[This is part of a series, where i will try to discuss some basic ideas that are taken for granted, but not really questioned or analysed, and which probably do have a huge footprint in our ways-of-thinking — edit: it seems the series never really happened…]
Most people tend to consider themselves as one whole, complete, working-as-one thing. For day-to-day business this model might tend to work most of the time, but it is fraught with problems if you want to understand the world.
People (myself included) are more like vast arrays of heterogeneous pulls. A part of me wants to go swimming, another one wants to bust the fridge, still another wants to write this and &c. It is like you were playing war and each turn someone you never ever met before was going to play in stead of the one person who played in the turn before.
In time we find some regularities in people, more so if we focus on some few people (our families, our best friends). And from this our culture has developed an accepted procedure of assigning only one “personality” for each person. Thiago is supposed to “act like Thiago”, Duda is supposed to “act-like-Duda”.
But this is beside the point. Whether we can or can’t predict someone else’s responses (and most often we can’t) it does not imply that the person is whole.
There are desert plants who will perform photosynthesis in different biochemical cycles according to day or night. There are species of salmon that will produce various types of enzymes if exposed to extreme temperatures. Our own metabolisms vary according to so many factors that it is futile to try to check them. And behaviour can change almost completely according to the delicate concentrations of biochemicals in the brain.
We get a clearer outlook on “what people are” if we accept them as intricate meshes of personality-traits.
Now if instead we ask someone to look at themselves and discern if they are whole or not, almost everyone will tell that yes, they are whole. And i guess they will be sincere. But sensation of being one whole being is very different from really being whole.
I do not want to say that we have “bad sides” that surface from time to time, nor that we shall start looking for schizophrenia signs in ourselves. It is OK to maintain countability of ourselves as whole persons.
But abandoning the idea of wholeness of being lays to ground the mind versus body dilemma.
What is the point of arguing whether we are made of body or of mind, when what we are is subject to change?
There are times when i will be extremely sensitive to bodily issues (like comfort or glucose-level on blood or temperature), to the point that those issues will determine what i am thinking about and how. But there are other times when my mindly issues will take total precedence over the body, when i will go without sleep or work in spite of hunger.
What i am will have parts of body-ness and parts of mind-ness in differing and unpredictable ways. And it is no good to make hard rules of how this should be handled.
In the same way that this complicated (and officially important) philosophy-issue of body versus mind loses it’s purpose when we accept a more complex picture of our own selves, so do a lot of day-to-day issues. But of those it would be dangerous to give examples.