A fresh thought, though... I'm up with that.
I enjoyed this letter in the yearend issue of New Scientist magazine.
From Iain Petrie
Neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland argues that it can be difficult to accept that "you're just your brain" (30 November, p. 30). So it would seem.
When she says, "I've made my peace with my brain," it rather suggests that she regards herself as an entity distinct from her brain.
Even saying "my brain has made peace with itself" would imply, through the use of the possessive determiner "my," that there is not a one-to-one identiy relation between self and brain.
Perhaps the best phrase would have been "this brain is at peace with itself."
Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK
Not a new idea, that brains are us. Just one that is both almost certainly true and exceedingly difficult to internalize, make real, live as if it were true.
For me, it's the key to living a relaxed life that is free of excessive existential Woody Allen'ish anxiety: Oh, no! I'm going to die! I want to live forever! What shall I do?!
Well, the answer to the last question is easy. Nothing. There's nothing you can do. You are your brain; your brain is you. In fact, there is no brain and you. Just brain/you.
"You" (and "I") are higher level abstractions conjured up by neuronal goings-on in the brain. No brain, no you. So death is nothing to worry about.
There never was a distinct "you" that could die. Just a brain that, like all living things, dies. Maybe this doesn't sound like a cheery New Year's greeting, but I find it uplifting.
Happy New Year!
(I wrote about Churchland's New Scientist interview in "Benefits of realizing you're just a brain.")