On my shelf this month!

The Ego Trick by Julian Baggini

The nature of this work is best described by the publisher’s comments  and is as follows:

“ With his trademark clarity, curiosity and scepticism, Julian Baggini sets out to answer one of the most fundamental questions in philosophy: what is the self? Is it something solid which remains constant over time? Or something far more elusive?

Baginni’s quest takes us into the history of philosophy, and  the two clashing schools of thought on personal identity: the believers in the “pearl” view of the self, who see it as an unchanging core, and those who believe that the self is essentially a “bundle” of sensations and thoughts.

Baggini talks to theologians, priests, and lamas to see whether understanding the concept of the soul can help him understand the self. He talks to neurologists and psychologists, and examine cases of lost memory and personality disorders to find out whether we can gain insights from what happens in the self when the brain changes.

He talks to those who have undergone personal transformation, including changes of gender, to find out whether their sense of self has changed through the experience. ...”

I have found that after his investigation, Baginni favours the view  that the self is essential a ‘bundle’ of sensations and thoughts ie “But the self is not a substance or a thing, it is a function of what a certain collection of stuff does – page 120”. He then summarises that this ‘functioning’ is at the heart of the sense of self or Ego Trick. The trick that this ‘functioning’ is performing is “... to create something which has a strong sense of unity and singleness from what is actually a messy, fragmented sequence of experiences and memories, in a brain who has no control centre – page 119” “

It is my point of view that, within the context of searching for a ‘objective self’, as Baginni has done, there is no hard core self to be found but only an sense of self or ‘Ego’ informed as a personality that is derived from the culture and its process of personalisation we live in. However, can you be with the possibility that there is an ‘Essential Being’ that has real existence beyond the context of the ‘objective’ world. That your Essential Being is the one who is aware of the egoic self subjectively and its experience as ‘I ... that sense of self or Ego’ and as such has no objective existence! I do.

For more information on the work and background of Julian Baggini, visit his web page:


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