking about would be lost forever, because without the subconscious there is no long-term memory.
  3. My body. This is the flesh and blood of me. This is also what people usually attribute my name to. The body is awesome; without it I wouldn't be able to move or interact with the world. If my body disappeared but my mind remained alive, perhaps because my mind has been connected to a computer or something, then 'I' would still be alive.
  4. My surroundings. Everything around me that is a part of my experience is also a part of me. This is the least significant part, but still a part of me. So yes, if I was around you, you would be a part of me (and potentially vice-versa). If the world around me disappeared, but my body remained alive, 'I' would still be alive.

A note on continuity:

  • "me" is entirely dependent upon continuity of existence. As long as continuity is preserved, no matter how much I change over time, I am still the same "me". As soon as continuity is broken, that is not the case.

There is an idea in physics that long after the heat death of the universe, quantum randomness will dominate over infinity, and everything that once was will be again. So sometime in the past and future (an infinite number of times), there was a person identical in every way, from their surroundings to body to mind, and maybe even to zero-point consciousness. But that person is not 'me,' despite being the exact same in every way, because they do not have continuity with me.

As quick head-off to those saying sleep is a break in continuity: There's no evidence that consciousness turns off during sleep. There is only evidence of memories not getting logged while sleeping (the best example of this is if you get woken up in the middle of the night, you might remember the dream you were just having, but you wouldn't remember that dream if you kept on sleeping, and you'll probably forget it before the morning anyway).

Dreams are an example of my zero-point consciousness being separated from my body (my conscious mind can't control my physical body while dreaming). In dreams, my body is barely a part of me.

TLDR: Conscious, subconscious, body, surroundings.

  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Meanach
    Commented Nov 18, 2023 at 13:08

You are the ultimate subject. Everything else is an object to this subject that this subject experiences or controls. Your body is the hardware and mind is the software, but neither is you. You can eliminate or modify parts of your body and mind (in a thought experiment, of course!) and to yourself the same you will still be there.

  • Short, pithy, to the point. Splendid 1st answer!
    – Rushi
    Commented Nov 18, 2023 at 7:11
  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Meanach
    Commented Nov 18, 2023 at 13:08

What is this 'I' that asks "what is this I?"

My background is in vision and image processing.

If you look at something, who or what sees it? You have detectors at the back of your eye that turn light into electrical signals. Before the signals leave the retina, they have already been converted to colour and luminance detail, and partly interpreted into edges and shapes. The signals are passed to the brain but also to unconscious processes that point the eyes, adjust our pupils, and so on. The visual cortex has various centres that we associate with specific functions. It is not right to say that any function that has a recognised mechanical function has no consciousness.

This brings us back to the physical body. Parts of the body which have no part of the consciousness: we can cut our hair or trim our nails without changing what we think. Beyond that, it is hard to say where the consciousness begins and ends. Smells affect our mood. Our mood affects our guts and our breathing. The best answer I can give is "You are mind, with no sharp division between mind and body. You are somewhere within your body; probably a lot of you lies in your brain the immediate nervous system, but the other stuff may play its part".

It is interesting to see what AI will do. It has begun to simulate a tiny part of our intelligence. It makes the sort of errors we learned not to make when we were very young. I don't think we will be simulating and uploading intelligences in the near future, but it will be interesting to see how much of our speculation can become experimental science.

  • As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Meanach
    Commented Nov 18, 2023 at 16:32

The I you are seeking is more synonymous with the deep sleep reference. That is to say, there is no 'I'. There is only an 'I' which can be found if you seek it using conceptual memories of past, projections of future, or analytical reasoning of the ongoing present. But this is not the root, you will always be assessing a memory of a mental formation.

The Advaita Vedanta tradition overcomes this conceptual 'I' by using a technique of stating 'I am' and simply observing the space between each utterance. What you are is simply indescribable. Experience as you exist contains what you seek - but cannot be described with conceptual memory. Once you dissolve all conceptual mental formations, all that is left is the empty cognizance. It is neither you, nor I, in the sense you wish to concretise it, it is empty of all conceptualisation.


You ask a fundamental question. A dualist approach assumes a soul that is separate from the body and may or may not be identical to the mind. A materialist approach assumes that there is only the body and the mind somehow arises within it, but has no independent existence. When I talk about "I",I mean my consciousness. Fundamentally, the only thing that I know is that I am a conscious being. A monist panpsychist approach states that the universe is made of matter-consciousness, so that is what you are along with the rest of the universe. See Russell, Strawson, Goff, Sprigge. And foundation in Thales, Plato. If you are asking about personal identity, y, then you could have been different, yd - ydn. You could also have been y0, non-existent. Taking a monist, non-dualist approach you are definitely mind-body. As for the deep sleep, unconsciousness, transcendental state argument, this indicates that consciousness can be discontinuous or enhanced. It is not an argument for an illusory consciousness. So, you are mind/body, matter/consciousness, and particular.


