Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Human, all too Human (BBC Documentary on Sartre, Heidegger, & Nietzsche)

From the good folks at the Open Culture blog:

Human, All Too Human” is a three-hour BBC series from 1999, about the lives and work of Friedrich NietzscheMartin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre.The filmmakers focus heavily on politics and historical context — the Heidegger hour, for example, focuses almost exclusively on his troubling relationship with Nazism.

Beyond Good and Evil, Frederick Nietzsche

Human, All too Human, Martin Heide

 

 

 

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Oscar’s Week Off | A Choice of Self- Inquiry

 

My Plan?

Initially I really did not have a plan, in fact, these past weeks have been mind-clogging and in truth, the entire unit of metaphysics has not embedded a seed of clear understanding in my brain as it should be. Regardless, my plan for my P.D.O. was to go through an uninterrupted period of meditation to answer questions of my own self- an ideal I aspire. While I pondered over my existence and jousted mentally with myself, I found it incredibly difficult to decide on how I should go about my P.D.O. as this ‘day off’ was starting to turn into a week off- this ‘plan’ I had ended up being scrapped.

Upon trying to gather and create options, narrow them down and eventually take action through a process of decision making, I realized that I was doing exactly what I told myself not to do- to overthink and strive for perfection. I had too many options to choose from and while I continued to I agonized over this ‘Day-Off’ I had finally arrived to moment of clarity. I could watch some home videos I had never watched but had just been “shelved”, only for me to visit these digitized VHS tapes fifteen years in the future!

First Inquiries going into P.D.O.

Metaphysical questions. Always present, often never conclusive. After finally deciding what I was going to do going into my P.D.O I generated too many questions to be comfortable with answering; most of which subsided into my sub-conscious mind and never made it out alive onto this web-page. In any case, here is a handful of questions I gathered going into my P.D.O:

  • How is my mind and body actively contributing to each and every choice I make?
  • Are the choices I’m making actively making me grow in the mental essence? In the physical essence?
  • As I believe in free-will, at what extent am I living the best version of myself? How do I know the choices I am making are contributing to the unveiling of my best ‘self’ version? 

As these questions continued to expand, I questioned whether I was or was not living an optimal version of myself during the course of my ‘day off’ or whether my choice to sit down and view “ancient” home videos was to bring the best e-motions (literal energy motions) within me; emotions that could prompt me to seek more questions about self-knowledge.

What Actually Happened:

Everything actually worked out pretty nicely despite my indecisiveness that prolonged throughout the week. I sat down at around mid-night, uninterrupted on a Friday night where I rolled back the tape (literally, well maybe not because it was digitized) and took three solid hours to be left mesmerized by my existence throughout 1999-2003. These years fabricated the detachment from my own existence where my existence preceded my essence. Essentially, these years marked the transition between the mechanisms of a being and a Being. In hindsight, the year 2003 marked the beginning of my essence in which viewing these videos prompted me to think how much I actually knew of myself? If memory does support the bundle theory, than my past is simply a mere conjunction of qualities and not a substance- what would be of myself if my own memory was suddenly withdrawn from my physical essence?

Suddenly, I found myself choosing to take a path of self-inquiry; I was striving to seek answers to strengthen the knowledge of my own self based on past and present but not future.The American/English philosopher Stuart Hampshire’s argues that the question, ‘Who am I?’ requires a person to engage in a process of rational, reflective detachment from the first-person point of view. In direct correlation to this statement, viewing a periodic video of myself that took place at the beginning of my life states that I could now pursue my aspirations- to be more self-knowledgeable. Being self-knowledgeable in my views, lays on the foundation of every choice and action you make because that is the only realistic or “action-based” way to go about ‘things’; when thoughts and choices formulated within the mind can be expressed in the physical, spacial world.

 

Remaining Questions? Artefact?

Now that this blog is quite literally giving me a headache I’d like to introduce my artefact. I found the original VHS tapes laying somewhere in the depths of my basement. Each tape, essentially being a consequential chapter in my mind, can be rolled back and ‘fast-forwarded’ much like my brain can do within my own memories. I may wish to roll the tape back or fast-forward towards any point in my life but never in the future, for that would require the creation or introduction of another new VHS tape.

