Monday, 9 May 2016

Phenomenology to the Rescue

I ran across this browsing in some odd reddit...
My body is the container from which I experience my life. We all make these kind of statements in our daily speeches and writings, but I don't think many people really take the time to think about, and try to understand what these statements tell us about the composition of a human being. If you say, ''my x'', or ''I have y'', or ''I possess z'', what you are trying to communicate(whether you realize this or not), is that you are a separate entity from the object you claim to possess. You cannot be a part of an entity you have, or possess. My body... My mind... My emotions... My feelings... My intellect... etc.. Think about this. Who is this man called Me, who has a body, a mind, emotions, feelings, and intellect, and can boldly say MY body, mind, etc. After thinking about these things(and many other theories) for a long time, I have come to the same conclusion that most religions believe in, that: Man is a spirit, who lives in a body. I have a body and I can control it and make decisions for it. But who am I? Or Who is me? Somebody help!
Help is at hand. The Mind-Body duality thing has plagued philosophy and psychology since man first thought about it, and still continues to fool brain-studies academics. It wasn’t really until the mid-twentieth century that Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty got their phenomenological groove on and provided the basis of an answer. To save you wading through Being and Time (Heidegger) and The Phenomenology of Perception (Merleau-Ponty), I’ll summarise.

You are your body. Your body includes your brain, and your brain is a self-conscious organ - unlike your spine, where large chunks of autonomic functions happen without anyone being any the wiser. The brain can be self-conscious because it isn’t doing one huge task, but a whole bunch of independent tasks that can inter-communicate. Many of those tasks (facial recognition, throwing balls, recognising bad smells) are built right into the firmware. Some of those tasks involve monitoring and modifying other tasks (hence the phrase “think, you idiot!”) and that’s where the self-cosciouness of the brain arises. What’s that you say? That’s what a multi-tasking operating system does? Am I saying that OS X is self-aware? Well, which do you want? Accepting the idea that a modern computer has formal self-awareness, or more obfuscation and mysticism about souls, spirits and non-material consciousness? (I rate OS X somewhere about the level of a cat.)

The “Me” in “Who is me” is probably the dominant voice that’s chattering in your head at any given time, along with the dominant physical urge you’re experiencing (your head says No No No and your dick says Yes Yes Yes). That’s why we sometimes wonder what the hell’s going on with us: occasionally a brain task that doesn’t usually get much air time, gets on the phone and rants away. Where did that come from? Who am I?

Your body, your self. (I could write a book with that title… oh, wait…).

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