Why am I myself rather than someone else?

I think I read something like this in an encyclopedia; that it's a question in philosophy.

Not asking what makes me myself, my body, psychology, and narrative history. I'm asking why it is that these are mine, rather than yours. How is it that we are able to possess our own attributes? How are we able to draw a boundary about ourselves in this way differentiating ourselves from others?

  • 1
    Thomas Nagel discusses this in his book The View From Nowhere.
    – E...
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 5:25
  • From what perspective? If you're taking a dualist perspective, then it's simple; your "body, psychology, and narrative history" are yours because your soul for whatever reason is assigned to your body, and the other two things are necessarily connected to your body. From a physicalist perspective, I think your question is essentially a tautology, or at least the answer is. Your (body, psychology, etc) are yours, because your (body, psychology, etc) inherently give rise to your conception of yourself. So "you" couldn't be assigned to a different body.
    – monster319
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 18:30
  • 1
    It is similar to the question "Why are things they are and not in some other way?" Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 6:15
  • Here is an interesting take by Alan Watts. It is not intended as a philosophical argument but as a thought-game: youtube.com/watch?v=G79EHVjLgwU
    – nir
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 19:45
  • See also philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/54717/…
    – present
    Commented Oct 20, 2019 at 11:46

4 Answers 4


I formulate this question thus: If Elvis Presley's twin had lived, and Elvis had died at birth, or had never been born, then Elvis would never have existed, even if his twin had been named Elvis and had acted exactly as he did. Somehow, it seems that self is not reducible to biology. Someone else could have had our biology without having our awareness, the mysterious thing that makes us ourselves.


It is impossible for you to be someone other than yourself - by definition!

By definition, someone else is different (in some way) from you. If (somehow) you were changed to be the same as the other person, then you would no longer be yourself, you would be a copy of the other person.

  • i think that the question is why is MATH's consciousness, that he/she is experiencing, happening from inside of MATH's head. he/she experiences only the consciousness from only that perspective. why didn't i get to have my consciousness happen from inside the brain and body of Sting or Neil deGrasse Tyson? why am i RB-J and not them? Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 4:39
  • there has been some science fiction (i can only remember an episode of the original Star Trek where Kirk and some woman switch bodies, Spock figgers it out) where the concept of finding our consciousness existing in someone else's bodies. i have a consciousness, i can sense it, experience it, it's real. You do too. why is my experience begun in and forever constrained to this person. why couldn't i be that other person i wish i could be? how was this lottery set up where the person i get to be is who turns out to be me? (also, why didn't i come into this world as a cat? or an orangatan?) Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 4:43

In short, if there exists anything at all attributable to you and only you, then you are you and not anyone else.

Consider two molecules of water (i.e., two atoms of hydrogen bonded to an atom of oxygen): water-molecule A and water-molecule B are distinguishable if and only if A and B have distinct spacial coordinates at any given time; knowing their inherent physical characteristics (e.g., mass, charge, electronegativity, polarity, boiling point, melting point, specific heat, etc.) is not enough information to say [(A = A) and (A = not B)].

An even simpler example: we can define an infinite number of distinct lines on the xy-plane using just two characteristics; i.e., slope and y-intercept (y=mx+b, where m represents slope and b represents the y-value of the y-intercept). For two y=mx+b equations, if either the m or the b differ, then the two equations each define a distinct line. To parallel the premise of your question: [line 1 = line 1] and [line 1 = not line 2] because line 1 is defined by something by which line 2 is not and line 2 is defined by something by which line 1 is not.


You're yourself rather than someone else because you derive from a pair of male and female germ cells distinct from that from which anyone else derives. If you had derived from the same pair of male and female germ cells from which Michael Jackson derived, then you and Michael Jackson would be the same person.

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