Author Archives: Yang Wang

What is a Complex?

Even though I have never taken a psychology class, I am interested in many of their concepts. The idea of a complex in general is defined as a pattern of emotions based around a specific human quality. There is the famous Napoleon complex which states that short people are more envious and harsher towards taller people. I am interested if complexes are naturally within us or if they can change, as a quality such as height can change over a lifetime.

I have not read Freud in depth, but this article presents a strong introduction to his research. It presents his views of the psyche (division of id, ego, and super-ego), and the creation and control of pleasure. One famous theory attributed to Freud is the Oedipus complex, named after the tragic hero of Greek mythology. In the classic play Oedipus Rex, Oedipus unknowingly kills his biological father and marries his biological mother. I’m not sure about Freud’s thought process, but he comes to the conclusion that all males want sex with their mother. He further expands on this by arguing that “the hero of the Oedipus legend too felt guilty for his deeds and submitted himself to self-punishment, although the coercive power of the oracle should have acquitted him of guilt in our judgment and his own” (205). This further makes me question Freud’s philosophy, as this suggests that Oedipus could not help the fact that he had sex with his mother. The morality of his statement hinders my comprehension of his psychology contributions. Any psychology experts want to help me understand Freud’s statements?

Knowledge: Good or Evil?

This is a question I thought about from a while back. During our readings on knowledge, it seemed to me that the ancient philosophers liked to write about how they would educate their citizens in order to reach their ideal worlds, while the Enlightenment philosophers taught about how they believed the process of knowledge works without setting up definitive restrictions of how people should be controlled. For instance, Plato talks about the Myth of the Metals as a means to maintain order in The Republic while Hegel writes about the didactic method of obtaining knowledge. This makes me question as whether knowledge is a means or an ends. Is the use of false knowledge (Myth of Metals) morally corrupt if it accomplishes the goal of a peaceful city? Continue reading

What Creates Sexuality?

John Storey’s book on power presents a new way to think about sexuality. We commonly associate the Victorian age with hypocritical views of sexuality that produced draconian laws, but Storey writes that the Victorians did not repress sexuality, they actually invented it (Cultural Theory and Popular Culture 130). Storey expands on his unorthodox view by explaining how suppression causes creation. Even though the Victorian era produced laws that imposed moral disapproval of certain sexual behaviors, this also created a reverse effect of the suppressed behaviors becoming a subculture of society. Continue reading

Freire on Freedom of Education

When Paulo Freire examines the prevailing education system of his time, he concludes that education is more along the lines of propaganda rather than learning. His paper compares education with how much freedom it gives the student, and he labels traditional education as the “banking” concept. The banking concept is sustained by depositing bits of information into a student’s brain without letting the student question how it works or why it is relevant. Freire argues that any intellectual freedom that academia can offer is crushed by banking education Continue reading

Dewey Education System

In Dewey’s book Experience and Education, he attacks “traditional” and “progressive” education systems as being too restrictive and too relaxed respectively and enlightens the audience about experiential learning. Under experiment based learning, students learn by performing actions and forming hypotheses and testing them. He understands that not all experiences are beneficial, in that “any experience is mis-educative that has the effect of arresting or distorting the growth of further experience” (25). This statement could be interpreted in a few different way. One example of a bad experience is giving children too much freedom in the playground which results in them carelessly injuring their bodies in a way that could traumatize them or result in a permanent defect. Dewey explains his two criteria for effective growth of experience, in that it requires continuity (every experience will have a positive or negative influence) and interaction (how you handle current experiences is based on experiences from the past).

On the topic of experience based learning, I wonder how this system would work for the different subjects that I am taking right now. For example, how would calculus be taught as an experiential class? On some topics I can understand how hands–on experience would benefit my education, such as visually modeling the calculation of the volume of an irregular solid, however, some things taught in calculus are too theoretical to be experienced, such as deriving trigonometric derivatives. Likewise, some sections of this philosophy class can be experienced (a simulation of Plato’s education system in The Republic) while others have much more difficulty in delivering an experience (such as answering identity questions formulated by Kant).

Fake Memories?

