Causal Determinism

“The roots of the notion of determinism surely lie in a very common philosophical idea: the idea that everything can, in principle, be explained, or that everything that is, has a sufficient reason for being and being as it is, and not otherwise.” (Casual Determination, Introduction)

When I first started reading this, I was thrown off that determinism was something entirely different from fatalism. They seemed to have been coined named for the same things, the idea that there is a determined path for one to follow where their past, present and future is concerned. But they are in fact two very separate things, though the line that can be drawn between it is rather thin. Fatalism focuses on the idea that an event (or events) are fated to occur no matter what we do – i,and even if tht is truly inevitable. Determinism on the other hand is more concerned with the idea that if something happens a certain way at a a certain time, it will have a certain fixed effect on events thereafter as a result of natural law. It is initially the surefire inevitability of an event versus the inevitability of an event in regards to another certain event.

Its rather mind boggling. I won’t lie when I say that I mostly took the concept that free will is a lie from this reading…and that wouldn’t affect my feelings of my life at all. If determinism were to be a proven theory, it’s not like I would lose the person I am or was. The only thing that would really change should determinism be proven is that some event from my past has overall set me up for events in my future. At a certain time period, I did something that affects my life years later – how would I even know that the past event even was the reason for that eventual development? How would someone else know?

Everything would stay the same overall. It would just be a pre-determined idea of what would stay the same.

Word Count: 342

 

The Notes We Leave

“Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation, they’re not a record, and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.” -Leonard, Memento

Hume and Leonard could have gotten along if we were looking strictly at their thoughts about memory: that it is unreliable and just an interpretation of an event. The idea that a traumatizing memory can be altered, even deleted if your mind designates the memory a harm to you . Leonard’s memories of his wife’s death and of Sammy Jenkins are very reflective of this: he accidentally killed his wife with an insulin overdose because of his condition, and yet his memory of that is so distorted that a fictional insurance customer is now the killer of his wife. He is right to say that memory isn’t reliable, but neither are the jumble of notes he keeps on his photographs and tattooed on his body.

At least not to the extent that he depends on them. He expects all these tattoos and pen markings to practically function as his second memory without the consequences that comes from relying on memory. His notes can still be distorted and not have a single fact on them – he likes crossing things out, or can’t find a pen to make a record of something. If these facts are being recorded from a memory that rewrites itself on a regular basis, are those facts still facts? Any true fact should constantly come to light regardless of how your memory or notes keep track of them – the only fact Leonard actually has is that Sammy Jenkins killed his wife. That is an undeniable truth for our main character and yet he can easily deny the truth that he is in fact Sammy Jenkins.

Hume might be right when he says that identity is just a habit we have. We reinforce our identities by doing things that our “self” would do, right? But that sense of self is trained by your memory, this perception of a wide range of other perceptions. You can train yourself to have a habit, and henceforth you can train yourself to have an identity. Can that identity be changed? Yes, in fact – just takes a few habit adjustments, and wallah, you’re a new version of yourself. Hell, you might even become a brand new person, someone with a different name and a different version of your self.

Word Count: 413

Mirror This

” I have to believe in a world outside my own mind. I have to believe that my actions still have meaning, even if I can’t remember them. I have to believe that when my eyes are closed, the world’s still there. Do I believe the world’s still there? Is it still out there?… Yeah. We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are. I’m no different. .” -Leonard, Memento

How do you come to understand who you are and keep that sense of self in mind? There are mirrors that a person keeps close to them, a reminder and a reflection of who exactly they are. When memory fails you, you turn to those aforementioned mirrors and rely on them to make you aware of yourself. Hume was very insistent on the idea that memory will fail you, that the self whose existence you justify with your memories is nothing more than a false reflection of various mental perceptions. In that respect, these mirrors would be the only thing you could trust, the only thing you could rely on to give you an idea of who you are, right?

The 2000 film, Memento, can answer that for you. And the truth would be those mirrors are as unreliable as that memory, because those mirrors only serve to jog that abundant collection of perceptions. The main character, Leonard, becomes a puppet of his own design when he comes to rely on those mirrors because his own memory suffers from anterograde amnesia; he is manipulated by his own distortions of reality and by those who see his condition as a tool. The tattoos, notes and photographs he uses throughout the film are his reminder that his only purpose in life is to end the man who raped and murdered his wife, but even these mirrors fail to reflect the most important thing: that he has already fulfilled his mission. At the end of the film, we learn that Leonard had already found the man who had raped his wife and that the actual murderer had been Leonard – his condition had become the bane of his wife’s existence, and she had died of an insulin overdose during a test she had devised to prove Leonard a faker.

