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Dr Jikomes, first let me say that I have enjoyed several of your interviews, and I hope you will take my comments as a form of gratitude and respect.

Responding to the third part of your essay:

Much of it is aimed at describing the simplest forms of self-identity, taking it down to the molecular level – i.e. identifying what belongs to the cell and what doesn’t. Of course that was foiled, and thankfully so, by the first mitochondrial cells.

Also, I am surprised you did not refer to your interview with Terrance Deacon, in which he takes the idea of self-identity to be the defining characteristic of all living organisms: “Every organism has a sense that we will call self. Not in terms of self-consciousness like we’re talking about, but they’re organized around the preservation of self. Even viruses, I can talk about viruses, they’re not alive in the sense that a bacterium is alive, but we know that they’re organized around the persistence of themselves and the transmission of themselves. We know that getting a vaccine is working against the virus’s self-interest, so to speak, so there’s a very very primitive notion of self that we wouldn’t ascribe to just chemistry. Viruses are not just chemicals. They’re chemicals organized with respect to maintaining that organization, preserving that organization against being disrupted.”

After your discussion of self at a cellular level, your last three paragraphs, starting with, “The process of psychological self-identification occurs at the level of the brain…” seem to deny the social component of identity. But can there be any human self-identity without culture? That is, without social interaction, without language and its cognitive outcomes? I let Helen Keller answer:

“BEFORE my teacher came to me, I did not know that I am. I lived in a world that was a no-world. I cannot hope to describe adequately that unconscious, yet conscious time of nothingness. I did not know that I knew aught, or that I lived or acted or desired. I had neither will nor intellect. I was carried along to objects and acts by a certain blind natural impetus. I had a mind which caused me to feel anger, satisfaction, desire. These two facts led those about me to suppose that I willed and thought. ”

“My inner life, then, was a blank without past, present, or future, without hope or anticipation, without wonder or joy or faith.”

Then you continue: “When this process is healthy, a stable sense of identity develops, allowing us to be psychologically content and productively engaged with others.” That is, the process of self-identification. Maybe that’s how it happens with you, but personally, not being from the US, and being the inheritor of European, African and Asian genes, and coming from an even more polyglot society, I feel I can choose my identity as the mood suits me. I am African, I am European, I am Chinese, I am Indian, I am Native American, and I refuse to allow anyone to deny me what I consider to be my cultural DNA.

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