Archive for the Philosophy / Big Picture Category

Imperfect Paper

Posted in Benedikt K.'s Entries, Carroll's writing, Impact on Society, Philosophy / Big Picture on December 3, 2009 by Benedikt K

Why does Carroll’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland have no simple meaning, no one path to follow through? Can he not express what he wanted to say within it? It is already written full of social criticism, and yet it seems incomplete, from the abrupt, rushed, ending to the hints at things not developed in the novel. But why could he not finish it?

Carroll was a mathematician, but he was much more than that, he was a human being and as such a born philosopher. Humans have always asked questions about the why and the how. Our very existence has prompted more questions than any discovery we have ever made, be it something as small as a quark, something as vital as a red blood cell, or something as vast as the universe. No practical question has been holding us off for as long as the mystery to our own existence. We fly throughout the sky, have seen the depths of the sea and mapped the entire earth. The challenges that present themselves to us seem to get greater every time we pass one of them. From how to farm over how to make a robot work to how to create a commercially efficient supersonic plane, they evolve, yet that question remains.

While we have trifled for so long with practical problems, our essence remains unresolved. We are, as Carroll knew, way too complex to ever explain. So Carroll tries to fit as much as he can into a single book. Not only does he attempt to cram a lifetime of social criticism and philosophy into his book, he tries to do it all while making it fun for little Alice to read. All philosophers have many, many works, none of them explaining everything. So while most try to fit a single, well developed point into their works, Carroll attempts to put it all into one epic, not epic by length, but by meaning.

Paper in itself, words themselves are useless when it comes to conveying a point, but they are all our primitive existence has come up with. Yes, language is complex and seems extremely daunting, especially when reading great novels. But our thoughts are much more complex than we have words for. So when we bring something to paper, have to actually formulate it, we are restricted by the words given to us, and can only hope that they make the reader think what we think.

Alice, this post, the internet itself is imperfect by its own definition. But this imperfection does not mean that we write in vain, there is beauty within this imperfection, and the meaning of any text is created by the beholder. Why I am writing this post may seem evident to you or not, but either way what you think of it is entirely different than what I think of it, or what the next person thinks of it. The imperfection of Language gives us more room to interpret, more room to seek and explore, to develop thoughts.

Alice Precedes Wonderland

Posted in Benedikt K.'s Entries, Chapter 9, Philosophy / Big Picture on December 3, 2009 by Benedikt K

So after having a nihilistic interpretation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which left me both depressed and looking for another way, here I am again, after all, showing another argument. Both the reason for me writing this post, and the posts argument are based off yet another Nietzsche quote:

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, the only way, it does not exist

Alice does not follow one particular way ever, and all the ways he could choose lead to different outcomes. It is not as if all of them lead to her waking, but rather all of them lead to different experiences before her awakening. To quote Ursula K. LeGuin,

It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.

Alice’s journey can be interpreted many different ways, and there is no one single right way to look at the story. One can even argue that the story has no meaning what so ever, as I did in my last blog some time ago. We have also have had arguments that it is meant simply as a children’s story. But we have not yet had the simplest of all possibilities. What if Alice’s journey is an end in itself?

What if we, as humans and interpreters, have to find a grand meaning in a story, because we are not ready for what is really there? Maybe this quest for meaning is simply a lie to ourselves. We seem to be unable to accept the fact that there is no one single meaning to Alice. Meaning depends upon existence, not existence upon meaning.

Alice has no meaning at first. All meaning we have found are simply scenarios our brain creates so that we find consolidation in seeming meaning. Our whole life we have created meaning for ourself, not accepted one given to us by our parents or some institution. There must be a deeper sense in everything that exists.

Do not understand me wrong, I do not think Carroll’s book has no meaning, or is only meant to be a childrens book. I believe that there is an infinite amount of meaning in it. Every human creates his own meaning out of the story. I may say it is simply a dream, you may argue that it is a representation of the real world with society removed and us seeing the faults in the system. The greatest meaning within Alice is the pure existence of meaning. Her journey to the duchess, to the realization that there is a moral, meaning, in everything, is, in itself, a meaning. This meaning precedes everything else but the words it is written in.

Thus the journey precedes the moral, alice precedes wonderland, and existence precedes essence.

I Think. But Do I Know Who I Am?

Posted in Gabriella B.'s Entries, Philosophy / Big Picture on November 30, 2009 by G.A. Buba

” cogito ergo sum“-René Descartes-

I think therefore I am. This statement began and summarizes the most basic and simplistic roots of western philosophy. I feel that this is something that Alice has missed her encounter with the caterpillar summarizes her feelings very well.

