Monday, April 27, 2015

Your selfie and your soul

The image is the reflection of the soul

In his Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein writes: “The human body is the best picture of the human soul.” (Part II, iv) In that context Wittgenstein gives the word “soul” a religious meaning, discussing the view that “[r]eligion teaches that the soul can exist when the body has disintegrated.” (ibid.) However, I think that we can give “soul” also a wider meaning, for example we can read it as “mind” or as “inner life”. Seen that way the idea expressed in the first quotation is in agreement with recent discoveries in neuroscience, especially with the discovery of mirror neurons: It has become increasingly clear that there is a direct relation between the way I feel and the expression on my face. It’s even so that if I consciously produce a certain expression on my face, say one of sadness or one of joy, I tend to feel that way, as you’ll remember from my older blogs.
One of the consequences of this relation between inner feeling and facial expression is that I can read someone’s frame of mind on his or her face, although it can happen that the other tries to mislead me. For it is possible to suppress the “mechanism” and consciously make that the expression on the face is not in line with the inner state. However, as a rule, when I look at the face of another person, I can say something about that person’s inner feelings, about his or her inner life. Actually some people are better in it than others. Most of the time this – what I could call – “mind reading” is not a conscious activity. Often it happens that we don’t realize that we read the mind of another in front of us. This can make, for instance, that my feeling (and body!) automatically adapts itself to the feeling of the other. Who doesn’t know the phenomenon that we start to yawn, if we see someone yawning, or that we become sad (or just happy) when we see someone crying (or just see laughing)? It can even extend to a whole group: One person laughs and everybody present starts to laugh, too! Man is a social being to the core and more and more it becomes clear that the relation between inner feeling and outer expression is the basis of human sociality, or at least for a major part.
Now, I think, also the sense of making selfies becomes clear, and –this is essential – why they are shown to others. For what is more obvious than making a picture of yourself and presenting it to the world in these days where looks and appearance have become more important than ever and where showing yourself has also been better possible than ever? If direct face-to-face relations are absent, nowadays there is no better reflection of your self than a selfie, for it gives both an image of your outer self and of your inner self, since the former mirrors the latter. A selfie gives a complete image of your I, or rather of your positive I, for selfies are seldom taken when you feel bad. But as long as you feel good it is a reflection of your soul.

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