Self

a temporary natural manifestation

The authors are walking us through the mind of Baruch Spinoza, 17th-century Dutch philosopher and Pantheist, through the stylistic device of always speaking in the first person. Thus, “each reader should identify the ‘I’ that follows with himself or herself.”

And in these respects, I am no different from any of the millions of other organisms that also inhabit the earth. In fact, many of these millions of other organisms are constantly changing aspects of me into aspects of them.

I serve as host for millions of microscopic organisms, in much the same way that my larger environment serves as a host for me. In short, I can be regarded as simply a temporary feature of constantly ongoing processes.

. . . similarly I will die and every part of me will become assimilated by my environment as the processes continue. Some of the elements now composing my bones may later make up part of an oak tree, or even a salmon.

From this point of view, I am simply a certain collection and organization of the basic materials or elements of which everything is composed. And just as the materials that compose me are constantly changing, so these materials, too, constantly take on different forms as they are assimilated by different aspects of a constantly changing world.

Just as these materials follow natural laws as they become a piece of granite or a rose, similarly natural laws and processes determine every feature of the overall process by which the materials become me. . . .

I am a temporary natural manifestation of this world. Those elements of the world now making up me will soon be making up something else.

Snyder, William S. and Eugene A. Troxell. Making Sense of Things: An Invitation to Philosophy. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1976. 63. Print.

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