“I ca’n’t explain myself, I’m afraid, Sir,” said Alice, “Because I’m not myself, you see.”

This inner battle that Alice fights is not so different from the thought process that brings to mind the ever important question we will all inevitably ask ourselves sometime late at night.

Do I exist?

This is very closely linked to Alice’s search for identity. She is thinking therefore she knows she exists, but how can she truly know who or what she is? Is it even possible for her to know?

In the magical realm that is Wonderland do the same principles that guide our perception of self still apply or has all reason gone out the window?

Let us look at this from Alice’s perspective for a moment. In her mind everything about her has changed, so therefore she must not be the same person. But in reality are we not all constantly changing from the time of our birth until we die we are changing; mentally physically, emotionally. From the moment we begin life we can never truly return to what we once were.

I think therefore I am. No other elements fit into that equation. If nothing else exists then at the very least I do for the sole reason that I can think. Perhaps this most vividly applies to Alice because in reality Wonderland is a dreamscape.

In a world where nothing is real then truly only the act of your own thought can justify your existence.

Isolation

Posted in Benedikt K.'s Entries, Impact on Society, Philosophy / Big Picture on November 12, 2009 by Benedikt K

This post is a sort of a follow-up on Deron Molen’s post about which of the worlds is real, our world or Wonderland.

But what is real anyway. If we question which world is real, shouldn’t we first define real?

What is real really? Is what we perceive what everyone else perceives? How do we know that what is “green” to me is “green” to you? If I feel pain, do you feel the same or is it different?

As Friedrich Nietzsche says,

“There are no facts, only interpretations.”

What if there are no facts? Alice has little enough when she falls down the hole. All she can really rely upon is gravity, and even that may give out any second. So where do we go from here? While Descartes’ argument seems applicable here, it is actually not. We are not actually doubting the existence of the world, but the unified perception of it.

What if we were not only unsure of whether we are, but also what we are made believe? And, once more, the question arises, does it matter? Yes, according to Socrates an non-investigated life is a wasted life, but how does this actually change our sight of things? We would be isolated, with no common ground. Every man/woman would truly be an island. No unity, ever, no community. It would be as if we were a different animal, each and every one. Individualism should be a philosophical concept, not a reality.

But how would we develop as individuals.

As Friedrich Nietzsche says,

“Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”

So what if we, as social animals, are our own downfall? Alice, while in Wonderland, talks to everyone she sees, but never actually forms a group. She remains sane, but all the characters around her are parts of groups, and they are undoubtedly insane. How would humans develop as solitary beings, or beings that have no permanent ties?

Humanity has always formed groups. Nations, religions, tribes all came from the apparent need of humans to form groups. But what if we never had, had stayed lone hunters forever? How different would society look, feel, if there were no ties, no friendship? Different definitely, but would it be for the worse? Isolation tends to bring the most out of many people, tends to bring out their full potential, and yet it cracks them in other ways. What would happen?

Warning: This Post Will Give You a Major Headache

Posted in Chapter 6, Deron M.'s Entries, Philosophy / Big Picture on November 8, 2009 by Deron Molen

This post has been greatly influenced by Rivu D.’s post “It Could Be Real”.

What is real? Many philosophers have tried to grasp this concept over the years. We see, we feel, and we hear everything everyday. How do we know that what we experience is real? There isn’t a giant neon sign that comes with everything telling us whether or not it is genuine.

What makes something real? Is it the fact we can feel it, taste it, or see it? We can do all of those things in our dreams but they’re not real, or are they? Our brains run on electric impulses from nerves throughout the body. When we are awake and asleep, our nerves and brain still function. This leads me to the question of when are we dreaming? Is it when we lay ourselves in our bed at night and count sheep or is it when we go about our business every day?

Alice experiences two worlds in the story: the “real” world and a fantasy dreamland known as Wonderland. The real world is influenced by logic and physics. Wonderland is different. Those concepts that we take for granted do not apply there. For example you have babies turning into pigs and cats that can grin from ear to ear. You can grow (or shrink) to any size at anytime. Wonderland is a world where the practical is illogical and the impossible is possible.

 My question to you is this:

Which world is real?

P.S.

If you survived to this point, you deserve a pat on the back and a large bottle of Tylenol. If you are one of the few who got to this point without even a headache, you’re just as mad as everyone in Wonderland.