In short, none of my questions were answered but I only formulated more doubts and reasons to comfort myself because metaphysics has just clogged my mind with the nature of ‘things’ being too complex to discuss.

Image result for vhs tape

As this post is beginning to become somewhat of a headache, I’d like to state my remaining questions as follows:

  • What is the bridge between freedom of choice and self-awareness? How are they linked together?
  •  How is ‘reflective self-detachment’ possible in our day-to-day lives? Is this only possible through travelling through memories (in the mind, through pictures or videos?) and through lucid dreaming?
  • What kind of power can “successful” reflective self-inquiry bring upon our lives? Would we be able to make the ‘best’ and right choices without much doubt?

Questions I will try to never answer but will always want to answer…

 

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Somewhat-not-really-like -15%-Eureka moment By Ashlee

Going into my “Phil’s Day Off”, a lot of my questions such as, “Do all our decisions rely on determination?” or “does free will exist?” (Basically any sentences that ended with a question mark in my first metaphysics post) were still left unanswered. However, one of the major questions I decided to orbit around was, “Is it at all possible to go against determinism, if that is the superior state?”

I’m desperately hoping that I am not the only one going into Phil’s Day Off blindly lost as to how I could prove anything. It’s not a huge surprise that the question still applies, but on the bright side, I can now (sort of) say with confidence that I know where I stand in the argument of determinism vs. free will (around 65% sure!). Instead of using my time on Phil’s Day off to have quiet time to myself, I came up with an experience that would guide me in proving the topic I was striving to understand, which eventually lead me in thinking for hours.I decided to rely most of my decisions for the first half of my Phil’s Day Off on a coin flip. I would ask questions I would usually leave myself to answer on the coin; I believed that this act would result in me being solely dependent on an external factor. This would mean that I am going completely against what I was determined to do by making the most random choice…but did it?

I spent the whole day making decisions mostly dependent on my coin. I use the word, “dependent” here as there were many inquiries that arose on way.  Some examples of the questions I made through my coin:

  • Should I go get ice-cream?
  • Should I continue studying for my law test, or take a 30 minute break?
  • Should I take a bath?
  • Should I floss tonight?
  • Should I go to work, or call in sick (I was pretty sick)
  • Should I go to McDonald’s with my friend at 2 AM?

After a couple of rounds of asking the coin a question, I decided that there was a huge flaw in such hypothesis; was I really asking the coin, or was this whole experiment a hoax in disguise? This experiment wasn’t proving much and here is why:

  • I still held authority to the questions being asked. For instance, I wouldn’t casually ask, “Should I commit genocide?” and even if I did, I would never carry out such act, no matter what the coin said
  • My answers may have been dependent on the coin, but it was ultimately me who chose to do a coin flip in the first place
  • For some questions, I flipped until the answer was something I wanted it to be, for instance, for “should I go get McDonald’s with my friend at 2 AM” (because she was nagging me), I flipped until I got a, “no” because I was tired. This means that even the coin flip, which seems like the most random and dependent source of decision, has room for personal input

The second inquiry I obtained during my confusing journey of metaphysics was what lead me to solidify previous thoughts. I still believed to have the ability to influence my decisions greatly; so what was controlling my decisions that I could prove? From where I stand today, the most I could validate, were my morals and emotions.

The single strongest reason holding me back from supporting the theory of determinism was my value towards morality. Believing that human impulses reply on the world, where all decisions are determined would instantly abolish any form of responsibility anyone has for their actions (or words). To make this more clear, even a murderer would technically be able to justify their crime by saying that they were determined to do so with the power of the universe. Determinism would have to mean that the universe holds no distinction between what we label to be, “evil” or “good”, but everything is solely dependant on fate. By supporting such theory I would automatically disapprove all existing morals of mine; I could no longer be authoritative over my own values.