GET TO THE CHOP–Whoops wrong movie

In the movie Total Recall (I’m referring to the original 1990 movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, haven’t seen the more recent remake), the main character Douglas Quaid wants to go on a vacation to Mars but he cannot afford to physically transport himself. Instead, he opts to go to a company called Rekall that will allow him to receive a brain implant that makes him believe that he went to Mars.

The rest of this blog will contain unmarked spoilers, so let the reader beware.

During the operation to get the memory transplant, something goes wrong and Doug receives painful shocks. Once he goes home, he sees that what he believed to be his life is all a sham, as his supposed wife is a secret agent working against him. Doug finds a recording from the future that he is a secret agent called Hauser and that he erased his memories in order to protect himself from a conspiracy. Doug goes to Mars to find out more about the conspiracy. Once he arrives, he goes on an adventure that reveals a secret device that can provide breathing air for all the residents, thereby bringing peace among the settlers and the Martian natives. Doug is able to release the device but in the last scene of the movie he asks himself if this was all a dream. Were his efforts to save Mars just a highly sophisticated memory implanted in his brain?

This brings me to the philosophical part of this blog post, where I found a connection between Doug’s memories and Locke’s view of identity. Locke argued that if “consciousness” was maintained by a person, then the identity of the person stays the same. He states the “consciousness can be extended to backwards to any past action or thought”, which means that one is able to recall past memories and actions (335). However, this also exposes one of the holes in Locke’s theory. A famous scenario called the breakfast problem asks that if I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, I was not myself during breakfast time yesterday. In Total Recall, it is not truly known whether Hauser truly existed or if he was a memory implanted into Doug’s brain. If Doug cannot make a distinction between a dream and reality, is he truly himself? I personally believe that Doug’s adventure was a dream and he either woke up or died after the movie ends.

My external source is not related to the movie, but it is a song I have been listening to while writing this blog post. It’s called “Is It Real?” from one of my favorite shows Cowboy Bebop. It ponders on reality and what can be done to prove my existence and whether the world around me is real or just a figment of my imagination.

Education in Forrest Gump

In the movie Forrest Gump, the titular character gets labeled as stupid because he was born with a mental disability. When he goes to register for grade school, his mom has to use her “feminine influence” just so he could get a proper education. Society misunderstands his disability and he gets taken advantage of multiple times throughout the movie. He goes along with his catchphrase “stupid is as stupid does” whenever someone verbally attacks him with a remark reminding him that he has a disability. Even though his book smarts are not very sharp, his street smarts and his friendly personality provide him with what he needs to succeed in life.

Despite the discrimination Forrest faces in the movie, many philosophers would be even more critical towards his mental abilities. In a different historical context, Aristotle would not allow Forrest to live independently in his ideal city. According to Aristotle, Forrest would be considered a “natural slave” who is destined to serve the needs of the intellectuals. He also states that “the citizen should be molded to suit the form of government under which he lives … The character of democracy creates democracy, and the character of oligarchy creates oligarchy” (Politics 1337a). In this case, Forrest Gump would only learn how to be a servant and nothing else. Even though Aristotle generally supported education for all the citizens, women and the mentally disabled were not considered worthy to be taught.

Another interesting thought about Forrest Gump is how he was able to learn street smarts and politeness. In Plato’s Meno, Plato exclaims that education was just a recollection of experiences from past lives (Meno 81d). I wonder what Forrest Gump’s past life would have been if Plato’s theory holds true. Would he have also been mentally disabled in his past life? Did his personality carry over from the experiences of his immortal soul? While Plato’s theory has some holes in it, it does ask important question of how knowledge is obtained. If Forrest Gump could learn despite his disability, it gives me hope that people can change their personalities for the better through experience.Gump

