How much of our identity is actually related to our bloodline? For example, we always hear (or at least I do) “that part is just like your mother/father” from not only my family, but also relatives and acquaintances. Speaking from a biological standpoint, the answer can be varied; much of who we are is dependent on our genes, our so called “blood.” However, much of who we are is also dependent on the environment. Therefore, is it alright to identify someone by their family? And how much of what we decided is decided before we even recognize it?
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Plato talks about eudaimonia. Aristotle discusses practicing virtues as a way to achieve a complete character. Emile formulates an optimal way (in his opinion) to educate children. All philosophers have their unique ideas about particular concepts. However, these ideas share a common theme: identity. Continue reading →
Listening to RadioLab is a regular pastime for me. For those who don’t know, it’s a podcast produced by WNYC and aired by NPR. The informative, somewhat quirky guys on the show mostly discuss topics of science, but laced in is often a comment on philosophy and human experience. It was one of these podcasts, called Famous Tumors, that struck upon our discussions about identity.
There were three segments, but I will be focusing on the last one about Henrietta Lacks. To sum up, scientists had been trying to clone human cells for years for experimentation purposes, but none were successful until they successfully cloned Henrietta’s cells. Continue reading →
I really hate the movie “Avatar” for several reasons. I recognize that it was a landmark in computer generated (CG) movies and that it looked pretty. But I also know that it was a boring story that manipulated emotions to make people root for one side using a combination of white guilt, forced romance, and the seemingly perfect Na’Vis. But, the story-line is something we see in fiction a lot. If you are part of two cultures, where you do you side with?
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Dissociative Identity Disorder is formerly known as “Multiple Identity Disorder”. It exists when one person exhibits different tendencies and reactions to the same situations. My question is, “what is the difference between actors/actresses and people with dissociative identity disorder?” Continue reading →
In many classes I have taken, one topic that is often covered is the cave paintings at Lascaux. I have encountered these in numerous French classes, an anthropology course, and an art history course. They have always been interesting to me because in different classes they are interpreted differently. If you are unfamiliar with the caves and interested in a quick background I found a great page here and it is a pretty short read.
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In the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” queue on my Amazon account (where I bought all of the required texts for this class) there was one one modern looking cover among a lot of Locke, Hume and Plato titled The Ego Trick by Julian Baggini. So I googled the book and found a TED Talk by the author addressing the main idea of his book which is basically that our “self” is not a fixed permanent essence or object that has experiences but rather our “self” is just a collection of experiences.
This idea seemed to fit perfectly with what we are learning in class about identity, in fact it seemed like a good unifying capstone for our discussions so far, so I watched the TED Talk. The speaker gives a comprehensive view of identity according to different philosophers including Locke, Hume, Buddha, and even modern psychologists and neuroscientists. He synthesizes ideas from these respective philosophies (though he takes from buddhism more than anything else) and optimistically concludes that identity or our “true self” is a process which is fluid and forever changing like a waterfall, except it is different from a waterfall because we have the capacity to direct our flow and shape ourselves. So according to Baggini the ship of Theseus paradox with regards to identity is a total nonissue because our identities or our “self” is not an object, which we can expect to be the same from one moment in time to another. So according to Baggini’s ideas, whether you undergo a heart transplant or belief transplant, you are still you and it is silly to worry whether these things changed you or made you fundamentally different because change is the very nature of your identity.
According to Baggini, although this easily understood people do not easily make it work in their own consideration of themselves because it is human nature to think of ourselves as a separate, maybe even tangible, being of experience rather than the sum of our experiences. It is human nature to objectify ourselves. Haha. Still, we shouldn’t fret because even if there is no permanent object of self Baggini maintains that we are not completely powerless and that we have the capacity to direct the development of our self.
“The true self, as it were then, is not something that is just there for you to discover. You don’t sort of look into your soul and find your true self. What you are partly doing at least is actually creating your true self” – Julian Baggini
Sometimes, I feel like identity leads to improper knowledge for people who like or dislike a certain thing. What I mean by this is how people tend to go crazy in saying something like a movie or a person is the best or worst thing ever, just because its identity is classified as such in society or popular culture. For example, everyone hates “Twilight,” “Transformers,” and Justin Bieber. But why? What knowledge can you give that will explain your distaste for these subjects?
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In the novel 1984 by George Orwell, the citizens themselves are turning more into objects than they are humans. The citizens in this dystopia seem to lack what makes humans unique, our consciousness. I believe that having a conscious, but not being able to act on it is far more restricting, as one can recognize oneself not adhering to oneself. As a result, they have become mindless drones.
When Hegel describes sense knowledge as the poorest form of knowledge, he is describing an object. An object that has no conscious, and, therefore, no ability to act by itself. Only others may manipulate it. But, the citizens of the dystopia seem to act in a similar fashion. They are unable to make their own decisions, and can only act in ways that benefit the state. As a result, they have no choice but to adhere to exterior will, similar to how an object can only be moved by an exterior force. The citizens also have their identity given to them. From their job, to their home, the state has complete control over their lives. As a result, they have no room to form a personal identity. Hegel states “All that it says about what it knows is just that it is; and its truth contains nothing but the sheer being of the” (91). The state has somehow created citizens that fit this example. Since they have little personal identity, what they are is simply what they are. They are an entity that exists in this home, that does this function, etc. and that is all that is known of them. Essentially, the state has successfully created a state where citizens are more object than human.
In regards to how the state treats their citizens is not what Hegel would describe as an interaction between two conscious’. In order for self-consciousness to exist, one must recognize the other as a being of conscious. As Hegel states “Self-consciousness exists in and for itself when, and by the fact that, it so exists for another; that is, it exists only in being acknowledged. The Notion of this its Unity in its duplication.”(178) So, since the state does not acknowledge the conscious of its subjects, it has effectively rendered its subjects to have no consciousness to them.
The citizens of this dystopia lead an obviously miserable life. Their destiny is basically pre-determined, and their available actions are limited. As a result, I wonder which is better: To have a conscious but not being able to follow it, or just having no conscious at all.
In discussions about identity, philosophers often mention the influence of others on a self. In our most recent readings about self-consciousness, Hegel says, “Self-consciousness exists in and for itself when, and by the fact that, it so exists for another; that is, it exists only in being acknowledged.” He then goes into a discussion of the interaction between two beings and how the interaction is what makes them fully self-conscious. So if this reaction never existed, what would be the result?
Besides philosophy, this issue is analyzed from a sociological perspective in the cases of feral children. One of the first cases was in 1800 when a boy who had been living in the woods his whole life was discovered Continue reading →