Well, the "I" you are referring to, is the intersection of perceptions and all things that you consider as "I". At the same time you co-create that "I", you build it up. So you have the "I" as a body, as a professional, as a father, as a human, etc. All these "things" - whether physical or non-physical - exist simultaneously shaping the "I", but the "I" at the same time re-defines the "I" by integrating things from the non-I to the "I", by realization. You are, what you have created of youself.

  • 1
    Respectfully, it's very important remark that "I" is actually a accumulation, at birth when "I" was born that "I" contained not of anything unnatural, everything in it was as nature made it, pure, as time passed "I" accumulated many things some were added by society, some he added himself (but it was placed by society in front of him) and some were naturally developed(like need for reproduction) . But is this "I" the only thing? From ages mystics are pointing to something beyond, what are they experiencing? As example,Shankara says I am the form of consciousness and bliss.
    – user68850
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 19:28

You can not be body because body suffers from diseases like cancer , coronavirus, AIDS , cataract , dengue ,diabetes etc. Body ages, grows old and becomes very weak. Body dies and becomes a corpse.

You can not be mind because mind suffers from disease like bi-polar disorder , schizophrenia, hysteria , amnesia,Parkinson’s disease etc.. Mind ages, grows old and becomes very weak. Mind dies.

You need to investigate further with regards to what you are ?

  • 2
    You are that, which is behind these, eh? Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 20:28
  • @IoannisPaizis That we need to find out. Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 20:56
  • how? do you have any clues? Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 21:44
  • @IoannisPaizis by removing lust , aversion and delusions of all kinds. Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 2:27
  • I know from what philosophy this answer is coming but don't understand how you say "I" am not mind? The philosophy which has influenced your answer actually says that death of mind is dissolution of ego the "I".
    – user68850
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 5:34
  • When you decide to do something, you say "I want to do that." So is it your body that wants to do that?
  • When someone dies, normally doctors can transplant all parts of her body to someone else who's alive. So the body is working but something is missing that makes the first person not alive.
  • Everything in this world has a soul, even tools made by hand.
  • Souls in different bodies have different feelings and abilities.
  • Look at someone fighting in a war. Is it the body that wants hurt and suffering? No. It's the soul that makes them fight.
  • Mind and body, knowledge and ???
  • Without soul, you only have a dead body or a dead tree or a useless tool
  • If you think there are no souls can you make a dead body alive? Can you return memory to that body?
  • Souls are made with energy. When you talk to someone in a bad way, what hurts? You didn't hurt her body. It's not even her mind that cares. Everything is controlled by the soul.
  • Actually the "soul" is a collection of some energies. Souls cannot be seen but we can feel them as energy from other people.
  • 1
    As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Meanach
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 8:02
  • "Everything in this world has a soul, even tools made by hand." According to what belief system? Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 19:30
  • @MichaelHall im not bound to a system. but according to all good religions or bad ones,magicians and historical data's around the world .they have common on soul existing Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 5:25
  • You are making false claims that are unsubstantiated. "All religions" do NOT believe that "everything has a soul". Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 16:56

I am not in front of my body, I am in my body, or rather I am my body

Phenomenology of Perception, p150

Merleau-Ponty uses this, which it is claimed is a version of Descartes' cogito, to return us to our pre-theoretical perception of things, in a similar way to Husserl and "the things themselves" (and maybe both are pseudo-mystical). This doesn't rule out me being a working class male or a husband or a curious fellow, but I would have thought it is the foundation of all we can say about our freedom.


I'm not going to add to the answers you already have. But you do ask for references, so I hope you find the following helpful:-

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Personal Identity

Wikipedia - Person

In addition to a discussion of what has been written about the topic, these will give you other references to follow up. So they are a good starting-point for exploring the literature.

My personal favourite reference is:-

Human Nature: The Categorial Framework, Chapter 10, pp 285 - 316, P. M. S. Hacker, Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007, Paperback, 2010.

This may seem a small point, but the question you asked is "Who am I". The proper answer would start with your name and various facts about your biography. You will find the kind of information that is conventionally give by typing "who is.." followed by the name of a famous person.

But this is a philosophy site, so no-one thinks that's what you are looking for. Strictly speaking the question that everybody is (rightly) answering is "what am I?".


