The main concern is as I phrased it as a child: ”Am I the same once I blink?” This carried the very concern of identity, is the person continuing this thinking the same, or are my memories already someone else’s.
That is a frightening prospect and it has stolen quite a few good night’s sleep from me. It means dying every second, every thought being a potential end of existence. If those are someone else’s memories, what certainty can I have of thinking this sentence through.
At the very same time it suggests something almost as catastrophic. Once the certainty of self is destroyed, the identity become dubious, the line differentiating you from the Other starts to fade. Two distinct beings are no different from each other than a discontinuous being is from himself.
Leibniz’s law of identity is there to offer me support. Identical beings have every single attribute in common, thus the continuity of self becomes questionable. One of the attributes is time. Of course as a child thoughts like these were beyond me, but the original idea makes me see such implications.
Yet what is the end result of discontinuity and difference fading into continuity? The very idea of the barrier of otherness is only practical. We have no certainty of what ”we” have felt before. As psychology has now seen, we remember the past through the present. Thus the past too is inaccessible, just as the other is.
Nevertheless the past doesn’t seem inaccessible, even though it in theory is. Still, why do we consider ourselves more distinct from others than from our past selves? In theory we have similar ways of understanding others as we have for understanding ourselves – empathy.
I’m still beating the bush. It is hard to get to the very implication and not elaborate the premises. There is no divide between the self and the other. Not in a way we understand it. Of course there is the imminent sense of self, and that phenomenon has to be given credit. But no such knowledge exists of any of the others, or your previous selves.
This could implicate quite a narcissistic solipsism, and that would be quite right-full. Yet at the same time it implicates the opposite, if we are not as harsh as that. We have no reason not to suppose self-consciousness for others any more than we have not to suppose it on our own past selves.
Nevertheless the divide falters. The narcissistic thought that we all are one and the same is the end result I’ve tried to suggest. Not the childish fearful idea that the ”I” wouldn’t last even this sentence. That would of course be the only certainty, ”cogito, ergo sum”.
Yet certainty is barely what we are after. It is a fantasy to think others have souls or that even I existed more than a millionth of a second ago, but that is quite a fantasy I’m ready to have. The world is built on fantasies and what-if’s – suppositions of every kind, and they are ever-changeable.