But that’s not to say all of his mirrors aren’t doing their job. Cracked and reflecting a mutilated image, but not broken. And that is the story he tells anyone willing to listen, the story of Sammy Jenkins, the story of his true self’s past. Sammy Jenkins is the man who killed his wife with an insulin overdose, and yet that man is in fact Leonard. For every note he wrote himself, and every photo he took, the main character was unable to recall the truth. And in this instance, the truth hurt. Hurt enough to drive Leonard to go on another wild goose chase, to end the life of the only person with any knowledge of his past. And by relying on these self-created mirrors, Leonard forgoes his reality as Sammy Jenkins.

I accept that my idea of self is far from perfect, and is merely a reflection of my own perceptions. Everything in this world is two sides of the same coin, and the side you see truly depends on your point of view, a deciding factor where perceptions are concerned. What would I become without these mirrors? Well, definitely not a serial killer suffering from amnesia. I would revert to…well, what would there be to revert back to? The person I was most likely.

But I really like the person I am now. So I think I’ll cling to these mirrors of mine for a while longer.

Word Count: 614

Personal Identity

“‘Twill be incumbent on those, who affirm that memory produces entirely our personal identity, to give a reason why we can this extend our identity beyond our memory.” (pg 328, Hume)

Whilst Descartes presumes the world to be a false reality in which only the essence of your soul can exist for sure, Hume picks his colleague’s theory apart with the “false memory” argument. Everything you know about your self is nothing more than a projection of your perceptions and memories warped by whatever you were feeling. The quote above is making a jab at anyone who considers their “self” to be made up of past experiences and ideals for the future – I feel like it’s really driving his idea that the only you that can exist is the you of the present, the version of yourself currently entertaining this idea as you’re still reeling from the existential crisis Descartes’ threw at you.

Hume is very insistent on this idea of the present self being the only true self. Memory cannot be relied on because these memories can be altered by time, someone else’s recollection of the same memory and the feelings you experienced at the time. A gentle breakup can be warped into a disaster if you felt devastated about it, and the recollection you give to a friend can be as far off from the truth as Neptune from the sun. Or for a personal example, my brother remembers a gash on his leg from childhood as him running into a mirror and shattering it – I remember the same thing as me dropping a heavy mirror near him while he was taking a nap on the living room floor. The distortion of his memory comes from our family telling him how rambunctious and clumsy he was when he was younger. My brother is a cautious and wary young man now, which represents a separation of his past self and his current self which falls in line with Hume’s theory. The memory that one relies on to create this idea of self isn’t reliable because it can change, and one inconsistency can be the difference between an injury from yourself or from someone else.

I agree with Hume that memory isn’t as reliable as one would wish it be, because it changes with time. But so does the person that the memory belongs to, and the idea of self changes just as much. The idea of self is just as unreliable in that sense because it also changes as time goes on. I think that is the major flaw in this philosopher’s argument and what makes me disagree with him. The person I was in the past is very different from the person I am now, and the person I am now will be different from the person I am in the future – that doesn’t make the perception of my “self” to be wrong, it just makes it flux. And isn’t that flux of self what gives self discovery meaning?

Word Count: 500

Meditation II

“For it may be that what I see is not really wax, it may also be that I do not possess eyes with which to see anything; but it cannot be that when I see, or (for I no longer take account of the distinction) when I think I see, that I myself who think am nought. “ (Page 11, Paragraph 2)

Descartes and his obsession with his existential crisis is going to drive me up the wall. What good is it to come to a conclusion like the cogito just to continue questioning the validity of both body and mind? Our French philosopher now compares the human body to a wax candle, though not as directly as that sentence may suggest. He can determine that a wax candle is a wax candle through his five senses, even after it has been melted and distorted. He knows this new mess of an object is indeed a wax candle, not because he watched as the candle melted down but because his mind has come to a conclusion based on his senses. But alas, those senses are as imaginary as the outside world and only serve to verify the true existence of his mind and its ability to conjure as it pleases.

