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Plurality - A Scientific and Philosophical Overview



Plurality - A Scientific and Philosophical Overview


What is plurality? I suppose I should start this off with the basic definition:


Plurality is a term that encompasses all phenomena where multiple consciousnesses coexist within a brain. This includes–but is not limited to–people who hear voices (which in itself is not a mental illness), authors who can speak to their characters, dissociative identity disorder/DID, and “healthy multiples”–plurals who can switch control of the body but lack the disruption that DID brings and function normally in society.


As several of those examples demonstrate, plurality is not something that automatically needs to be “fixed”–simply because something is unusual does not mean it is a mental illness. (If that were the case, then all LGBT people and people from other cultures would be considered mentally ill!) In order to qualify as a mental illness, an unusual behavior must cause distress to a person, render them dysfunctional, or pose a danger to themselves or others. Plurality does not by definition do any of those, no more than playing video games guarantees one will become a criminal. Plurals in most cases blend in with the rest of society, and may even function better because they are plural–by spurring inspiration, as in the case of the authors; by providing counsel, in the case of the voice-hearers; or even by working together with the other entities to tag-team physical-world tasks, as in the case of the healthy multiples. Of course, not all plurality is peachy–DID plurals suffer from an assortment of factors (lack control over body-control switches, inability to communicate with the others in the brain, and others) that lead to chaos, and even a healthy plural can experience disagreements with the others who are with them, just as you would with a physical friend. Every case is unique, and thus it is important to take plurality on a case by case basis, to respect individual stories rather than blanketing the phenomenon as entirely good or entirely bad.


Before we continue, here are a few terms to know:

  • System: Refers to all entities coexisting within a physical body.
  • Systemmate: Refers to another member of one’s system.
  • Singlet: The opposite of a plural. One person in one brain.
  • Median: A system with members who are not completely separate from each other. Often consists of members who all identify as “aspects” or “facets” of one central identity.
  • Fronting: Refers to the act of being “in” the physical body and using it. More than one member can be fronting at once—this is called co-fronting or co-running. (To quote an old plurality website: “Singlets who think this is impossible or confusing should remember that the next time they catch themselves watching television, talking on the phone and stirring soup all at the same time.”​) This is also where the term “fronter” (referring to a member who controls/is controlling the body) originated.
  • Switching: Refers to a change in who is fronting.


Now, onto the meat of this. The first question that is often asked: Is plurality real? How do we know it’s not just mood swings or acting?


Numerous scientific studies have confirmed the existence of plurality. Here are a few excerpts.




For example, case reports have described people who have changed their handedness or have spoken foreign languages during their dissociative states.




When Timmy drinks orange juice he has no problem. But Timmy is just one of close to a dozen personalities who alternate control over a patient with multiple personality disorder. And if those other personalities drink orange juice, the result is a case of hives.


The hives will occur even if Timmy drinks orange juice and another personality appears while the juice is still being digested. What’s more, if Timmy comes back while the allergic reaction is present, the itching of the hives will cease immediately, and the water-filled blisters will begin to subside.




One of the problems for psychiatrists trying to treat patients with multiple personalities is that, depending which personality is in control, a patient can have drastically different reactions to a given psychiatric medication. For instance, it is almost always the case that one or several of the personalities of a given patient will be that of a child. And the differences in responses to drugs among the sub-personalities often parallel those ordinarily found when the same drug at the same dose is given to a child, rather than an adult.


In a recent book, ”The Treatment of Multiple Personality Disorder,” published by the American Psychiatric Press, Dr. Braun describes several instances in which different personalities in the same body responded differently to a given dose of the same medication. A tranquilizer, for instance, made a childish personality of one patient sleepy and relaxed, but gave adult personalities confusion and racing thoughts. An anti-convulsant prescribed for epilepsy that was given another patient had no effect on the personalities except those under the age of 12.


In another patient, 5 milligrams of diazepam, a tranquilizer, sedated one personality, while 100 milligrams had little effect on another personality.




We present a patient with dissociative identity disorder (DID) who after 15 years of diagnosed cortical blindness gradually regained sight during psychotherapeutic treatment. At first only a few personality states regained vision, whereas others remained blind. This was confirmed by electrophysiological measurement, in which visual evoked potentials (VEP) were absent in the blind personality states but normal and stable in the seeing states.




