Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Did ‘The Boy Who Lived’ Truly Live? – Claire

While my Hufflepuff side says no thank you, my inner Gryffindor wants to take on this daunting topic. My inner Ravenclaw just wants some freaking answers; do we exist?

This is such a big, broad question. The easiest place to start would be to define the “self” and make sure we have an understanding of that concept before we can even begin to fathom whether or not our “selves” do indeed exist.

What is the self?

According to Oxford Dictionary, the self is “a person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action.”  Yes, we are made up of cells, but there is more to us than that.  Our thoughts and our actions make make us individuals, and it’s that individuality that separates us from others.

How can we know ourselves?

Once again, with our own personalities, thoughts and feelings, we are able to distinguish ourselves from others. Is it only through others that we can know ourselves, though?  In class, we discussed how we can “know ourselves through how we relate with others,” and through finding “new ways of relating to others.”  That does not entirely mean that we must rely on others to know ourselves, though, or to have our own individuality.  It is our choice essentially to choose how we present ourselves and how we choose to live our lives.

What is the difference between existing and living?

This question here is much more philosophical than scientific. In my opinion the difference between existing and living is how you choose to exist.  Without going into the mind boggling theories of Descartes, we are all humans made up of cells, therefore we all exist.  However, it’s easy enough to go through the motions of life without truly being aware of yourself and others around you –it is that awareness vs your physicality that is the difference between being (existing) and Being (living).  This concept of being vs Being was brought about by German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who challenged the direction that western metaphysics had been set on.  Another way I like to look at it is being a being with a heart and mind (existing) vs Being a being with a soul (living).  In the wise words of Professor Lupin,

“You can exist without your soul…as long as your brain and heart are still working. But you’ll have no sense of self anymore…You’ll just exist. As an empty shell.” – J.K Rowling, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban

Yes.  I just quoted Harry Potter.  No, I have no shame.

Arguably we all have (or don’t have, depending on your beliefs) souls, but thinking of it metaphorically you can have the parts and functions of a human being while choosing to not live your life as an individual.

Philosophy makes my brain feel like this.

So, is it possible to exist but to not live?

Technically, if you are sticking to scientific definitions, no. But for the sake of philosophy (and if you choose to live in the wizarding world) yes, it is in fact possible to exist but not live.


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