There also exists that my feeling of freedom was too strong to be unnoticed; the science aspect of myself believes that my brain receives signals to control my muscles into carrying out physical actions, but the feeling of my mind overpowering my entire self is superior over the thought of something else possibly being in charge of it.

There were many situations and ideas that simply stumped me, including my friend Ben (second shout out!) asking, “If a child was raised, being brainwashed by his/her parents, and that specific environment caused him/her to make certain decisions, would such situation still be accountable for the concept of free will?” This one still makes me think, and I’m sure there are still many questions out there that will cause me to ponder. My answer to this very question is that, being brainwashed by an environment in adolescent years are minimising the amount of choices available, and there are still room for personal input (in most examples I am imagining now, may not be the case for all). As this can lead to a sensitive area for many with such ease, I won’t extend it, but my answer is that with the amount of situations that can exist, there are also an infinite amount of probabilities.

Going back to my original question of the possibility of contradicting to determinism, is impossible to answer objectively. Although I can now prove that my hope for the existence of free will derives from my morals; they are both justifications for each other’s existence. My morals could not exist without true ownership, which also cannot exist without my personal authority into thinking so. My Phil’s Day Off wasn’t consisted with a continuous chain of epiphanies, but it did lead me into having a solid opinion on my own beliefs of our freedom.

p.s. Apparently I can’t attach a photo of my special coin because the file is too big?

 

 

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If your friend jumped off a bridge would you jump too? Apparently.

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So my metaphysics topic was originally fight, flight, freeze reflexes in general but after the first blog post and the discussions based on those I kind of narrowed it down to if we are able to control those panic responses (determinism and free will with a good helping of biology). For my Phils Day Off, Matt and I went bungee jumping in Whistler. Thanks to Mr Jackson we were able to get a sweet deal and overall the day was pretty unforgettable.

Going into Phil’s’ Day Off my question was mainly ‘Can you use willpower to control a panic response?’ and I was going to test this by literally just jumping off a bridge. I wanted to see if the effects of a panic response could be lessened by using relaxation strategies recommended by psychiatrists such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation (Tensing and relaxing muscle groups one at a time). The day went pretty much according to plan (if you could really say there was a plan) Matt and I did the jump, tried to use various strategies to control panic, and also had just a lot of fun.

From conducting this experiment I found a number of things which included, but are not limited to:

  • The most effective way to overcome the panic response was to just jump as the panic didn’t really subside until the bottom of the jump. I was shaking pretty intensely while standing on the bridge and the progressive muscle relaxation didn’t really do anything to change that.
  • Although I had very high levels of anxiety regarding the jump, the reality of doing the jump didn’t really sink in until standing on the bridge, hooked into the harness and rope, being told what to do at the end of the jump, until then it seemed as though I could still back out if I really wanted to but after getting into the harness it felt as though I had given up the freedom to back out.
  • The worst section of the panic (for me at least) wasn’t right before the jump but rather during the first free fall and that was a very intense panic with a very real fight, flight, freeze reaction (I froze, also screamed)
  • Higher levels of adrenaline may factor into this but after the worst of the jump I was like, ridiculously happy and amped up and I felt very alive.
  • Essentially, I could control the circumstances that lead to the panic response (Not jumped, jumped forward not backward, closed my eyes, etc…) but the actual panic response was an uncontrollable thing where my higher functioning and “reasonable” brain shut down and my base survival instincts were left.
    • Due to this I don’t have a very clear memory of the jump but I do remember some things and I have pictures and video of the event.

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I was also pretty interested in how personal history factors into panic responses, I go rock climbing fairly often so heights aren’t really a problem for me but in rock climbing the descent is always a very controlled thing and I’ve never been in the position of having to fall long distances. On the other hand, Matt has taken plenty of falls so while we both had plenty of anxiety about the jump we approached the same jump with different viewpoints. We did end up jumping differently, Matt faced off the bridge when he jumped and I faced the bridge when I jumped. Kind of going hand in hand with this, both of us screamed/swore during the fall but I started screaming as soon as my feet left the platform and Matt only swore once he was falling faster than he had ever fallen before. Matt also seemed more eager to do the jump but possibly not less anxious than I was. I could probably put this down to his prior experience with thrill seeking and how the highest thing I’ve ever jumped off of is like, the top of the bouldering wall at my gym (a solid less-than-one-eighth of the height of the bridge). So I would say yes, personal history factors into how panic responses affect you. If you consider a panic response (or at least the lead up to one) as your subconscious detecting a danger to your life and telling your body to freak out then people who can suppress a panic response are either REALLY bad at detecting dangers to life or have a very strong rational brain that can tell the subconscious to chill.

