Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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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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Dragons Actually Exist

Before you look at my title and say “this isn’t philosophical” let me tell you….Dragons aren’t philosophical.

But the concept of a dragon’s existence is. While we’re talking about dragons, let’s throw in harpies, shape shifters, sea serpents, and giant birds, since a myth is a myth. How did they all come to be mentioned, in every nation and culture, if those people were oceans apart?

MMM THAT CGI…

Did mythological creatures really exist thousands of years ago?

I SURE HOPE THEY DID.

The thing that piqued my interest on this topic was brought up on the tumblr website, where I saw a text post written by someone who mentioned that, “why does every culture have some version of a fire-breathing lizard that flies, even if those cultures have never had contact with each other before?”, (regrettably I can’t find this post, since it’s been awhile but, if I find it, I’ll link it.) Some of you may think, “ah, yes, WELL, the dinosaurs-,” and will continue scrolling, and the rest of you, who possess imagination and like to have fun, will think “now, you do have a point; how did all these countries end up with a similar idea?” There are many different ways to approach this subject, and one of them is what we talked about a few days ago in class: collective unconsciousness. And no, I am not talking about us all laying on the ground, oblivious to our surroundings. I’m talking about all humans sharing a deep connection to one another, somewhere in the untouched spaces of the mind, that all makes us think or react a certain way. (Check out Samson’s post if you want to know more!)

I’ve always loved dragons, ever since I was a kid. I would draw them on the sides of my tests, scribble them on my walls, buy books about them, play fantasy games. It makes life interesting and exhilarating to think about mysterious beings that could have possibly existed thousands of years ago. Aren’t aliens the same? Little green men and big oval eyes? They could be out there right now, walking around on Tattooine, and we could have no idea.

Just as some kind of analytical technique is needed to understand a dream, so a knowledge of mythology is needed in order to grasp the meaning of a content deriving from the deeper levels of the psyche….

The collective unconscious — so far as we can say anything about it at all — appears to consist of mythological motifs or primordial images, for which reason the myths of all nations are its real exponents. In fact, the whole of mythology could be taken as a sort of projection of the collective unconscious.

We can see this most clearly if we look at the heavenly constellations, which original chaotic forms were organized through the projection of images. This explains the influence of the stars as asserted by astrologers. These influences are nothing but unconscious, introspective perceptions of the activity of the collective unconscious. Just as the constellations were projected into the heavens, similar figures were projected into legends and fairy tales or upon historical persons.

As I mentioned in the above paragraphs, this matter also relates directly with collective unconscious. Possibly in the far, far past, a creature was formed in the crevices of the mind, a figment of the imagination, composed of all the horrible and bad things in the world, and there, the name “monster” was stuck on to it, doomed to walk around the boogey man corner of Halloween town, scaring children forever and ever. If I say the word monster, what comes to mind exactly? Something with sharp teeth, scales possibly and claws, glowing eyes…. a tail. Sound familiar? Yeah.

 

 

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Come Join the Hivemind

(Okay, don’t really.)

So, consciousness and unconsciousness. In theory, we’ve all got one. They’re the defining traits of what makes us who we are, and, in the words of Descartes, “thought exists, it alone cannot be separated from me. I am; I exist,” the idea then, that nothing can be confirmed except ourselves – except the presence of our own thoughts and conscious. That concept then, is that we are alone.

But, we cannot perceive all of our unconscious. For the most part, it’s unknown to us, coming out in the form of passive dreams, hidden desires, and for some, intrusive thoughts that we know we didn’t have. Nobody knows all there is to know about the thoughts they have, no matter how much they may claim they do.

So, if we cannot perceive all of our conscious that lets us Be, then who’s to say that it functions autonomously? What if Descartes was right, that the only thing that can be proven is our own thought. But also, what if our thought was not only ours? Taking a page out of Carl Jung‘s book, what if we shared a collective unconscious?

It’s not a new idea. Archetypes, the concept that the collective unconscious relies on the most heavily, were first mentioned with Plato relating to his Theory of Forms. However, it was Jung who refined the idea the most.

His idea was that we all collectively are aware of archetypes as concepts, and as history and culture move forwards, we experience people and moments that display these archetypes, whether through real or fiction. (In the case of fiction specifically, try The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.)

So, through the collective unconscious and the archetypes within, we see reflections of concepts such as the motherthe devilthe childthe tricksterthe wise old man, and others. While broad terms, they’re seen reflected throughout history and throughout all cultures. These archetypes touch our myths and define the heros of media even today. Play them straight or juxtapose them, but they come out all the same regardless.

A collective unconscious, a shared reality. They’re ideas that have been touched both by Psychologists and Philosophers, due to the very distinct nature of the consciousness and our understanding of ourselves, which makes it a very rewarding topic to broach.

But, how do we prove it?
Can we let it define us?
Are we our own people, let alone capable of originality, if our ideas all come from before?

We might not ever be able to tell, but we might as well ask anyway.

 
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