(Sorry, the sound is a bit off from the video in the clip.)
Thursday, March 29, 2012
(Sorry, the sound is a bit off from the video in the clip.)
Monday, March 26, 2012
Warning: comic contains mild drug-related themes
The game show host takes the position that the mind is an entity separate from the body while the contestant argues that the mind has a physical basis. In a sense, the host approaches the subject more philosophically while the contestant approaches it purely scientifically. Each character makes some good points, but ultimately I'm inclined to agree with the contestant. Just because we cannot yet fathom the physical mechanisms behind complex neural activities doesn't mean we should accept speculation to fill in our gaps in knowledge.
According to the host, the mind must be separate because we have no way of measuring thoughts on an absolutely objective level (i.e., can't record songs that play in our heads or look at the mental images of someone else). We might be able to do these things some day though. Technology from the clip of Strange Days that we saw might not be so far off. Neurobiologists make discoveries to help elucidate the functions of the brain frequently, see this article. We know how the brain functions on a basic level: with chemical and electrical synapses, neurotransmitters, action potentials, etc. The current challenge lies in figuring out how more complex functions occur. As the contestant from the game show comic points out, it's logical to operate under the current hypothesis that the culmination of our micro neural activity is the basis of more complex functions. The mind is only separated from the body as much as our nervous systems are separated from the rest of our body systems.
Practically, this distinction is only a matter of semantics; we must consider humans as an elaborate organic machine. All of our parts and functions are interconnected. As pointed out in the comic, drugs can alter one's state of mind. Consider for instance someone with an attention deficit disorder. They can be treated so that their mind functions more similarly to the rest of us. Drugs make a good argument for the connectivity of mind and body.
Well, that's a lot of fancy talk, but what does it actually mean? It means a situation like the one in Freaky Friday can't actually happen, sorry. Humans don't exist as distinct minds and bodies. My conclusion is based mostly on biology and scientific reasoning. Of course, maybe I'm biased towards a scientific perspective due to Francis Bacon's four idols, limiting the merit of this whole response (whoa, meta).
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Saturday, March 24, 2012
How do we know that what we have discovered is, in fact, the truth? If what we discover is the ultimate truth, how can we possibly know that it is the end all be all of existence? Then, even if we do know that this is the case, how can one really accept this as the truth? I find it far more likely that even if this discovery were to be believe true, the skeptical side of humanity would desire to discover an even greater truth.
As such, to me it seems inevitable that we would fall into a situation much like Plato's cave in mentality. Even if we have somehow managed to turn around and see that undeniable truth, we will inherently desire to find the truth behind that truth. This would then continue on and on, purely due to the nature of human curiosity.
So as an answer to the question raised in class, I feel that no matter how blatantly we may stare the truth in the face, human nature itself will prevent us from being completely accepting. Thus, what we will do if we manage to discover the truth is simply aim for the NEXT, or even greater, truth.
I am interested in seeing other people's opinions and thoughts on this question, so please respond.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Socrates is the center of attention in chapter 1, and more importantly they are concerned with Socrates’ trial and inevitable execution. It is important to remember that the story of Socrates is told by Plato because Socrates didn’t believe the written word could defend itself. It is important to remember this because it tends to be one of those “fun facts” that find their way onto tests.
In this instance Socrates, according to Plato (cough, cough), has just been sentenced to death by the Athenian courts. Another “fun fact” is that at the time exile from Athens was an accepted unofficial alternative to the courts punishment. Socrates’ friends had made ready his escape, and in true Socrates form he was making it harder for everyone than it needed to be. Rather than making his escape to freedom Socrates constructed three arguments why he should adhere to the courts decisions, and inevitably committed a voluntarily suicide/martyrdom. Depending on how you look at it Socrates was either the greatest fool or greatest patriot of all time.
Now before reviewing Socrates three arguments you should probably understand why these arguments are important. The book will tell you that these arguments where influential for Thomas Hobbs and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, however, hopefully at this point in your college career you have grown weary of name dropping. If name dropping is insufficient for you then you will probably have to put in some extra thought about “why” Socrates arguments are so important. Personally I liken it to the maintenance crew that makes sure the foundation doesn’t crack on a large bridge.
Plato’s three arguments-
1. The Argument about Destroying the state (hint – it wasn’t even that good in his time)
“If the laws of a city are meaningless, then, indeed, the city cannot survive.”
2. The Analogy between the state and One’s Parents (Closer but still not there)
“”…You are even more bound to respect and placate the anger of your country then your father’s anger?”
