How can I define myself? I'm basically a combination of cells created by DNA

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How can I define myself? I'm basically a combination of cells created by DNA instructions who react to stimuli. Can I take credit for anything I do if everything I say, believe, and do is based on my genetic make-up and environment? Furthermore, how can I ethically love someone for reasons that aren't their doing? My parents tell me not to love someone for things they can't help, such as looks and intelligence, but you can't help anything you do. If I donate to charity, that's not really 'me' being a good person, it's my body reacting to my surroundings and determining it would be a good contributor to my overall survival. Is there a 'me?' Please help!!!!

I responded to somewhat similar skeptical worries about personal identity in my reply to Question 4958. You might have a look there.

To respond to your specific claims here:

(1) Even if we grant that you're "basically a combination of cells created by DNA instructions [that] react to stimuli," surely that's not all you are. In a petri dish we can grow a combination of cells created by DNA instructions that react to stimuli, but it won't submit a question to AskPhilosophers. Not all combinations of cells -- again, assuming that's what you are -- have equally impressive capacities.

(2) Even if "everything [you] say, believe, and do is based on [your] genetic make-up and environment," surely that not all it's based on. You submitted a question to AskPhilosophers at least partly based on your desire to get an answer to it and your belief that this website is one place to go; there's no reason to think you would've done so without any such desire or belief.

(3) Your parents' advice seems to be based on reasoning that launches an infinite regress: you're allowed to admire only those virtues that someone chose to cultivate, but surely a person's choice to cultivate a particular virtue stems in part from some virtuous feature of his/her character, which in turn will be admirable only if chosen, and so on ad infinitum. Why think that our concept of being admirable contains a requirement that's in principle impossible for anyone to satisfy?

(4) When I perspire on hot day, that's simply "my body reacting to my surroundings and determining it would be a good contributor to my overall survival" (if we construe "determining" in non-agential way). But why think that when I donate to charity, that's all that's going on? Charitable donation is much more cognitively complex, and much more reasons-based, than perspiration, and I think the difference makes a difference.

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