Archive for the Philosophy / Big Picture Category

Gaming Life

Posted in Benedikt K.'s Entries, Philosophy / Big Picture on November 6, 2009 by Benedikt K

So, today Mr. Long told us in class that we should game the system and try to spread our blog posts as far as possible. He then very hastily followed up with a statement on how this project is not at all a game, but rather something sincere and real. His temporary slip, yes, maybe it was just a tangential thought, but it seemed more like a slip to me, however reminded me of life’s similarity to a game. And I don’t mean in a John Conway “Game of Life” way. We originally modeled our games after life itself. Most ancient games were used to teach both children and Adults quick thinking and improvisation in Battle, chess being the most prominent example. But by now games have evolved into something different. Our games now go beyond what is humanly possible, and while they still have some value if seen as a test of reaction speed or intellect, oftentimes they are played for the wrong reasons.

So why should we not look at life as a game. Please note that I will try to avoid another Cartesian argument about whether this is actually some highly advanced game, simply because after some time even those start to get old, and we have heard every single variation on them. So if we look at life as a game, are we loosing some sincerity in our actions, is some of the weight of our actions removed? I don’t think so. In chess an error is often fatal for ones game, but after the game all that may be hurt is your ego. In life if you make a mistake, it can oftentimes have long ranging repercussions.

So why should we look at life as a game if it changes nothing and all our actions are weighted the same as before?

Let me explain it, once more, using chess. Rarely do you see a good game being won without sacrifice. One of the most famous games ever, Anderssen’s Immortal game, leads to Anderssen sacrificing two rooks, a bishop and his queen to end up winning. So if we look at life as a game, maybe we can accomplish some removal from our actions. By seeing things from a game, a third person perspective, we are able to better analyze options and actions. I do not encourage sacrifices without thought, but I do think that we need more objectivity in a lot of events. Sometimes making a compromise is better than pushing through. With more rationale, more game-like attitudes there would be less hate and envy. Hate simply distracts from what is really important and envy is unnecessary if you are working on your own progress.

By taking life as a game, as one big fall down a rabbit hole, we are able to make better decisions based off a bigger perspective. If we resist our impulses, oftentimes we can achieve more over the long run. But we are also quicker to decide if we see it as a game, because we are bound to look at it within the terms of the game and recognizing that while sometimes a single moment can ruin a plan completely, oftentimes these moments, while embarrassing, have no impact after all.

This is Madness

Posted in Deron M.'s Entries, Philosophy / Big Picture on November 5, 2009 by Deron Molen

During Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice experiences some very odd occurrences. First of all, you have the many changes in size and then you have the talking animals with many humanlike qualities.

In a world where talking rabbits, caterpillars, and dodos are the norm, is that world crazy? 

What about the “real” world? We idolize the least honorable people, take orders from (mostly) dishonest leaders and bosses, and are at times led around like blind mice.

Is our world is the crazy one?

We are so entrenched in our ways that we don’t even what is mad and what isn’t. What is mad for one person is perfectly logical to another. A perfect example of this is football. We absolutely love it here in the U.S. Other than us, there is no other country that claims that (American) football is their number one sport. They think it is crazy to throw pads on a bunch of big guys and have them hit each other for three hours.

We view Wonderland as a crazy, imaginary world. What would the inhabitants of Wonderland think of our world? Would they view us as a sane and stable society? Of course not! They would see us as insane beings that try to over-think everything while ignoring our creative voice inside of our head.

That crazy voice in our head is what inspires us. We need it to force us to attempt something new or do something a different way. Imagine if there wasn’t a little crazy in us. There would be no Alice. Without Alice, this blog wouldn’t even exist. Thankfully, humanity has hung on to that madness inside us and that has allowed many great ideas to come to fruition. 

All of this leads me to one conclusion:

We are all mad and that my friend is a good thing.

We Are the Difference

Posted in Benedikt K.'s Entries, Philosophy / Big Picture on November 4, 2009 by Benedikt K

Once more I find myself thinking about one of Brendon’s posts.