An especially interesting study was recently done by neuropsychologist Joseph Ciociari at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia. The study took five patients with DID and five age matched professional actors and asked them to do simple cognitive tests while using EEG to monitor their brainwaves.


In the course of this monitoring, the actors performed the tasks as themselves and then as a series of pretended personalities. The brain waves of the DID patients’ host personalities (the core personalities) were monitored and then the alternate personalities, or ‘alters’ were invited to ‘come out’ and participate in the tasks and were also monitored. The Swinburne Media release stated that:


Swinburne has shown clearly different brain patterns between the Dissociative Identity Disorder host and each personality or alter, a finding that could not be reproduced by professional actors emulating the child alters. Previous EEG studies into the disorder observed the results at individual brain locations. This latest study used and compared the EEG signal parameters between different areas; i.e. it applied EEG coherence analysis. In The Psychotherapy Networker, Gary Cooper explains that EEG coherence analysis ‘simultaneously measures different parts of the brain to assess how they work in synchrony. Ciociari’s study is the first Dissociative Identity Disorder study to use EEG coherence analysis.


The Swinburne media report goes on to state that there were significant differences observed in the EEG coherence analysis between the core personalities and their alters, but not between the actor’s true personalities and their pretended personalities. Ciociari of Swinburne states that this lends credibility to the existence of this disorder and militates against the belief that it is fabricated in all cases.


There are also numerous historical precedents for the existence of plurality. In addition to the authors who speak to their characters…




An intriguing concept that Socrates unintentionally inspired was that of the dæmon (or daimon). The philosopher spoke often of his ‘internal oracle’ whose injunctions he followed. This voice of guidance gave only negative admonitions (such as ‘don’t do that’ or ‘don’t say that’), and would warn that certain actions or events would lead to disaster – making it most synonymous with Socrates’ conscience. However, the oracle only spoke its mind, but never tried to coerce Socrates into following its advice. H. P. Blavatsky wrote that “the Daimonion of Socrates is the god or Divine Entity which inspired him all his life.” Socrates himself said, “The favor of the gods has given me a marvelous gift, which has never left me since my childhood. It is a voice which, when it makes itself heard, deters me from what I am about to do and never urges me on.”


He spoke familiarly of this daimon, joked about it and obeyed blindly the indications it gave. Eventually, his friends never took an important step without consulting it. But the daimon had its sympathies, and when it was unfavorable to the questioner it remained absolutely silent; in that event it was quite impossible for Socrates to make it speak.


The fact that the daimon had preferences among Socrates’ friends and those who asked for advice (that it chose between them) seems to show that its intelligence was different from that of Socrates himself. And he would always listen to its wisdom – sometimes standing motionless for a full day, unaffected by a hard frost, listening to the daimon’s recommendations.


From Carl Jung’s (the famous psychologist) autobiography:


“Philemon and figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life. Philemon represented a force which was not myself. In my fantasies I held conversations with him, and he said things which I had not consciously thought. For I observed clearly that it was he who spoke, not I. He said I treated thoughts as if I generated them myself, but in his view thoughts were like animals in the forest, or people in a room, or birds in the air, and added, “If you should see people in a room, you would not think that you had made those people, or that you were responsible for them.” It was he who taught me psychic objectivity, the reality of the psyche. Through him the distinction was clarified between myself and the object of my thought. He confronted me in an objective manner, and I understood that there is something in me which can say things that I do not know and do not intend, things which may even be directed against me.


Psychologically, Philemon represented superior insight. He was a mysterious figure to me. At times he seemed to me quite real, as if he were a living personality. I went walking up and down the garden with him, and to me he was what the Indians call a guru.” (Memories, Dreams, Reflections 183)


So we have established that plurality, in fact, does exist, and can actually be physically verified to exist. But that only prompts another question: Aren’t all members of a plural system just parts of one person?


Well, how do you define a person?


It’s easy to think that everything within one brain belongs to one person. But from several perspectives, we can see that this isn’t so clear-cut.