So basically bungee jumping was a really fun and terrifying way to experiment with willpower and panic responses and here’s a link to the pictures that got taken of Matt and my jumps.

 

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Stealing your man on the astral plane- Benedict Mendes

So, over the weekend for my “Phil’s Day Off”, I attempted to astral project and, boy, was it a strange experience.

 

Before I go into the details of what happened, let’s start with question I had going in to the attempted astral projection.

1.) Would I even manage to do it?

2.) If I did manage to achieve astral projection, what would I do once in that state?

3.) What would it feel like? What sensations would be involved leading up to and during?

We’ll come back to those later.

My initial plan was to meditate on both Saturday and Sunday for 90 minutes. I would set an alarm for 90 minutes (a relatively quiet one so that I would not be “shocked” out my “astral state”) and lay down on my back on my bed and proceed to try and concentrate enough to achieve astral projection. Sounds wild, right? Well that’s not quite exactly how it went down.

What happened was that I was only able to meditate on Sunday, as I was unexpectedly busy on Saturday. I started by setting an alarm for 90 minutes, then I lay down and proceeded to meditate on my bed, with my eyes closed. Now, I hear some of you typing “So you literally just napped for your Phil’s Day Off” and while it may seem similar, what I did was not napping my good fellows. The goal was to keep the mind alert whilst the body “slept”, inducing the separation of soul from body. I repeated a kind of mantra to myself, it’s a recommended thing to do, to keep myself focused. The “mantra” in question was “I will have a lucid out of body experience”, it’s important to be entirely focused on the goal of the meditation/exercise. Now, I’m going to say right now that I did not manage to actually astral project, but the experience was still odd and unlike anything I’ve experienced before and some interesting things happened.

For starters, for the entire 90 minutes I laid still, my arms were at my side for that whole time. However, for most of the activity, after I got further into the meditation, it felt like my hands were clasped on my chest, one on top the other, it was an odd dissociation of reality and mind, that may potentially not mean much but it’s worth mentioning. Next, when getting close to a state of astral projection, one is supposed to experience “vibrations”. These “vibrations” were mentioned in almost everything I read about astral projection, but were never really explained in detail, it just said that if you were experiencing them it meant that you were getting close. The reason I mention this is because, when I got deep into a meditative state, I began to feel as if something was separating from me. It’s a very difficult thing to describe, which is probably why it’s only vaguely talked about in most articles. The closest thing I can think of to compare it to are sculptures that are optical illusions. The kind of sculptures that initially just look like a bunch of random, unplanned pieces stuck together, but when you look at them from just the correct angle it reveals a cohesive thing or picture. It felt like I was rapidly shifting between the “random pieces” state and the “cohesive thing” state, if that makes any sense at all. I can see why it’s described as vibrations, it’s rapid back and forth and in-between and it’s a very strange feeling. Whenever this started to happen I was acutely aware of it, but soon after it started every time panic would well up in my stomach causing the feeling to dissipate. You’re supposed to be in a completely relaxed state when astral projection, so maybe I wasn’t the best person to attempt it. But nonetheless I carried on and this happened several times. Accompanying these “vibrations” were sounds, a vague low buzzing in my ears, what that has to do with astral projection I don’t know, but it happened.

