Sunday, September 13, 2009

Changed Phrases?

During our in-class discussions for the past week or so, I have thought a lot about common phrases (for example, "when one door closes, two more open.") In some ways, I agree with these statements. However, in the context of the excerpts from Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky, as well as our discussion of Descartes in class, the meaning of these phrases has somewhat changed for me.

"When one door closes, two more open."
In class, we discussed how the realization of the infinite number or possibilities causes a lot of anxiety, and as humans, we naturally try to limit those possibilities, eliminating the more improbable ones from our minds. This reduces anxiety and makes our collection of possibilities more finite. However, because the possibilities are endless, can anything ever be eliminated as a possibility? This is the question that I was asking myself regarding the phrase "when one door closes, two more open." If no possibilities can ever really be eliminated, no doors would ever close. If the number of possibilities are endless, it wouldn't matter if one door closed for two more to open. For that matter, several could spontaneously open. On the other hand, we could argue for the possibility that no doors are ever closed.

The second example that I would like to bring up comes from the movie I Heart Huckabee's (sorry to whoever mentioned that they hate this movie on the first day of class) in the scene where Brad Stand is broken down by the existential detectives. He ends up dwelling on the phrase "how am I not myself?" until he breaks down in a business meeting when asked to tell the story that he tells repeatedly to cover up something else that is truly bothering him. I wonder if it is possible to not be yourself. To reference Descartes, all he could not doubt was that he thinks, and is. If we are thinking like Descartes, and only know for sure that we are, then how can you not be yourself?


  1. I don't think it is possible to not be yourself. The simple act of being precludes this. Even if you are acting in an irrational, crazy, or unusual way contrary to the manner in which you act most of the time, it is still you doing it. You consciously make the decision to do whatever it is you do. The way I look at the whole issue is about as self-defining as Decartes' original statement. If "I think therefore I am" is true, "I am myself, therefore I act as myself" seems like a next logical step.

  2. On the matter of possibilities not being able to truly be eliminated due to the infinite nature of possibility. I think the idea is more that to lessen the anxiety of the infinite we ignore a large number of unlikely possibilities and automatically dismiss them so that we are not driven insane. its not so much that the "doors" to those possibilities close as it is we just choose not to think of them because they are unlikely.

  3. I think the question you proposed at the end of your post is really interesting, because it seems like such a simple answer. Yet, I have to disagree with B_Mo, because although it is always you that is making the decisions can't the influence of others or the ideal cause you to do things that you personally wouldn't normally do? I find it hard to believe that someone can look back all the unusual things they do and think that was solely because they were remaining true to themselves.

  4. I think that a person always knows his own self and tries to act likewise in most instances. However, the only possibility that a person would “not be” oneself is if the concept of existing through reason was not yet expected by a certain person. While following Descartes' method, if a person is still doubting everything larger than him imaginable then he would be doubting how he is not himself still. Whether the human race as a whole exists would be doubted and then a particular human race and then finally the person will doubt his own existence. So it is a possible point at which a person has not concluded that he exists through reason yet but he is aware that the universal humanity or the “we” are existing. Knowing who "we" are is the step before realizing who "I" am; understanding that "I am" is a necessary step on the way to realizing how to be your self.


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