You are your current Experience.

The body in that Experience can lose an arm but the Experience still occurs.

The body can sleep but there is Experience during sleep. The contents of Experience during sleep are largely forgotten.

Current Experience extends in time, there are whole words, motions and bars of tunes within it. This extension is not specious.

Current Experience moves in time, or, equivalently, events flow into it to be replaced.

Current Experience is an output of the brain. The purpose of the body is to create this Experience. A body without it is just meat and bone.

See https://drsimonrobin.substack.com/p/our-reality for the details.


The best answer to this particular question must be one that one can discover for oneself. However ...

You are trying to get a canonical answer to this question. If the answer changes after a certain period of time, it will not be a canonical one, because the inquiry is about the root 'I', of which no 'man-made laws' operate. A mere knowledge about ‘I’ is just like other knowledge. But since the question is about 'I', only realization is useful in this regard. And if it is true realization, it should never be flexible / ‘wavering’. I believe all spiritual texts regarding the root are for this enquiry.

Man creates different subjects and examine things from different perspectives. If we can find a universal answer that never changes, that answer must be the answer to this question -- "Who am I?". If you feel this statement true, the answer to your question has already been given by Shankaracharya in his Nirvana shatakam. Otherwise treating it as religious, ignore it. But if one can focus on the terms in 'the supreme auspiciousness of THE NATURE OF CONSCIOUSNESS-BLISS', he will certainly find the significance of the verses. https://shlokam.org/nirvanashatakam/

The same idea is conveyed by Sri Ramana Maharshi https://www.sriramanamaharshi.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/who_am_I.pdf

Analysis of the 'Real I' is not as simple as Real Analysis (even if it is simple) and most often it is impossible if the mind is not pure.

Not several higher qualifications, but qualities are essential for the pursuit of the real I. Sri Ramakrishna's life is an epitome in this regard. Regardless of religion, there may be many people in this world who are known or unknown in this category.

Humbleness; freedom from hypocrisy; non-violence; forgiveness; simplicity; service of the Guru; cleanliness of body and mind; steadfastness; and self-control; dispassion toward the objects of the senses; absence of egotism; keeping in mind the evils of birth, disease, old age, and death; non-attachment; absence of clinging to spouse, children, home, and so on; even-mindedness amidst desired and undesired events in life are some of the qualities.

And it is never realized with a single click using any modern technology.

Frankly Speaking, all human efforts are due to the ignorance about 'I'. And so many sages have reiterated the significance of this greatest and 'subtle knowledge'.

  • 1
    If you agree with Shankara that we all are Shiva, what do you mean by this? How to verify the answer? What is the benefit of this answer?
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 17:06
  • @JoWehler This is a answer in the Hindu tradition of advaita vedanta. As you correctly perceive, it makes little sense without buying into a good deal more of the tradition. The more recent more secular answer in the same tradition is by Ramana. An indication in the comment above
    – Rushi
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 17:15
  • We would like it analyzed in a more modern way. Also a definition for Shiva, in a context that we can understand, would be helpful. Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 21:44
  • I'm not sure @IoannisPaizis who your comment is addressed to...
    – Rushi
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 5:57
  • @SonOfThought, Sanskrit and Greek: the cornerstones of the meanings of things. Although by translations, the meanings get ... somehow ... lost! Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 14:07

Who am I ?

  1. I am a homo sapien.The current scientific understanding is that humans evolved from earlier hominids over millions of years through a process called natural selection. The common ancestor of humans and apes lived around 5 to 7 million years ago. Evolution, driven by genetic mutations and environmental pressures, gradually led to the development of Homo sapiens, the species to which modern humans belong. Multiple hominid species existed along this evolutionary path, with Homo sapiens eventually emerging as the only surviving species. There are 8 x 10^9 homo sapiens on planet Earth and I am one of them. Though we all have individual bodies, which have overall same anatomy only with some minor variations, psychological we all homo sapiens are more or less the same. My brain which is centre of my existence, my body is like hardware which is operated by this Central processing unit called brain, it's a bio-computer, very efficient and unique on this planet among all other brains. The evolution of the brain is a complex process that spans millions of years. It began with simple nervous systems in early multicellular organisms and gradually developed into the intricate structures observed in modern vertebrates. Over time, natural selection favored organisms with more sophisticated neural capabilities, leading to the emergence of increasingly complex brains.In vertebrates, the brain's evolution is characterized by the development of different regions, each serving specific functions. For example, the forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain emerged to handle various sensory, motor, and cognitive processes. The expansion of the cerebral cortex in mammals, especially primates, contributed to advanced cognitive abilities.Human evolution further refined the brain, with a notable increase in the size and complexity of the neocortex. This expansion is associated with higher-order thinking, language, and problem-solving abilities. The evolution of the brain reflects the adaptive responses to environmental challenges, emphasizing the importance of intelligence and cognitive flexibility in survival and reproduction.My brain is thousands of years old. Since it is product of evolution. I am nothing but a copy of my parents. A biological copy with only some minor mutations/variations. Likewise we all humans are nothing but just a copy of each other. We are more or less the same. So I am not different than any other human, I am the entire mankind. Now this statement is not easily acceptable. Because in actuality no two humans seem to be same. Biologically they are same - only few variations like skin tone ,facial features , voice or height and weight. But they all have same anatomy. Psychologically We all share common human emotions and traits including fear, anxiety, lust, pride, happiness, sadness, anger, curiosity, and empathy, among others. Hence in general all mankind is contained in me - along with its biology, psychology and the whole history of evolution of homo sapiens.