For the entire exercise my eyes were completely closed, but there were several times when I could physically feel my eyes were closed, but it seemed like they were opening and I began to see the room in detail. Once again, whenever this happened there was a spike of panic and it went away, leaving me to see black once again, but it certainly happened, unless my senses have tricked me, but that’s another metaphysical topic that I won’t delve into. In terms of how long it felt I was meditating for, it felt like I had only meditated for about 30 minutes before the alarm went off. It was strange, I felt like I had so much more time to go yet upon looking at the clock it was obvious that the full amount of time had passed. As a whole, it was a really interesting and enticing experience.

 

Now, my findings were, well, few and far between. If we go back to the initial questions I had, we can answer some of them.

1.) Would I even manage to do it?

As far as I could tell, I did not manage to astral project.

2.) If I did manage to achieve astral projection, what would I do once in that state?

This question is irrelevant as I did not astral project.

3.) What would it feel like? What sensations would be involved leading up to and during?

Leading up to what may have been the state of astral projection, there were “vibrations”, odd experiences with sight and body, and a low buzzing noise.

But that seems like not enough information, and after the exercise I have even more questions.

4.) How does astral projection or the lead up to it affect time, or one’s perception of it?

If we go off what I felt it was whilst meditating, we could say that time goes faster, but it can’t be proven since I didn’t achieve the end goal of astral projecting. For now it’s just a vague theory.

5.) Are there sub-categories within the self? For example, can the mind have different components to it?

This question is because of the “vibrations” I experienced and the assumption that astral projection is based off of, which is that the soul can operate outside the body. Are there different, small components of each part of the self, “mini selves” if you will, that play a large part in a process like this? Like, if there is a soul what are the components of it?

I am still enamored with the concept of astral projection, although I didn’t manage to make it happen in this case. I want to look into it further, and it will be something I’ll probably do on my own time. Maybe I’ll get some answers to these questions.

For my artifact I chose an amethyst crystal that I’ve had for a long time. In some of the more spiritual and one could say “hippie” articles I read, quartz crystals can help speed up the vibrations leading to astral projection and protect your vulnerable body while you are in that state. Amethyst is a kind of quartz, and I chose this because it is an artifact that relates closely to the subject of astral projection, and by mere coincidence it was on my bedside table, right next to me as I was meditating. Whether or not that helped me experience the “vibrations” that I did is not strictly provable, but it represents my attempt to astral project and the experiences I had whilst doing so.

That’s pretty much it for my thoughts and research on astral projection, remember guys, stay safe and always use a quartz crystal! (Also if you come across Dormammu I wouldn’t recommend striking up a conversation, fair warning)

Sources: http://uk.iacworld.org/how-to-astral-project-for-beginners/

10 effective techniques for experiencing an OBE

 

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Consciousness?

Consciousness.

Everyone knows this word, but who REALLY knows what it means? What is a conscious? Where are they from? Why are some people seemingly missing one?

The literal term of ‘consciousness’ is the state of being awake and aware of one’s surroundings. It is often associated with  sentience, awareness, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of self-hood, and the executive control system of the mind.

 

1. What is the self?

2. What is the function of consciousness? What are experiences for?

Researchers have now discovered that many cognitive functions can take place in the absence of consciousness. We can perceive objects, make decisions, and even perform apparently voluntary actions without consciousness intervening. One possibility stands out: consciousness integrates information. According to this view, each of our experiences rules out an enormous number of alternative possibilities, and in doing so generates an incredibly large amount of information. I personally think this answer is going to be different for everyone, but isn’t that the entire point of consciousness? It’s like a mini you, one who reminds you your right and wrong, the one who reminds you of your opinions and experiences, and how those things have shaped how your conscious. My personal belief on this topic is that the function or purpose of a consciousness, and our experiences shaping it, is to learn. To improve and reflect upon.

 

3. What are the critical brain regions for consciousness?

The brain contains about 90 billion neurons, and about a thousand times more connections between them.

But consciousness isn’t just about having a large number of neurons. For instance, the cerebellum, which contains over half the neurons in the brain, doesn’t seem much involved. We now think that consciousness depends primarily on a specific network of regions in the cortex (the wrinkled surface of the brain) and the thalamus (a walnut-sized structure buried deep in the interior). Some of these regions are important for determining the level of consciousness (the difference between waking and dreamless sleep) while others are involved in shaping conscious content (the specific qualities of any given experience).