First of all, to address a common myth: that all system members are only “fragments” of one person, only possessing limited mental abilities or emotions. While this may be true for some median systems, this is very frequently untrue for many, many multiple systems. Each member is capable of expressing the full range of human emotion, can have their own interests, and can differ from other members in opinion on a certain topic. To the outsider, if each had their own body, they would immediately be perceived as different people.


Now, to address the assertion that the brain and body are an essential part of a person. To this, I present a thought experiment posed by the philosopher John Locke. Locke presents us with a cobbler and a prince. One day, the prince and cobbler suddenly exchange bodies–the prince awakens to find himself in the cobbler’s body, and vice versa. Who is the cobbler, Locke asks, and who is the prince? The intuitive answer is that the prince is in the cobbler’s body, and the cobbler is in the prince’s body. This alone should show that the construct of personhood is not so tightly tied to the physical body as some may initially think. Now, to take Locke’s thought experiment a step further: suppose, instead, that the cobbler remained in his body, but the prince’s mind was taken from his own body and transplanted into the cobbler’s body, so that the two of them coexist within one brain. Where is the cobbler, and where is the prince? The response is, both of them are in the cobbler’s body.


And thus, you have plurality.


Not exactly, of course. We cannot exactly say that plurality is the product of mental translocation from one physical brain to another. However, to see how uncannily close plurality is to this thought experiment, we only need look at the science.


Science, it should be noted, cannot “prove” that anything or anyone is a “person”, simply because the concept of personhood is incredibly nebulous–thus, while science has not pointed at any one particular fact and said, “this proves plural entities are people”, science has likewise been unable to do the same for any singlet. It is simply something we take for granted, that other humans are people. As I have written in the past:


The first and foremost issue is that sentience (in the colloquial sense, encompassing both sentience and sapience) has no clear definition. No one has been able to agree on a set of criteria for sentience. No one has been able to draw a line between non-sentience and sentience, or “proved” sentience in non-humans.


Is a being sentient if it has free will? Psychology has shown that “free will,” too, is nebulous—humans are highly susceptible to their instincts and their environment, more than we would like to admit.


Is a being sentient if it exhibits emotion? Then dogs, dolphins, and many other animals are sentient. Yet the sentience of animals is still being debated.


Is a being sentient if it can solve abstract problems? Then octopi and tool-using animals are sentient.


Is a being sentient if it is self-aware? Then elephants, parrots, and any other animals that can recognize themselves in a mirror are sentient. And yet again, their sentience is still under debate.


So as you can see, defining and qualifying sentience is extremely troublesome, especially from an anthropocentric viewpoint. (It is also worth noting that a systemmate satisfies all four of the above criteria, in addition to other aspects making them indistinguishable from a singlet.)


However, there are some things science has been able to measure. As you might recall, when members of a DID system switch, their brain patterns change drastically in ways that actors cannot emulate. In addition, different members of a plural system can have drastically different skills, with some even having different handedness or speaking languages that other members do not know. They can develop different allergies, may have different eyesight, and even have different reactions to medication–not only that, but their reactions to medication are practically the same as if the medicine had been given to someone their mental age, e.g. a child member reacting the same as a singlet child being given the same medicine. Should you take each of these members out of their shared brain, and insert each of them into their own bodies, each would function completely normally as their own person. And to the outsider, they would in all certainty be identified as their own persons.


And to provide another metaphor–recall that computers are capable of having multiple operating systems installed on one device. While it can be difficult (though not impossible) to run two operating systems at the same time on a computer, there is nothing preventing a computer from running first one operating system, then another. Now recall that the human brain is essentially an immensely complex chemical computer, and that personality can essentially be broken down into a system of patterns–“X makes me happy, Y angers me, I value Z, I identify as A”–and hence, mapped onto the “hardware” of the brain as a sort of “software.” Some may protest that it is impossible for a brain to store more than one person–I remind those critics of how a brain is able to shift handedness, language, sightedness, brainwave patterns, etc in the above studies, how immense facts like fifty-one digits of pi and all the capitals of the world can be memorized and stored outside of conscious thought, and how authors are able to both write and converse with convincing and highly independent characters. Now, in place of “computer”, substitute “brain”, and in place of “operating system”, substitute “system member”. Suddenly, the idea of “one brain, one person” is no longer as simple as it seems.


