Kerry Dawkins, 2009
I have a fairly materialistic way of viewing the world, but that doesn’t conflict with my self-perception or my perception of my system-mates. For example, I disbelieve in souls in the spiritual sense, but I don’t think that you necessarily need to believe in souls in order to accept that people can have identities that don’t match their external appearance or background. I think that any individual self-perceptions that any of us have are generated by this brain’s neurones, and do not come from any external source.
For some reason, I think we’re wired to to be plural, and everyone here has developed an identity that is distinct from the front-body’s, with separate ethnicities, backgrounds and appearances. I think that it was a subconscious process that developed over time for all of us, rather than a deliberate choice or something metaphysical. That applies equally to ‘insourced’ and ‘outsourced’ people. (Here, I’m using ‘insourced’ to refer to people–‘fictive’ or not–whose origins don’t have any known external source, and ‘outsourced’ to refer to people whose identities are based on external sources.) With ‘insourced’ people, the subconscious connection isn’t related to something that was created ‘outside’ us; with outsourced people, the subconscious connection is related to something that was created by someone other than ourselves that just seems to ‘fit’.
That connection is strong and profound, and it’s difficult to explain in a concrete sense, but I also don’t feel that I have to invoke the idea of souls to say that it exists. And even with that connection, I can separate my subjective self-identification from the image that I normally present to the world at large when I’m not openly a member of a plural system, and I don’t separate myself from the life that we collectively live. (In fact, I participate in a lot of it, heh.)
I definitely have a perception of myself that doesn’t match the front body’s, and I feel that that is ‘me’, in the most visceral way. The idea of ‘Kerry Dawkins’ includes my past. It includes my appearance. It includes my own cultural heritage, separate from the one at front. It includes my own experiences, and my own likes, and my own philosophy, and my own dislikes. I suppose that you could call those things my ‘qualia’, if that makes any sense. My flavour, my essence, the thing that separates me from Hess and Richard and M.D. and everyone else, inside or outside this system. It’s the subjective Kerryness that I feel, and I don’t feel that I can push that away. Nevertheless, I know that this experience is subjective, and it isn’t provable–or disprovable–through current scientific methods. It’s not quite the same as holding some common religious beliefs to me, because I admit that this experience isn’t provable, and that there isn’t concrete evidence for why I hold the position on myself that I do.
Even so, I don’t believe that I need scientific evidence to confirm a subjective belief that I admit is subjective. I believe that subjectivity can be valued for its own sake. All feelings are subjective, by their very nature; does that mean that they aren’t real, and should be dismissed? Of course not. I know that if someone were to give us a DNA test, the results wouldn’t match my internal phenotype or genotype. I know that when I front, the body’s phenotype doesn’t automatically change to match mine. I can accept objective truths about the front without necessarily relating them to my internal perception of myself, and I find that maintaining my subjective separation from it is actually healthier for me, personally, than suppressing my own identity to make it match the front identity, as I used to.
I see a difference between the sentient entities that use this brain (me, Richard, Lilly and everyone else here, obviously) and the physical body that we all share. I don’t mean this in the sense that I believe in souls, or even strict dualism, but that there is a definite difference between the subjective and the objective for us. They’re ‘non-overlapping magisteria’, to borrow Stephen Jay Gould’s phrase. This doesn’t mean that experiences at or away from front don’t affect the way that we interact with others in the world, but that that they are just not the same thing, and I wouldn’t claim that I was the front body away from front any more than I would say that I had my internal traits at front, at least around those who didn’t know me as a separate person.
In essence, we are, and are not, our body, at the same time, at least in my worldview.