 

As for how some of the well known Philosophers have perceived consciousness, please watch this short video with a brief explanation of each.

 

 

What I know right now is a slightly embarrassing question in itself, I am full of questions and confusion. As far as I know, I am here, my conscious and I, living, and existing. I would love to hear some sort of explanation on how we got here, what we are here for, and how our conscious was created in the first place. It brings me to the infamous, ‘nature vs. nurture’ debate, I am asking myself whether or not these are innate ideas we have been born into, or whether or not this conscious is an acquired capability.

 

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“Do you believe in destiny?” by Ashlee

A conversation I had with a friend, he asked, “you guys seem to be perfect for each other, do you believe in destiny?” I recall debating the question and factoring out all probabilities before answering, “Yes”; but does that lead to a conclusion that humans aren’t free? Are we not capable of truly making our own decisions? Are even the most impulsive or random choices destined to be? If we don’t have free will, why are we here? After pondering those issues, I decided that in order to justify my existence and purpose, I should believe in free will, but does that mean I am just being cowardly of the potential existence of determinism?

So, what is determinism? Determinism, a noun, the principle that all events, including human action, are in the end, determined by causes external to the will. Some philosophers have even gone to the extent of taking determinism to imply that human beings have no free will, therefore, cannot be held morally responsible for their actions. Such definition that the concept of determinism concludes to the idea of humans living with an absence of freedom, or that they can’t be hold accountable for their actions leads me to ponder the question: “Are humans ever free?”

The Libertarian free will is the conviction of human actions being freely chosen, and truly free actions will necessitate options so that there are other potential chances of probability. The belief concludes that decisions aren’t necessarily caused by anything that happened before it, but solely is the result of non-physical events. This means that all our choices are based on our impulses and there is no external factor or a prophecy that can factor into that.  After looking more into a libertarian’s views on free will, they validate their point with the distinction between event causation and agent causation. Event causation is the argument that no physical event can occur without being caused by a prior event, while agent causation is the belief of a being starting a whole chain of causality, with no other causes.

On the other hand, I perceive determinism to be linked with reductionism greatly; reductionism is the view that all parts of the world, and of our own experience, can be traced back/reduced down to one singular thing. If this is the case, then moving backwards, it could define that everything is the inevitable result of what came before including our actions.

The main reasons drawing me back from hopping onto the idea of determinism completely, is that the concept of determinism would validate any actions committed, including those classified to be wrongful. Can a murder argue that they were determined to kill the victim and that the universe disregards the good and evil, and that such action was meant to be? Another reasoning that many libertarians seem to argue is that it’s nearly impossible to disregard the feeling of freedom entirely; if we feel free, we should consider the likelihood that we are. So are decisions and circumstances purely a result of belief, desire and temperament leading to an action, or is it just, “meant to be”?

 

Still being unsure whether I hold any authority to my decisions, it’s hard to ignore the concept of determinism if it attacks the purpose of my existence. I still cannot answer any questions I have asked above, nor do I know why we are here. Although after doing much research, it’s evident that my morals are what’s drawing me away from determinism, and that deep down it generates fear of my existence being upon something or someone else’s superiority.

 

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“Mom, Dad…… I’m an astral projection” -Benedict Mendes

So, on Thursday we had our class discussions with several different people about our topics, and there is infinite variety between all of us. I’m fascinated by how many possible things you could go into under the umbrella of metaphysics, but for now I’ll just talk about what new ideas were revealed to me that are related to astral projection.

 

First, one of the questions I got a lot as I was discussing was “what do you appear as on the astral plane?”.

I did not, and still do not, really have an answer. Some sources say that you simply appear as your physical self appears, others say that you appear as a kind of “ideal” form of yourself, what you want to strive to be. This is an interesting question and something I definitely want to look into. I’ve always assumed you simply appear as your physical self except that you are allowed to transcend the barriers that your physical form presents. But I have to do more looking into this.