There are some who would argue that reducing personhood to an immensely elaborate program on a chemical computer is degrading to humanity, no matter how complex and infinitely beautiful that computer is. They would say that the essence of personhood is not in the neural programming, but in the soul, which the neural programming only reflects. This is a very valid hypothesis spiritually, and one I, an agnostic, have posed myself in argument against materialists who claim that the existence of souls is an utter impossibility. But this view does not contradict plurality, either—in fact, a number of plurals see their plurality in a spiritual light, and spirituality itself is extremely accommodating to plurality. Who is to say that multiple immaterial souls cannot be anchored to the same material body?


Finally, there are those who would claim that, despite all this, all entities within the same brain are ultimately all reflections of one person. To which I say that even if all entities were facets of the same gem, each facet is evenly cut. That each member, by virtue of being able to interface with external stimuli, act autonomously of other members, and identify as their own person separate from other persons both external and internal, qualifies as a consciousness under the technical definition of “consciousness”: the fact of awareness by the mind of itself and the world. That if they are facets, then so too is every consciousness, both plural and singlet, a facet of a deeper, unknowable unconscious entity. As one plural eloquently put it, “We are all equally real, and equally unreal.”


Overall, there is no definitive proof that system members are all “people”–however, the greatest scientific minds to this day still disagree upon and are bewildered by the task of finding out what exactly makes a person, a person. At the very least, personhood is nowhere as singular and simple as we are taught to initially believe.


And in the meantime? System members continue to identify as their own persons. They have their own likes, their own moral beliefs, their own dreams and ambitions. They clash at times with the others who share their brain, and at times, comfort and support each other. They hide themselves from the world and pretend to be someone they aren’t out of fear of being found out and being told the dread words: You’re not real. You’re just a fragment. You’re mentally ill. You shouldn’t exist.


Nowhere is this fear more prevalent than in interactions with psychology. In the past, it was thought that all plurals needed to “integrate”–that is, be merged into one person–and that this would be the only way for them to function successfully. Not only is this incredibly inaccurate in that many plurals can and do function successfully as plurals, it is also inaccurate in that in most cases, integration does not work. Only in a minority of cases do plural systems remain integrated–in most cases, the integrated individual will only split apart into each different member again. In addition, many plurals do not want to integrate, seeing it essentially as being told to murder each other in the name of psychology–some plurals will, in fact, fake integration to escape a psychologist. Others who attempt integration are, akin to victims of “conversion therapies” that presume to “cure” transgender people by forcing them to identify as their assigned gender, severely traumatized by the experience or suffer major identity crises down the road.


Examples of the traumas that can result from being pushed to integrate are provided in this scathing anti-integration piece by an anonymous multiple system:


We’ve seen countless multiples online go from being fairly alright to becoming a sobbing, blithering, useless mess after going to therapy. A lot of them end up having issues with the members who end up believing “Oh, it’s sad we’re multiple, we need to work on integrating” fighting with those who say “NO! I don’t want to die!”. We know of one system where a big [adult systemmate] takes meds to constantly keep the others asleep and gets so angry when a little [child systemmate] manages to fight her way to the front and throw away the meds. The big does this to be “normal” by society’s standards.


A little fighting to live: how absolutely appalling! No child, chronological or otherwise, should have to fight just to be allowed to live.


Some systems whom were abused do need therapy to help them. What we’re talking about here is when multiples head off to therapy just because multiples are supposedly supposed to get therapy, or the multiples who seek therapy and don’t get what they actually need. If a system is functioning, don’t tamper with them and how they run. We’ve heard stories of systems dragged off to shrinks when their family found a little playing childishly, and other systems sent to the nuthouse because one’s partner freaked out about it. We’re sick and tired of words and terms intended to belittle and put members in their place. Alters? Parts? Those words are used to ensure the members of a system believe they aren’t people so they don’t resist being killed off during integration.


Multiples need to be able to seek therapy for other issues irrelevant to being multiple. If a system shows up for therapy, the therapist tends to go after the multiplicity. We know a system with a member in need of help, but they don’t seek it for fear of being shoved into integrating. So, that member suffers in silence. That is unacceptable.