3. The Argument from the Social contract (this is the one you need, can’t think of any more subtle way of saying that)
If you don’t know this argument, go to the text book pg. 6
Questions derived from this chapter to think about-
Lead in arguments for the power, or lack thereof, non-corporeal concepts such as “Law” or “Justice.”
Easily discuss of if social construction is what places man above beast.
Is it ethical to die for what you believe in?
Films working with some of these questions-
The Fugitive (book mentions this one)
A few good men
Well I am drawing blanks at the moment so I am going to get some coffee, and start writing for chapter 2. I really hope that people will add to this review, and get a nice study guide for the class on the blog.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
A warning: This video is seriously disturbing and contains violence and body horror. Thank you for your time.
David Cronenberg's film Videodrome is, on its own, a bizarre and disturbing trip into the world of extreme sensationalism in entertainment and its mind-warping power. However, it does introduce a very interesting modern philosophical concept: transhumanism. Transhumanism is the philosophical notion that the human species can continue to advance and evolve by augmenting the human body with biological and non-biological enhancements – that the future of humanity lies in techonologically augmented humans.
One of the factions in Videodrome is the Cathode Ray Mission, established by the late Professor Brian O'Blivion and run by his daughter, Bianca. The mission is a bizarre sort of transhumanist sect with a pre-computer bent: they feel that humanity's future is in video, that there is life in recorded video – that an individual is their image and that a mind can be captured on VHS tapes. In a rather bizarre twist, the mission actually provides evidence for their case, in a bit of a roundabout way: Professor O'Blivion is some years dead when the film begins, yet the world has no clue of this; he makes appearances on television talk shows regularly via his tapes.
More generally, the film supports this notion with the twisted journey that the main character, Max Renn, finds himself taking. Renn is the president for a UHF television network in Toronto; he specializes in gratuitous violence and softcore pornography. In the course of seeking new programming, Renn stumbles upon Videodrome, a “reality” show which consists of protracted torture and ends in murder – staged snuff films, exactly what Renn thinks will be the next big thing. Videodrome is actually produced by a NATO-funded terrorist group; the show is a weapon designed to grow hallucination-inducing, reality-warping tumors in the brains of viewers – lowlifes, in the opinion of the terrorist group, who should be purged from the North American continent.
Renn, throughout the film, has been subjected to a slightly-modified version of Videodrome which has effectively replaced his mind with a fleshy VHS player, and the program his body is playing is the terrorists' – they are using him as a distributor for their video weapon and as an assassin. Bianca O'Blivion, when targeted by Renn, puts in a new tape and uses him to kill the head of the terrorist cell. After his target is eliminated, he is ordered to destroy his “old flesh” and fight Videodrome in the video realm.
Videodrome is heavily invested in bundle theory, in terms of identity. Professor O'Blivion is alive, preserved in his VHS tape library. Max Renn is reprogrammed twice over the course of the film, first into a NATO assassin, then into a transhumanist assassin. His identity is swapped out as easily as one might swap out a VHS tape. The horrifying mutations he undergoes are partially a result of the tumor in his head and partially a result of the changed nature of his mind; his body, as it were, shifts to suit the needs of his new mind and new identity, from the highly-Freudian cassette slot that appears in his stomach to the cancer-inducing weapon that replaces his right hand.
Soul theory is herein invalidated, as the "real" Max Renn, the soul, would have put up some resistance to the drastic alteration of personality and identity. In some way, however, the film could be said to have some soul-like influences on its mind mechanics. If the O'Blivions' words are to be believed, the mind can be preserved in video, although most minds are destroyed. While, unlike the soul, the mind is not indestructible, it can be given an indefinite lifespan. Again, the mind can be, and with the exception of Professor Brian O'Blivion's and Max Renn's minds, is destroyed in death, so it is not a soul or soul-like construct, but it is more enduring than the mind in other works.
This video is a series of clips from Videodrome. The first occurs right after Bianca O'Blivion has inserted her VHS tape into Max Renn. The rest are the results of that first action, condensed.
Last night my better half was explaining to me some of the work that she was going over in her mass violence and aggression class. After a rather lengthy conversation we got down to two statements that carried us into a two hour debate. She eventually claimed that Christianity and Islam are violent religions. To support her opinion she pointed out the many wars fought in the name of Christianity or Islam over the past several centuries, most notably the crusades occurring from 1095 to 1291. Her argument concluded by saying that religion is made up of people, and because without believers the religion would not exist the religion is defined by its followers. From that it follows that since the followers of Christianity have been notably violent, then the ideal of Christianity is a violent ideal.