 

Another discussion I had was whether astral projections were related to dreams or not. This is very interesting and kind of a vague area. See, dreams can sometimes be said to be involuntary OBEs (out of body experiences), and since astral projecting is simply a conscious OBE then there must be some kind of relation, although of what nature I don’t know. To me, it seems that they cannot be classified under the same umbrella, because if they were in fact quite that similar, then lucid dreaming would be equivalent to astral projecting, but it is not. In a lucid dream you are able to do whatever you wish, including things that are not possible such as growing wings and flying. Astral projection is still bound by some kinds of laws, and you are not free to do whatever you wish. It takes a great deal of concentration to maintain an astral projection but dreaming is involuntary, they happen whether you control them or not and can be lucid or not, there are many more variables. They may be similar, but I don’t think that they’re quite the same.

 

The last kind of thing I wanted to touch on was “Can you be hurt on the astral plane?” and “What is the interaction between the astral plane and the physical plane?”. Well, for the former, during astral projection you are supposedly able to interact with other astral beings, much like two physical beings would interact in the physical world. Also supposedly, if your soul were to be eradicated in some way during astral projection, you would die. So if somehow you were to get into an altercation with an otherworldly being on the astral plane and lose, presumably you could just die on the physical plane as well. Now, in terms of interaction between the physical and astral planes, from what I’ve seen it takes a great amount of force from a being on the astral plane to interact with the physical world. Say, if I, during astral projection, were to barrel across a classroom at as high a speed as I could muster, I would probably only make a few papers fly around, kind of like a poltergeist. This was also discussed in my previous blog post. While astral projecting it is also said that you are able to alter and manipulate the thoughts of others, though how that is done I’m not sure. But this does imply some kind of interaction with the physical world, or maybe even interaction between the “souls” of two people.

But that’s basically what I discussed with my classmates, and I would’ve loved to talk much more but even though time isn’t real it still kinda dictates how long the school day is so kinda got hecked there. Tune in next blog post where I literally try to astral project myself into the ether.

 

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Two Minds to Create a One (ish) Self

Who am I? That’s a difficult question. An easier one would be “what am I made of,” to which I may reply with a list of eleven elements which make up a body, a sentient structure which has three times more cells than there are stars in the Milky Way. But even this is a difficult question, seeing as my cells are constantly splitting and dying, and can live on without me if they are to be transported into another’s body.

Let us then abandon this question and return to the first. “Who am I?” or “what is the self?” I know I am a thing that thinks, and that I exist while I am thinking. The thinking part of my existence may be called the Mind, which can be split into two parts: the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. The conscious mind gets a lot of recognition for being the self, seeing as it is the source of everything that a person can control and be aware of in their mind, but the subconscious mind tends to be almost entirely overlooked in this matter. I think that the self lies more subconscious than anyone is willing to admit. The conscious mind can change day by day and moment by moment, but the subconscious mind is much more slow to change, and remains relatively constant. External interaction (experiences with people/environment/things) has a great effect on the conscious mind, and memories of these events will help create both a conscious and subconscious reaction to anything associated to that experience again. Conscious reactions are usually logic-based, whereas subconscious reactions are usually feelings triggered by association with a past experience. That would make PTSD an intensely negative form of subconscious reaction. Intense stress is one of the only things that can cause long-lasting or permeant significant change to the subconscious mind in a relatively short period of time.

Stress and negative experiences also affect memories, particularly repressed or forgotten ones. Memories are often repressed or altered if they are extremely traumatic to the person. When the memory is repressed, it is hidden away from the conscious mind by the subconscious mind, and the conscious mind goes on as if nothing has happened, even though the subconscious mind knows full well what went down. Memory alteration occurs when aspects of a memory is altered by the mind. This is usually a product of low level repression, and usually takes the form of nostalgia. The guy who hated High School may recall the torturous four years a decade later and say that it wasn’t so bad because he had lost the specifics of the negative emotions and experiences that he had hoped to forget, (and had moved past years ago) and would therefore be unable to recall properly what his High School experience had actually been like. When recalling the experience he will only have an handful of memories to draw conclusions from (most of the ones kept being not-so-bad ones), so he would most likely think of High School as a place where only not-so-bad, or even good memories were made. Hence the alteration of memory resulting in nostalgia.