I have seen people cite, in defense of how plurals are treated, the authority of psychology. At this, I remind them that medicine is and always has been a flawed field, and that psychology is no different. As recently as the 1950s, LGBT individuals were considered in psychology to be mentally ill, until massive protesting finally prompted psychologists to reclassify LGBT orientations as identities. Asexuality suffered similarly, though it has recently won a major battle by being reclassified as an orientation in the DSM-V. Treatment of transgender identities by psychology is still problematic in that being transgender is classified as a type of mental illness, under “gender identity disorder”–however, even that is changing. And so too are psychological views on plurality changing–increasingly, therapists and academics have been advocating for alternatives to integration, acknowledging that it is entirely possible, and perhaps even in many cases desirable, for a plural system to function in society as plural.


So, my concluding points:


  • Plurality exists, and is not inherently pathological, but simply another variation in the vastness of human experience.
  • Identity and personhood is far more complex than the “one brain, one person” model that is often held as the norm.
  • Plurality is in itself a vital component of many systems’ lives–rather than attempting to force these systems into a neurotypical model of singlethood, which has repeatedly been demonstrated to be not only ineffective but downright traumatizing, psychologists and laymen alike should instead consider, for both practical and ethical reasons, treating every system member with the same respect and acceptance as would be afforded a singlet.


Thank you for reading. For more information on plurality, visit:



(Written by Falah Liang of The Quandary. Last updated: 1/26/2015)

aka Falah. With Lark, Steven, Rain, and Noctis.

~Our slightly antiquated tulpamancy blog

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Submitted as a Resource on behalf of Falunel.


Hello, Nobillis,


I wrote a piece some time back that Hail recommended I submit to Tulpa.info as an article. This is the piece in question. I wasn't sure how to go about doing it, but was told that you might have some idea of the process.


Is there a certain page or form, or should I message Chupi directly with this article? Thank you!


-- Falah

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I found this helpful, informative, and well written, but it's more of a scholarly article, whereas everything in Resources is of a more practical nature.


I'd be open to the idea of making a new guides category for this sort of thing.

"Some things have to be believed to be seen." - Ralph Hodgson

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I'd be open to the idea of making a new guides category for this sort of thing.


Indeed. I'd support having a new category. I can have one set up fairly easily (if all else fails I'll just kick Pleeb into doing something) , so that can be done.


if said new section would be "Articles," it would seem redundant when there's one for the home page before arriving into the forums.


Sadly, the Articles section has become uneditable. I will try once more to see if it can be reveived but, I hold little hope of success. Failing that I'll have it created under guides as a category.

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I agree with it being an article. I think when it comes to submissions where there isn't an overall premise to give direction for others in their tulpa endeavors, supplement or a series of methods, a section for articles would be suitable. But that if said new section would be "Articles," it would seem redundant when there's one for the home page before arriving into the forums. But I'm open for whatever suggestions as well.

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While not a GAT member or an admin or mod here, I can suggest another possibility. The other articles could be moved to the new article board and the link go there instead. But to keep the links to the original articles still working, it shouldn't be too hard to setup redirects or to just map them to the new ones assuming that the apache conf stuff of this site can be easily fiddled with (no idea how to do that if it is running under IIS or lighttp instead).


- Hail

Tri = {V, O, G}, Ice and Frostbite and Breach (all formerly Hail), and others

System Name: Fall Family

Former Username: hail_fall

Contributor and administrator on a supplementary tulpamancy resource and associated forum, Tulpa.io and Tulpa.io/discuss/.

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I'd say articles too, it's not what resources really are as they are under the guide section. This doesn't really count as something that guides me through any process and I don't see why we should also start adding articles to the resources board.


.info needs to stop having useless tabs that never get updated and this shit should be fixed ASAP or just gotten rid of. It looks bad, unfinished, out of date. The links tab should also be fixed because there's a need for it. If you can't get this stuff fixed then transfer everything to forums where you can manage them, but I'm pretty sure you guys got this if you actually sat down and did things.


I'm not sure if GAT is the best group to read through articles and approve of those. Articles sure are a beast that I can just shrug at and go "okay, if that's what you say". Like this is something that's really made for other communities and not really .info with terms that are rarely used here, we don't really call ourselves plurals even if we fit the description or one of those multiple strange definitions or terms or whatever that float around and are weird. I'm not even sure if we have enough proper articles to need a screening process, but hey, that's up to you guys really. I think Pleeb and probably his secret circle used to pick the featured ones back in the day.