  2. But then why this feeling of oneness is not obvious. [ Some answers here are saying about universal oneness, shiva, Brahman or whatever it is, for me it is just a romantic imagery, I am talking about empirical reality. I am saying why I am unable to recognise this simple fact, that, when I see a rose, for me all roses are same whether it's in US or Europe, for me rose is a rose, they why not same thing apply to humans, why Americans and British are different? ] The answer as per my insight is what it can be called "identification". When I senses something, I saw a beautiful Lotus, a sensation arouses, but soon Identification happens, it is so quick that it becomes very tough to differentiate between sensation and identification. Indentification occur when I say "I want that Lotus", "I want to pick it" , "Oh it's mine". The act of thinking is corrupting my present. It's creating a conflict, now that Lotus is not a Lotus it's the Lotus . Thought has identified itself with the object. Now this same is happening with humans also. I have prejudices, I have opinions, I am not attentive, I don't listen - I hear . I think that "X" was great person, X has said that some "Y" has created the world, X said take this "Z" book it contains all your answers. Now I am rather stupid, I surrender to X , who is nothing but the image I have created - I think he is great, I think he is true etc. etc.. Now I am not interested in finding "Who am I?" Because now I know, I am follower of X , I am "X"ian I follow "X"ism. This is identification. Americans identify themselves with some flag, some religion, some leader. British do same just they identify with different things, hence now they are not same.

  3. Is there a way out of it ? Yes, there is , it's called by different names in various languages, but they are heavily loaded, so let's leave them. When I see a snake, I don't ask what to do, I know what to do, I run away immediately. How this happens? It's because I possess natural intelligence. When I know how to close a curtain I obviously know how to open it. Similarly, when I know how I have fallen into identification I obviously know how to get out. It may be difficult but atleast I know the way by myself, no one is needed to tell me what to, how to do. You fall into "identification" because it's a habit, human brain did an innocent mistake in due course of evolution . It has abused the faculty of thinking. It starts "identification" ie - desire, imagination etc. As soon as sensation occur. The way out of it is simple. Just be attentive, aware . Relax just let sensation occur. Something extraordinary will happen if you get it right. Everything will fall in right place. Now I can't describe anything further, the reason being I lack further insight. Everything before, I have lived, what is after I don't know. I have read and heard from The Masters but I have no authority to say anything about it without myself going through it.

Now all these was needed to take you from where I see the existence. Perhaps there is nothing like mind. When I say it you can't touch the mind, it's more like a hologram. It seems real but is not. The brain is real. All the psychological process is going on inside brain. Body is real. "I" can't exist without either of them. The identification which has created the self is real. But it's temporary. It is not inherent (perhaps it is hereditary). It's cultivated, and there's a way to cut it off. When you are awake and dreaming you have identified yourself with two different set of objects. In awake state you may identify with your wife but in dream you may identify yourself with some heroine. So "you" are different in these states. While you are in dreamless sleep you don't identify altogether,There's a state when this flickering flame extinguish. "I" become clear then it doesn't matter if I am awake or a sleep , - perhaps dreams doesn't occur- in that state the self vanishes completely and pure I remain with its full strength and splendor. hence you become pristine, clear. Now "Who am I?" I am one who was awake, I am one who was dreaming and I am also one who was sleeping. Just I was different in all these states. I am changing ,perhaps constantly changing. I am my body along with brain(they are part of same system). I am mankind.

  • As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Meanach
    Commented Nov 24, 2023 at 9:03

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