Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I guess I'm the first to write on the blog but then again maybe I'm just not using it properly so hopefully this goes through. Maybe this will extend to the other first time Philosophy takers in the class when I say that the way that I look at things (and it's only the beginning of school) has taken a turn. Already we have discussed things that I have never thought about, never even considered for the most part. For instance, this may sound weird but I loved the discussion today about two people describing the same object yet, they are in fact describing two different objects (with the brussell sprouts). Other parts of the discussion also led me to think of some things. My new favorite Latin phrase now "cogito ergo sum," has been making me think of like my place in everything that I do. Am I the student simply because I come into class everyday and take a seat among the masses? What if I come in and stand at the front? Am I the child simply because I am taken care of by my parents? Well what about, in their inevitable rise to old age, when I take care of them? Will I still be the child? Esp. with this category I look at parents as the ones doing the raising and the supplying. The child is the receiver of both morals and materials from their parents. Many people, for example, say that someone is my mom or someone is my dad simply because they were birthed by the individuals. However, is someone is raised by a step dad or a step mom then usually in the end the maternal or paternal bond is still made with the child and the titles of mother or father are still received. By saying this, I return to saying that the position of child, or student, or whatever is simply, in my mind, given by association of actions. It leaves me to question whether or not once my parents stop supplying me and the tables turn I end up taking care of them, am I still the child or, as a result of my new actions, become the parent.

Also, this might be a long shot, but it concerns Descartes method by which he used to doubt everything. Okay so he could doubt everything but the fact that he was sitting there thinking of things to doubt. But, if someone had done that in our time, with our technology, could they have been to doubt that too? For instance, in class we discussed how now we could all be lying on a table being poked and made to have these images of everything we are doing and our senses are being manipulated to smell, taste, feel, etc. An example of our discussion today is the upcoming movie Surrogate (just go to Youtube and type it in). But if someone in our time had sat down and doubted everything up until their own existence but realized they could in fact be on a lab table, or have been under one of those 3D helmets for so long that they have forgotten about it, couldn't they in the end ultimately doubt their existence too. Could it be "I think that I am thinking, therefore in this thought I must exist."

I don't know how this all sounds..usually I only make sense to myself...


  1. I think I understand what you are talking about in your first paragraph. I think the main question you are grappling with is that of identity. Do physical facts (such as a woman gives birth to a child) create one's identity (i.e. that woman is a mother). Or do our actions (another woman adopts that child and raises it) determine our identity. In other words, is the second woman the child's "true" mother? Using the example you gave: if you take care of your parents does that make you more parent-like than they?

    The surrogate example was very interesting. It seems to raise the question of whether my body is essential to my identity, or what role my body plays in my identity.

    I think you've pointed out that there are two aspects that immediately jump to mind when thinking of human identity: the physical body and the facts about us (height, race, gender, etc.) versus our mental life and the decisions we make.

  2. Jordan, I too think your example using the movie "The Surrogate" is an interesting one. I often find myself grappling with the question of the body's importance to my identitiy, and existence for that matter, as a human being. If in fact my physical body is intimately tied to my identity, what does that mean for how I treat others? If my body is part of what is essentially me, then it seems plausible that Carol's body is a part of what is essentially her- should I not then concern myself with more than just the intent of my actions but also with their consequences, considering that those consequences could possibly affect Carol in a physical way, thus potentially affecting who she truly is?

    I would like to say that the physical body is part of an individual's identity, just for the simple fact that our ability to reason, that thing that is special about us, depends on the body. For example, when you are tired or sick, it tends to in general reflect itself in some mental manifestation, whether it be making simple mistakes on a math test or being mean to someone out of grouchiness.

    I don't really know if I've done this right, but that post, along with carol's comment gave birth to this thought so I'm putting it here..

  3. I'll try to keep this short, especially since I might be taking this post in a whole new direction, but the special link between the physicality of our bodies and the mentality of our minds baffles me. The very instance in which one can be so mentally sad that his or her stomach wrenches and spasms, eyes relentlessly water, and fists tightly clinch, is only one example of how powerful our minds really are. In fact, based merely on this example, I would venture to say that our minds possess an extreme power over our bodies and that therefore we are in no way limited to the physicality of our nature.

    That said, I, too, agree with Eric, that this instance can also be reversed, so that the body can "reflect itself in some mental manifestation." However, I believe that this reflection of the body's limitation on the mind in no way competes with the mind's awesome power over the body.

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  5. Jordan raises a very interesting aspect at the end of his post, which is about doubting our personal existence. As Jordan explained that Descartes claims " I think therefore I am" theory can be doubted in times influenced by technology. In the story presented, the person is doubting his existence because he has been wearing 3D helmet all his life. Hence, whether he is doubting his existence in a single moment or continuously as Descartes did, does not take away from the fact that he is thinking and doubting therefore he is alive. There is no doubt that the person is thinking, however the story related to his existence and his perception of his own existence's story would be different in reality than through a 3D helmet. Therefore, the concept about his thinking which in turn supports his existence, whether " his existence" is the thought of existing through the 3D helmet or in possible reality, can not be questioned.

  6. Manali said: "whether he is doubting his existence in a single moment or continuously as Descartes did, does not take away from the fact that he is thinking and doubting therefore he is alive."

    I don't think, if we go by Descartes practice of radical doubt, that we can take it as certain without an ounce of doubt that Descartes is thinking or doubting and must therefore exist.

    If Descartes took radical skepticism to its logical extreme, ultimately he'd have to conclude that in the immediate present something appears (in this case "doubt appears or is perceived"). I have to give the philosopher George Santayana credit for this
    critique of Descartes. Santayana calls this moment of instant awareness of something the "solipsism of the present moment."

    To help illustrate this point: it can be doubted whether or not there is a self, since memories are unreliable. Perhaps all we really are is a jumble of ideas and impressions? (David Hume notoriously argued this at one point in time.) Additionally, we definitely could doubt whether or not a past actually existed or not, if we are constantly being deceived by some all-powerful demon. After all, he could be destroying and recreating at every moment and embedding in us false memories of thinking, perceiving, and experiencing). Then our consciousness only extends to smallest possible instant. Instants of awareness don't give us any bedrock for knowledge in the Descartian foundational sense.


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