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Let us accept that science has an answer. The self then would be a representation of one's own body in the context of the environment. However if that is true wouldn't it imply that something is aware of this self representation. Then the burden of definition of the self falls upon that aware entity. That entity couldn't possibly be yet another representation if it were to be fundamental. Maybe what I'm trying to do here is to reduce the problem.

Consider an infant just born. The infant has no information about the physical world besides a few reflex reactions genetically encoded in its brain. As it grows, it will form mental relations between objects and the sensory input it receives to get a feel for the basic laws of physics, throwing a ball, touching something hot etc. Soon enough it will be smart enough to know the physical premises of the source of those sensory signals to get an idea about the extent of his body. And from here onwards he begins to see the world in relation to this self. But somewhere along the way he forgets what was initially there, and that is the set of experiences that gave shape to his current understanding of his physical body. Could we therefore argue that what he calls his 'self' is nothing but these sets of experiences and their mental deductions that led him to form a boundary between him and the world?

Can we then not say that there is no way for a computer AI to become self aware unless we provide it with a body with sensors with which it could interact with the environment? In other words the self only exists in relation to the environment and not in isolation? How does pinpoint the 'self'?

  • It is unclear why "the set of experiences that gave shape to his current understanding of his physical body" should be confined to some forgotten infancy interactions as opposed to lifelong ones. Why wouldn't this "shape" be updated in perpetuity, even in folk psychology the "self" evolves. The idea that many cognitive abilities of the "self" are shaped by the entire body is called embodied cognition, and it is popular these days. – Conifold Nov 10 '19 at 10:04
  • Your last paragraph is interesting. @RayLittlerock has mentioned Sartre and I would also suggest Merleau-Ponty regarding your last paragraph. I think this is a good question and I have voted to reopen. But that does not matter. What does matter is that you continue to pursue your interesting ideas. – Gordon Nov 11 '19 at 21:12
  • Not just Ponty but others too on the subject of your last paragraph. Embodiment, the carnate and so on. – Gordon Nov 11 '19 at 21:14
  • For an American philosopher, see Hubert Dreyfus news.berkeley.edu/2017/04/24/hubert-dreyfus this mentions his interest in Heidegger, however he also very much appreciated Merleau-Ponty, and Dreyfus had some important points to make about the AI project. – Gordon Nov 11 '19 at 21:20
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Could we therefore argue that what he calls his 'self' is nothing but these sets of experiences and their mental deductions that led him to form a boundary between him and the world?<

Is not this assertion objectionable on the same ground as the assertion that is attributed to science at the beginning of the question?

I mean, one could ask : " what does this " he " refer to in " what he calls his self is a set of experiences..." "

I have no idea of what the self can be.

However, I consider Sartre's answer in Being and Nothingness as interesting ( although maybe not related enough to the context of your question).

What can be interesting is Sartre's conception is that he refuses to consider the " self " as an entity that comes in addition to " experience" or " consciousness".

According to Sartre, it is incorrrect to talk about a " consciousness of oneself" as if the self were an object of consciousness.

The only objects of consciousness are things in the world.

Intentional ( or positional ) consciousness is always conciousness of things in the world.

But, while I am ( intentionnly) conscious of things; I am " consciously conscious " of these things. That is, intentional consciousness is " present to itself" ; it possesses a kind of reflexivity ( a self relation) that has to be distinguished from reflection ( higher order intentional consciousness of oneself ).

Being non-intentional ( non positional) - not having the structure of knowledge: directedness towards an object - this " consciousness of consciousness" is improperly called " consciousness of oneself". This is why Sartre prefers to write : " conscience (of) oneself" ( " conscience (de) soi"). It is properly a " conscience-soi", a consciousness that is a self.

In brief, according to Sartre, the "self" is nothing else as the presence to itself of intentional consciousness, the " experiencing" being present to itself.

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