In that same respect, the wax example defends the idea that so long as you can think, you can exist. Your mind perceives information taken in by the senses, even if the senses are merely perceptions projected by your mind. The inability to doubt the existence of the mind is Descartes driving force for this portion of his meditation, and its ability to make sense of our world whether or not it truly exists. Our imagination is endless, creating perceptions of things we think to exist regardless of their falsity under the scrutiny of our doubts. How are we to know that a man is truly a man when all we can catch sight of is his long coat and hat – that man could very well be a machine as Descartes put it, and yet our minds do not hesitate to perceive that coat and hat as such. If the world outside of our mind is in fact a projection of our own imagination, would that not make us the devil seeking to cause us the same doubts as Descartes?

Word Count: 387

Meditation I

But in thinking over this I remind myself that on many occasions I have in sleep been deceived by similar illusions, and in dwelling carefully on this reflection I see so manifestly that there are no certain indications by which we may clearly distinguish wakefulness from sleep that I am lost in astonishment.  And my astonishment is such that it is almost capable of persuading me that I now dream.” (Page 11, Paragraph 3)

Descartes comes from a time where long-winded speech and an extensive vocabulary was indicative of status and education. While taking the long way to make your point with use of words one must peruse a dictionary for the definitions of is still reflective of a difference in education, the aforementioned philosopher could have made his point with less of a monologue. If only he could have taken a page from Tolstoy’s book, the man of forty separate short sentence collections – calling them paragraphs is too generous, though many thanks to Tolstoy’s definition of the arts.

Though Tolstoy is not the philosopher I would choose to relate Descartes’ recollection too – I would instead choose Plato and his ideas that art is nothing more than a false reconstruction of some higher plane of existence. In Descartes Meditation I, he goes on about the lack of certainty that haunts his waking hours, unsure whether the world he exists in is the waking world or the world within his dreams. To put it in simpler terms, our dear philosopher is having an existential crisis because the actions he takes within his dreams also occur within the waking world – deja vu anyone?

Descartes big reveal is his inability to distinguish reality from his dreams with absolute certainty, as there is no way for him to distinguish the two when they mesh together in the manner he recounts. That when he sits in his chair by the fire, a hand extended in front of his face so as to be sure of the actuality of its existence, it has occurred in both his waking hours and dreams. The sense of deja vu he notes in his meditation is the cause of his existential crisis, and should be yours as well. While I understand why he would come to such a conclusion in regards to not being sure of his waking hours or his dreams, he hasn’t proven anything. Nowhere within this piece of his writing can Descartes say with certainty that he is in fact certain that nothing in the waking world as we know it is certain, and that lack of certainty weakens his argument. To some extent.

How am I supposed to be certain that he was certain when the certainty of my understanding of the certainty of his understanding cannot be certain because the certainty of this world cannot be deemed certain? The answer to that can’t even be proven certain so far as Descartes is concerned.

Word Count: 486

What is Art? II

tumblr_static_tumblr_static_c1zxyk9y5ygo80c084kcc40ok_640

There are a lot of people who consider the photo above art, as its own piece by the artist and as a piece of “fanart.” The subjects depicted in this photo are Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha from the hit anime, Naruto, as they share a hug. It is well drawn and pleasing to look at whilst bringing a large fanbase together with a shared feeling of relief that these two young men are together again. But before I get into that, allow me to share some backstory about Naruto and Sasuke: they are best friends turned enemies because Sasuke is desperate to avenge his family – this leads Sasuke down a rather dark path and Naruto is desperately trying to bring his friend back from that darkness. There’s like four seasons based on Naruto’s constant attempts to save his friend and Sasuke only delving deeper into the “dark side.”

According to Tolstoy, art can be only considered art if it conveys a feeling that can be shared between both the artist and the viewer. How much of an art something is relies heavily on the individuality of the feelings, the clearness of those feelings, and the sincerity of them. The example of art I’ve included in this post meet these three criteria:

  1. The artist and viewer can take feelings of relief and joy from this picture, and the degree of such depends on how strongly one felt towards Sasuke and Naruto’s relationship.
  2. If you can point out any other feelings to be taken from this, let me know.
  3. There are a number of different ways to depict Sasuke and Naruto. The author specifically chose to draw them hugging, as if reconciling their differences, shows a sincere sense of relief.

I still agree with Tolstoy that art must convey a feeling between the artist and the viewer. The degree of those feelings may differ depending on one’a connection to the subject, but the same feeling is still there on some level.

Word Count: 330