How much our "us" is conditioned?

I guess the bit about Buddhism that “conditioned phenomenon”. How of me is “me” and how much is based on society? Can any of my desires truly be called my own?

External forces are real but they are not omnipotent. They may act on us, and change us in ways we don’t realize, but we are not just clear vessels waiting to be filled. There is already a lot of stuff in us before those external forces get a chance to act.

I think the frontier between ourselves and outside influences is different for each person.

But aren’t we born blank slates?

No of course not.
Humans have many instincts e.g. fear of heights, a sense of “fairness” and being “wronged”, social instincts in general and we can even pin down the point in infancy when many of these instincts become fully realized.

Of course, many of these instincts can be overridden by environment, but that’s not the same as being a blank slate.

I just that I read about how the “world”we live is is constructed. That the things we take to exist like countries, cities, values, meaning, they don’t exist outside of us and that morality is mostly just serving survival and that there aren’t any objective morals to point to. That what we take to be solid rules of life are merely self imposed restrictions on us. That any amount of protracted questioning will quickly unravel everything since you ultimately have to settle for something baseless.

It just bothers me where the dreams and desires that I value so might not really come from me but from outside. I fight to stop asking questions to the point where I ask “why do I want anything”?

Don’t see any problem with this, we were born into an environment that didn’t care for feelings, or values or understanding and we’re shaping into one that does. It’s a positive thing in my view, and also means that we can expect further progress in the future.

Yeah but don’t be misled by the way this kind of thing is framed. “There are no objective morals” is not the same thing as “Morals are arbitrary”.
Separate cultures often have many morals in common, and/or are evolving their morals along the same path, because ultimately what’s required for a society to function, and what causes harm are not arbitrary.

True, but I wouldn’t find it more satisfying to be born into a universe with a hard-coded set of instructions.

While these are topics worth discussing it should be pointed out that there is no basis in Buddhism, as the OP states.

This OP often refers to Buddhist words and phrases but very clearly does not understand, or have interest in understanding, the actual Buddhist concepts. He just likes to co opt the terminology, with his entirely personal interpretation.

(As a Buddhist I will always believe this is worth pointing out).

OP seems to be arguing both sides of the fence in this thread. First, we’re “blank slates.” Then there is no external order at all and it is all imposed by our brains. Which is it? Neither, of course.

I guess I can understand that. Being born into a set roll means you would have to act whether you want to or not. At least you can more or less choose here.

As for morality, that still bugs me.

I think with morality it helps to think about where it comes from.

If you’re imagining humans as a species that just cares about rights and wrongs for no reason, it’s quite unpalatable. Like we just happened to decide that murder is wrong, and another culture might consider it fine and dandy, even virtuous.

But the root of morality is our social instincts. Most morals come down to behaviours that help the group at the expense of the individual, or vice versa. Basically mapping to “good” and “evil”.
And the reason why we have moral dilemmas is that our instincts are a little inconsistent due to the fact that while humans are a social species, we’re also a *tribal species: for most of our history we’ve had to look out for people in our tribe, but ruthlessly put down many people outside of it.
(And so of course while “murder is wrong” as a general maxim is basically common to all cultures, many have not considered harming “enemies” to be necessarily murder).

As societies evolve they generally try to extend the definition of “the tribe” as broadly as possible.
If we want to live for thousands more years and be building interstellar spaceships and what have you, we need to be moving much more in the direction of everyone, and even most animal species, being our “tribe”.

  • Also of course, another reason for moral dilemmas is that from a game theory POV, sometimes selfish behaviours are the right way to go even with the constraint of caring about the survival of the group.

Being able to choose may be an illusion.

I get that morality is pretty much survival based. But it’s a little hard to swallow that the rules I lived with growin up turn out to be less that solid or unquestionable.

Another thing that came up was the lack of inherent meaning in the world, additionally (as someone else put it) that you are not happy because you don’t want to be. From what I gather the second one seems to build off the first. Since meaning is pretty much made by us and we assign it to various behaviors, things, people. So I think they argue that we make ourselves feel a certain way, trying to cite how the meaning behind things is made by us I guess he thinks that by extension the feelings come from those meanings are made by us.

Babies are observed to have varying personalities. We’re not blank slates.

Also I am far from convinced that happiness is entirely self-chosen. For example I’ve experienced my mood being influenced by my physical state. Stubbing one’s toe is a bitch.

Not even remotely. Identical twin studies show big chunks of the psychological traits that underpin our values and behaviors are already set before birth.

Genetic Influences on Political Ideologies: Twin Analyses of 19 Measures of Political Ideologies from Five Democracies and Genome-Wide Findings from Three Populations

Do our genes tell us how to vote? Study of twins says they might

Can Society Exist Without Authoritarianism?

Religiousness may have a genetic basis

The heritability of moral standards for everyday dishonesty

Twin studies can be really interesting ways to see how much of what we are is determined before birth. They share the same genes and prenatal environment. Some traits that have a predetermined component are still more influenced by environment. Others environment is near equal or weaker. We seem to be a mix of both innate and environmentally influenced traits. Depending on the trait looked at there’s differing amounts of writing already on the slate but it’s not universally blank.

I figured that genetics played a role in things, but with this crowd they will throw the “how do you know” until I can’t answer any more.

But I am still troubled that what I hold most dear is conditioned. I guess I’m thinking that it’s not my own but I make it sound like brainwashing.