A very interesting talk from philosopher Julian Baggini. In summary, he states his theory of self: that people have no “central essence” (which Christian believers would refer to as the “spirit” or perhaps even the “soul”) but that we are collections of our experiences, memories, beliefs, and urges. Even more interesting are his closing comments that even though we are simply collections of these things, we still have the ability to shape ourselves in the people we want to be–to a certain extent, of course.
His theory is very interesting and I’m inclined to agree that people are indeed shaped by their experiences, memories, beliefs, and urges. In other words, human beings aren’t static and immune from being changed or affected by their environments. That said, to say that human beings are merely the sum total of these things is a bit of an intellectual stretch, especially when you conclude by saying that people have the ability to shape their identities. That’s like saying the My Documents folder on your computer has the capacity to change what defines it.