Stupid is as stupid does

Hegel on Identity

Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit explores his views of identity. Like previous philosophers such as Kant and Descartes, he forms his own definition of what identity consists of. He deduces that the first knowledge we obtain is immediate and therefore the attempt to describe its identity is also immediate (90). He defines “sense-certainty” as the genuine feeling that comes from sensory experience. In Hegel’s view, sense-certainty seems to be the most certain form of gaining information because it provides the most truth to the individual. However, he attacks this “certainty” in the next sentence because he knows that out of this certainty, it makes it impossible to determine a deviance from this certainty. From this, Hegel also deduces that “consciousness, for its part, is in this certainty only as a pure ‘I’” (91), which means that the ability of self-consciousness is the purest form of knowing oneself. When you know yourself, you can place qualities on yourself. As you find out about the world around you, the objects in the environment can also contain qualities that you first learned by knowing yourself. He concludes his paragraph that “on the contrary, the thing is, and it is, merely because it is” (91). This statement sounds rather amusing and oversimplified but it provides a thought-provoking idea that the qualities of an object are present and that the reason the qualities are present is irrelevant.

Later in his philosophy paper, Hegel proposes a simple thought experiment to examine if qualities are universal. Suppose it is night time right now and “we write down this truth; a truth cannot lose anything by being written down, any more than it can lose anything through our preserving it. If now, this noon, we look again at the written truth we shall have to say that it has become stale” (95). In this thought experiment, Hegel proves that not every quality is everlasting or universal. Some things we label as qualities are not what someone else would consider. While it may be nighttime right now in this side of the world, it is bright and sunny on the other half of earth. Based on the perspective of the person, the qualities we give to objects around us can be contrary to the qualities based off of a different person’s perspective. Ultimately, this provides some relativism and uncertainty when we set out to define the qualities of the world around us.

Intro to Kant

Immanuel Kant is a complex philosopher to interpret. In his famous work Critique of Pure Reason, he seeks to answer the question of how to approach the act of learning through your senses. Kant likes to make his own words such as “apperception” to describe self-consciousness. He writes that “presentation that can be given prior to all thought is called intuition” (B132). Apperception according to Kant produces self-consciousness by recognizing the individual as a person who can make decisions. This is similar to Rene Descartes’s famous quote “I think, therefore I am” due to their assumptions that a thinking person is alive and is self-conscious of their existence.
Kant also touches on the topic of how the human body obtains knowledge and gains information about the world. He says that “our understanding can only think, and must seek intuition in the senses” (B135). This means that in our brain capacity we can process and interpret information but we get that information through our senses. This makes sense because we first need a source of information (the taste, smell, feel, look, and sounds of our environment) before we can process that information and gain ideas about the environment.
Kant is a difficult philosopher to read, as the introduction warned us. His use of philosophical jargon is difficult to decipher sometimes as it seems like he is making up a new term every line. He critiques pure reason by asking about epistemology (where and how do we obtain knowledge) and recognizes that our senses provide the first way of learning about the world. If our senses are wrong, it would be difficult to provide a proper interpretation of the world that everyone agrees on.

Locke on Identity

John Locke is an English philosopher best known for his idea of natural law. In his work An Essay concerning Human Understanding, he goes on to question the qualities that make up the things we observe. He begins by explaining his own definition of “identity” in respect to time, which he describes as “when we see anything to be in any place in any instant of time, we are sure (be it what it will) that it is that very thing, and not another” (329). Locke expresses here that when we see something (for instance an apple on the table), we are certain that it exists in front of our eyes and not in another place. To continue, he argues that “it follows, that one thing cannot have two beginnings of existence, nor two things one beginning; it being impossible for two things of the same kind to be or exist in the same instant, in the very same place, or one and the same thing in different places” (329). He expands on identity as a single object cannot be in the exact same place as a different object. From here, we can classify and figure out what exists at a certain place at a certain time.

Locke takes his thinking from small objects to the individual. His case for consciousness is intriguing because he presents our five senses as evidence for perception, even though our perception can be blurred. This is important to identity because even though our different senses are considered separate from each other, they combine to make up our body as a whole and thus form our identity.

Lastly, Locke asks an intriguing question about different states of consciousness. He declares, “But is not a man drunk and sober the same person? Why else is he punished for the fact he commits when drunk, though he be never afterwards conscious of it?” (344). This is interesting because while a man who is drunk and the same man while sober are in different states of consciousness, the sober man will have to endure the punishment that his drunk side committed. This could ask a question about how mental patients should be treated. Should split-personality persons face different punishments from persons who are consistently mentally ill?