Here's a definition of science I found in Wikipedia:

Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organises knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. The earliest roots of science can be traced to Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia in around 3500 to 3000 BCE.

Modern science is typically divided into three major branches that consist of the natural sciences (e.g., biology, chemistry, and physics), which study nature in the broadest sense; the social sciences (e.g., economics, psychology, and sociology), which study individuals and societies; and the formal sciences (e.g., logic, mathematics, and theoretical computer science), which study abstract concepts. There is disagreement, however, on whether the formal sciences actually constitute a science as they do not rely on empirical evidence. Disciplines that use existing scientific knowledge for practical purposes, such as engineering and medicine, are described as applied sciences

I certainly don't disagree with anything in the above citation. However, the reason I include this article under the "Reality" category, is that for most people the external world (outside ourselves) is almost all there is. But there is another world, where the above methodologies are applied in only a rudimentary way: the inside world.

And why is it that these are is deemed to be out of bounds and that it is impossible to apply "real science" to the inside of a person's mind? Of course, some would say that psychology is that science. As a person with a degree in psychology, I would not agree that this branch provides the kind of rigorous thinking that other branches of science prefer. The issue here, is that the psychologist can't get inside the head of someone else. the only thing they have to work with is the other person's utterances and behaviour - all external factors, which are observable, but their interpretation is very doubtful. The key difficulty in this kind of analysis, is what is called "the observer effect".

The entry in Wikipedia regarding the observer effect in physics offers the following :

"In physics, the observer effect is the theory that the mere observation of a phenomenon inevitably changes that phenomenon. This is often the result of instruments that, by necessity, alter the state of what they measure in some manner. A common example is checking the pressure in an automobile tire; this is difficult to do without letting out some of the air, thus changing the pressure. Similarly, it is not possible to see any object without light hitting the object, and causing it to reflect that light. While the effects of observation are often negligible, the object still experiences a change. This effect can be found in many domains of physics, but can usually be reduced to insignificance by using different instruments or observation techniques.

An especially unusual version of the observer effect occurs in quantum mechanics, as best demonstrated by the double-slit experiment. Physicists have found that even passive observation of quantum phenomena (by changing the test apparatus and passively 'ruling out' all but one possibility), can actually change the measured result. A particularly famous example is the 1998 Weizmann experiment. Despite the "observer" in this experiment being an electronic detector—possibly due to the assumption that the word "observer" implies a person—its results have led to the popular belief that a conscious mind can directly affect reality. The need for the "observer" to be conscious is not supported by scientific research, and has been pointed out as a misconception rooted in a poor understanding of the quantum wave function ψ and the quantum measurement process, apparently being the generation of information at its most basic level that produces the effect."

 One theory that offers an alternative approach to discovering the inside of one's own head, is that offered by George Kelly, known as the "Personal Construct Theory". In this theory, Kelly suggest that what we, as human beings, do, is to build a construct of the external world in our heads. Given that everything we know about the external world is taken on board through the various bits of sensory equipment we are born with, then we have to "imagine what that external world actually is like. That imaginary idea is what Kelly refers to as the construct. 

Basically he suggest that like any other science, we as individuals form hypotheses of that external world, which we test and interpret in our own unique way, depending on whatever we already believe we "know". Clearly this construct changes over time, as we assimilate new experiences and ideas. The problems arise, when we become too inflexible to change, especially when confronted with some external evidence that just doesn't fit in with our construct. That may not matter for much, but if it is an experience or information which confronts some of the absolute basic parts of the construct, then everything threatens to tumble down and that we have serious problems accommodating such new ideas. a good example of this is when Einstein was confronted with quantum mechanics and the probability  theories, which suggests that the world is not as stable as it appears. That was when he came out with the well known statement "God does not play dice". Quantum mechanics confronted a very important part of Einstein's view of the world of physics. 

So how can Kelly's construct theory help us understand ourselves better? As such, it can't. various psychologists have made more or less successful attempts at applying the theory, but the fundamental problem still remains, that of the observer effect. Basically, there is no way we can get outside the inside of our heads.

Phenomenology as described by Edmund Husserl, the German Philosopher, tried a different approach. He tried to imagine what any part of the external sensory world would be like if we had no reference points to interpret them by. In a way, he was describing the world a new born baby experiences: vast amounts of sensory input and no way of explaining or understanding it! here we get back to Descartes and his "I think, therefore I am". It doesn't work at that stage of a person's life.

So, is there a way to get to know the inside of yourself? Of course there is.

I have always described myself as existing roughly 4 centimeters from the top of my head and halfway between the front and back of my skull. I am acutely aware that my experience of the external world is second-hand through the equipment of my sensory organs. But the inside of my head is my domain - nobody is closer to that than me. so if it wasn't possible to understand myself, then I wouldn't be able to understand anything anyway. My main guide are my feelings, not my thoughts, which are (as all the above actually say in summary) dependant on language, which comes after feelings.  

Can I learn to own and control my feelings? Of course I can. There are so many examples of people controlling their feelings - often for other reasons, For example, I smoked for a large part of my life and I know that I am only one cigarette away from starting again - and that's after 15 years since giving up cigarettes. That's a feeling I control. There are many examples where each one of us exercises control over themselves. I don't need to go into that.

The trick is to go beyond those, relatively superficial feelings and control my mind. Now that is really hard! Like anything hard to learn, it helps if someone can help you to learn how to do that. And that takes someone who has mastered that. Find someone to teach you that and you're on your way!

I spend an hour almost every day trying to achieve the state where my thoughts don't distract me and I can feel who I am inside that skull. Who I am cannot be expressed in words, it has to be felt. Thinking always comes after feeling. And there's the problem again: there is no language in there. Language comes with thinking. When I say I feel good, you have no idea how that feels, but you will interpret that based on the words and what they mean to you. You would associate that statement with whatever feeling you have when you use that phrase. That that feeling is the same one I have, we'll never know.

Ludwig Wittengstein recognised this limitation of language and in the Tractatus he suggested that we don't waste our time asking questions like "what's it all about", but that we should instead ask: what do we mean when we say "what's it all about", thus establishing meaning as the key to understanding.

Well, that's not good enough for me. I want to know what it's all about as far as my life is concerned. I don't mind or even care if it makes sense to anyone else, I need an answer that makes sense to me.

If you  are interested in this kind of thinking as it appertains to finding out who you are, again I would recommend - especially to scientists - to download the book on Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda available for free in the links section of this site and perhaps to read any of the books I've mentioned in this article. Have fun :-)

 

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