The THE SUBCONCIOUS ochinchin occultists frt.sys (except Roswell because he doesn't want to be a part of it)

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While not a GAT member or an admin or mod here, I can suggest another possibility. The other articles could be moved to the new article board and the link go there instead.

Already being done. Chupi and I are migrating them.


.info needs to stop having useless tabs that never get updated and this shit should be fixed ASAP or just gotten rid of. It looks bad, unfinished, out of date. The links tab should also be fixed because there's a need for it. If you can't get this stuff fixed then transfer everything to forums where you can manage them, but I'm pretty sure you guys got this if you actually sat down and did things.


I quite agree. Hence the beginning of moving the stuff to forums as you have said.

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New section, alright. Articles it is - I don't want this to be buried under the old articles, so I won't move it just yet.



Numerous scientific studies have confirmed the existence of plurality. Here are a few excerpts.


Yeah. These studies tend to focus on DID specifically; it's probably worth mentioning that for a long time, the whole multiple thing was very controversial, with a majority of psychiatrists being skeptical of its validity in 1999, as opposed to being iatrogenic (induced by therapists). It was a pretty fierce argument; you'd get papers like this about ten years ago. And maybe you can see why from an outsider's perspective; Sybil, the first popular book/film to focus on DID (MPD back then), is considered to be a iatrogenic by pretty much everyone alive today - there was an exposé published a few years ago. You'll see accounts of DID around where people go to therapists complaining of dissociation or derealisation, and come out with a load of alters and repressed childhood trauma - repressed memories that are often false: Satanic abuse is a giveaway.


I'm not arguing this case myself, especially in light of more recent studies like the MRI ones you've cited. For every crazy iatrogenic DID anecdote you can find another anecdote where someone shows symptoms before they know what DID is, and so on. But more to the point, when you have studies showing that brain activity is drastically different between alters in a way that can't be faked, the question of iatrogenicity becomes irrelevant for our purposes. It's clearly there, and distinct from acting or, I suppose, being 'hypnotised', as some anti-DID literature claims. The case isn't closed but I think the evidence has started coming down quite heavily on the pro-DID side. So maybe it seems like what I wrote is pointless, but it's probably worth it since a lot of people reading this, especially skeptics, will likely have read some of the stuff I've talked about above.


And yeah, maybe you don't want to claim 'confirmed' just yet, even if the literature is taking a sharp turn towards it.


Anti-integration stuff noted, but it surprises me that you haven't given the DSM (the psychiatric Bible, fifth edition) any reference, where you can see from a quick glance that so-called healthy multiplicity is, in fact, not a disorder. It's up here (30MB).



Science, it should be noted, cannot “prove” that anything or anyone is a “person”, simply because the concept of personhood is incredibly nebulous


Yep. You could do with pushing this more, maybe even give a sane one that you might use, rather than bothering with Locke's thought experiment. In the outline you've given, it's very underspecified and unconvincing.



And to provide another metaphor–recall that computers are capable of having multiple operating systems installed on one device.


Computer metaphors grind my gears. Brains aren't computers, comparing brains with computers holds no weight; I mean, it's clearly unsuitable anyway since as most people here will tell you, brains can have more than one consciousness running concurrently (don't tell me, it's a VM?). It's not going to convince anyone, because I could just as easily compare a brain to a garden chair, or a tree (I've seen this one done before). And it doesn't help explain anything, because this stuff is conceptually simple anyway.



This is a very valid hypothesis spiritually




Yeah, it's good. Well-informed which is a nice change. I'm happy to move this as-is, but take a look at my comments anyway.



Also, sites like the Metro are notorious for magical shifting links, so you may want to link to an archive.org copy.

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All thoughts are voices, most people just identify the mental process as belonging to a process called the self for some reason.


How do deaf people think before they are introduced to sign language? How do children think? Voices are introduced, the same as the "self," by outside factors which point to such things existing. These concepts- voices and "self" exist as channels in the mind through which to interpret information so that it may be transferred to others. If there are no others, the "voices" and "language" for thinking are unnecessary, and the concept of "self" need not exist.

Ermahgerd Ver fer Vernderterr


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