Since the subconscious holds on to many memories that the conscious mind throws away, and since it stays so consistent over time, I might say that it is the glue that holds the self together. If the conscious mind changes for a short period of time, it may affect the memories being produced, causing a slight change in the unconscious mind, but the reactions of the unconscious mind affect the conscious mind much more than the other way around. Still, the unconscious mind is hardly recognized for this influence.

This entire thing has been rather focussed on the immaterial, and now I’m just itching to talk about brains. Throughout this document I have referred to the conscious and unconscious mind as if they were cooperative, yet separate beings. This has been inspired by an interesting epilepsy treatment which involves the severance of the corpus callosum. The corpus callosum is the largest of the bundles of axons, or commissures, that connect the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and help them communicate and stay on the same page. Since the severing of the corpus callosum appeared to have little to no effect on the cats and monkeys which had been tested on, neurosurgeons got the idea to use it to ease the suffering of patients with severe epilepsy. Read More

 

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Descartes’ Meditations: is there any wiggle room? Ft. his ‘cogito’ (II, I think therefore I am) and his ontology (III, god is real because I conceive it so)

Descartes impacted skepticism (with reference to metaphysics) with the subtle grace of the meteorite that (admittedly allegedly) knocked down the dinosaurs’ door.

The smirk

Skepticism: “the philosophical position that one should refrain from making truth claims, and avoid the postulation of final truths.” (thanks, philosophybasics.com!)

If the breadth of human knowledge and reasoning is a forest, Descartes was enthralled by the idea that he must find which trees cannot be cut down, before he ascends up the branches to look for ultimate truth. To check each tree is a monumental undertaking, so Descartes chose a simpler way: burn the forest down. The trees left standing after the cleansing would be the only pillars for his quest.

Through three arguments, Descartes (as we learned in recent class discussions) threw out all knowledge.

His first, the sense argument, creates doubt in our empirical observations by proving that our senses deceive us.

His second, the dream argument, shakes even the most concrete assumptions we make of reality – if this life is a waking dream then perhaps the world doesn’t exist at all.

His third, the evil demon argument, attacks the final bastion of human knowledge remaining, our reasoning. Even seemingly cohesive systems of logic such as mathematics could actually be false ideas planted inside of our heads by a deceiver.

Eventually, Descartes ends up arriving at ‘cogito ergo sum,‘ which we know to translate to ‘I think, therefore I am.’ His one, unalienable truth is that as long as a thing ponders its own existence, then it exists.

T

Pourchista, in class, mentioned that Descartes is comforting – personally, I am still grappling with the stark void that Descartes presents. Indeed, that struggle is going to be the basis of my metaphysical inquiry. Over the next two weeks, I will be attacking Descartes’ arguments individually, looking for gaps. Then, I’ll be attacking his ‘cogito’, and lastly his ontological argument, which I will hint at the very bottom of this post.

It is incredibly improbable I will find any gaps or holes that I can exploit in the logic of Rene Descartes. He has been forged from the relentless pressure of countless human scholars, historians, thinkers and critics for hundreds of years. However, I am confident that the exploration of his work will yield a greater understanding of his thought, and perhaps bring me a little closer to Pourchista’s level.

Thanks for reading this far, since you made it Descartes has an infuriatingly simple conundrum for you to smash your head against: God exists!

  1. I have an idea of supremely perfect being, i.e. a being having all perfections.
  2. Necessary existence is a perfection.
  3. Therefore, a supremely perfect being exists.

This is rooted in Descartes philosophical viewpoint that a thing must spring forth from something else that contains the totality of it. Ideas are included in that statement. Therefore, the very fact that one can perceive and conceptualize an all-powerful, perfect God, means that it must exist. Where else would the idea spring from if not from its own existence?

I love hating Descartes. See you next time.

 
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