Even after he’d lost (and gotten injured), Boston Rob continued the grueling fire token challenge until he finished. He said he loved the game of Survivor too much to quit. I believe he was being sincere, since he’s used Survivor to define his personality so much. I think this also helped his overall game because it was probably intimidating for the other players. After this, all of them might be a little more likely to break before Rob, because they know how far he’ll go to win.
I’d like to focus on how Rob appears to have a strong sense of self. He frequently refers to himself as being a particular way and acts as if the definition of his personality is very clear and crisp. Yet there is currently an intellectual movement in the United States aimed at convincing people that they have no selves. As far as I can tell, many people in this movement seem to equate belief in selves with belief in free will. Since these people don’t believe in free will, they therefore claim to not believe in selves either.
However, I’m not sure why a lack of free will would mean that we have no selves. Many psychologists and neuroscientists now hold that a significant amount of our personalities are determined genetically. Why is it wrong to refer to these idiosyncratic genetic blueprints as our selves? Also, even if each of us were completely molded by the events of our lives (or even random chance) as opposed to biologically, whatever combinations of experiences composed our lives, then why would it be wrong to refer to those combinations as our selves?
Perhaps these people believe there’s a necessary connection between free will and selves because people sometimes say they’re realizing their “true selves” when they feel that they’re expressing their wills without social pressures. But even if our wills are not free, it seems hard to dispute that social pressures do exist and are sometimes in conflict with other desires inside us. Even if those other inner desires aren’t really “free”, I don’t see many problems with using “self” to distinguish those desires from overt social pressures.
Another common argument against selves seems to be that when people examine their interiors with deep focus, there are no hard selves to be found. There are no identifiable pilots inside controlling the levers of their lives. But going back again to our genetic blueprints, even if we cannot consciously detect those genetic blueprints, that doesn’t mean they aren’t determining large portions of our behavior. We can’t feel our spleens either (as long as they’re working properly at least), but they’re busy filtering our blood regardless.
I’m sympathetic to the idea that our definitions of our selves might never be accurate, which could be the subject of another essay about truth and self-knowledge. However, the insistence that we have no selves at all seems at best misguided (and perhaps at worst motivating people to abandon moral responsibilities).