I thought this was an interesting way of defining the nature of an ideal, but inevitably I disagreed with her. I had two problems with her argument; the first being that I do not believe that an ideal is defined by the people following the ideal. Take for example a paid artist who is very good with clay as a medium, and is very enthusiastic about painting. Sadly this artist is not very good at working with a paint brush. Now this artist has been truly inspired by the ideal of art to paint a sweeping landscape. Inevitably the artist fails to capture his inspiration on the canvas. Now imagine that this is the only artist to have ever existed. Now because it was impossible for this artist to capture his inspiration on canvas should we change our conception of art? Has art as an ideal changed because the followers of art are unable to demonstrate it perfectly to the rest of the world. No rather the ideal of Art is still unchanged in its perfection even though the followers of art are unable to personify the ideal.
Now having covered an example of ideals being unchanging in response to the ideals followers, the second question is, "Is the nature of Christianity (the ideal) Violent?" One way i thought about this was from a semantic approach, which meant for me to define Christianity. There are many sects that have a variety of beliefs, but are all defined as Christian. The consistent point that makes a sect a Christian sect is that they believe Jesus Christ was the son of god. Therefore we could simply define Christianity as that held belief. As such the Ideal of Christianity has nothing to say about violence or non-violence.
I unfortunately do not know nearly enough about Islam so last night our discussion centered around Christianity, and whether it was by its nature a violent religion. I decided to post some of the thoughts that came up during that conversation here, because i really like tinkering with what aspects gave an ideal definition. Sadly this landed me in hot water with the girl friend because she hates working with theoretical concepts like perfection. I tried to point out to her that to work with ideals you have to work with theoreticals because an ideal is defined as "the concept of something in its perfection." Naturally as soon as I brought the dictionary into the argument, it was time to watch a show together. In what I imagine is a normal home when someone pulls out a bible arguments tend to end with a "well if you are going to bring faith into it." But at my home this is what happens when someone pulls out a dictionary.
I know this doesn't directly relate to class, but Dr. G prompted us to post our thoughts as well.
Faith in the dictionary, probably not all that different from faith in a bible,
Monday, March 5, 2012
"In this disorder, a person's mind can wake up before his body, and hallucinations and the feeling of being physically detached from his body can occur. The Kentucky researchers believe that NDEs are actually REM intrusions triggered in the brain by traumatic events like cardiac arrest. If this is true, then this means the experiences of some people following near-death are confusion from suddenly and unexpectedly entering a dream-like state1."One now begins to question the book written by Moody "Life after Life," in which Moody gathered the experiences of 50 people who have had near death experiences. Were these near death experiences simply distress expressed by the brain? While we discover what causes a near death experience, why then do we have near death experiences? What makes the majority of the reported near death experiences so similar? The REM theory doesn't explain.
Next, the explanation of out of body experiences. It is entirely different from a near death experience in that it has been scientifically proven: it is not a theory.
" To find the cause of a 43-year-old epileptic patient's seizures Swiss neurologist Dr.Olaf Blanke conducted a brain mapping test using electrodes planted on the brain to determine which area controls what function. As one region was being stimulated, the woman had a sudden out-of-body experience. She told Blanke that she could see herself from above. Blanke determined that by electrically stimulating the woman's angular gyrus, a part of the temporal parietal junction he could induce her OBEs. What's remarkable is that the patient experience an OBE each time her angular gyrus was arbitrarily stimulated1."Out of body experiences are then just the brain being stimulated in a specific way. However, in Pam's case, she was brain dead, so higher brain functions should not have been occurring. In her condition, it would seem reasonable for her to have had a near death experience due to the brain stem firing, but unreasonable for her to have had an out of body experience at the exact same time.
If near death experiences and out of body experiences can be explained scientifically, where then is the room for religion? The room comes from the fact that the science explains the how, but not the why. The brain causes us to see these images, but why are we seeing these images? Does the culture we live in influence us that deeply that we see what we expect to see? Is that why so many people see a tunnel with white light and talk with deceased relatives when they have a near death experience? Or could there be a deeper reason, beyond us? Is there something out there that makes us not the center of our own universe, as we discovered that the Earth is not the center of our galaxy? Being a Christian, I have faith that there is a deeper meaning out there; beyond the how explained by science. It would be disappointing to discover that the near death experiences, out of body experiences, and life in general, were merely tricks of the mind; that there is nothing beyond this lifetime. As so eloquently put by Dr. Melvin Morse, "Simply because religious experiences are brain-based does not automatically lessen or demean their spiritual significance. Indeed, the findings of neurological substrates to religious experiences can be argued to provide evidence for their objective reality1."
1.Clark, Josh. "Has science explained life after death?" 23 October 2007. HowStuffWorks.com <http://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/afterlife/science-life-after-death.htm> 04 March 2012.