To sum it up, he struggles with the difference in between a child and an adult. Somehow I think I have an answer, even though it doesn’t really answer the question, but is the question really the point?

Just like those seeking the context for that ultimate answer (42), I am a mite unsure of what we are seeking for. Yes, supposedly it is the difference between adults and children. But how can we even assume that there is one exact difference? Adults are distinct from children, and yet they are the same. How do we even define an adult. And if we do define an adult, can they really be fully distinct or the same altogether? If we accept the fact that there is some transition in between the two, how do we define this area?

To quote Albert Einstein,

“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen”.

Yes he talks about common sense, not adulthood, but is this not essentially the same thing? Adulthood could be seen as simply defined by an existence of common sense. If we say that adults are defined by the mindset they have accepted already, what else is this than what they perceive to be common sense? Adults seemed to always be right when we were young, but as we grow older we find that oftentimes the opposite is true, and there are different gradients of this adulthood.

So common sense defines adulthood. So is common sense directly bad? I don’t think so. There is the need for some things that must be assumed. After all science is the method of finding as many possible answers from a set of axioms that is as small and elementary as possible. Never can we operate without assuming a few things. Yes, Descartes tried it, but even here there are points where one could argue that logic was faulty or doubtful. Either way, we must assume some things, if simply for speed and routine that life will require at times. Thus common sense, adulthood is not bad within itself.

But being a complete adult is not good either. If we assume too much we find our perception of things to be faulty or contradicting our own axioms. We are suddenly incapable of reacting to something. Yes, to most situations we can react extremely quickly simply by making the events a mental axiom, but soon we have too many of them. Thus we must only make assumptions when necessary and later remove them from our brain. We must remain intellectually agile, able to doubt as much as possible when possible, yet assuming when necessary.

And here we come to my final, oh so wonderfully biased conclusion. The youth is the answer. We are the ones to be molded, or rather to be prevented from molding. Control the youth and you shall conquer the world. Let them control themselves and humanity is better off than you could ever imagine. Give the youth the ability to think for themselves and you have created an avalanche of thought prone to destroy whatever may come into its way. Any problem could be solved by this generation of thinkers. Just make sure that it’s not you.

Alice in Puberty

Posted in Benedikt K.'s Entries, Chapter 2, Philosophy / Big Picture on November 1, 2009 by Benedikt K

While Alice’s Adventures in wonderland may be a wonderful tale written simply for the entertainment of the real-world alice, it should be firmly established by now that it can be seen as much more than that. We have talked about whether children are better than adults, or adults are simply mere children, and on why one is superior to another. But the most obvious stage in between child and adult, the one representing both childhood innocence and adult rationale, we have not talked about.

If Carroll makes such strong statements about childhood and adulthood, it would definitely make sense for him to mention the fusion of the two. Thus he makes alice grow and shrink as he pleases. What better than a quick burst of growth to 9 feet to represent the physical changes during puberty? Now “to get through was more hopeless than ever”. Growing up marks the end to Alice’s attempts to get through this door to the wonderland, the place of new ideas and uncounted wonders. By now she can barely set sight under the door, the infernal entrance that blocks all her possibilities of entering wonderland.

But, of course, physical appearances are not all that Carroll is wanting to probe. Yes, the fact that she is to tall, to old if you will, to progress further down the rabbit hole makes a strong statement in itself, but that is not all that is to puberty, to growing up. Along with the physical change come emotional reactions. Alice begins to cry a great deal after she grew. She cries because what was previously possible is now closed to her. While we grow up we want to be done with it. We want to get high-school over with. We try to escape our daily worries, our parents and all of the rest.

While growing, we are unsure of what we are, like Alice who asks for the nature of existence and who she really is. We must identify ourselves with something, else we know neither our place nor what we should do. Alice experiences something similar. She identifies herself with what she knows, or rather what she used to know and has now changed. From the multiplication table perceived in different bases (something I was very disappointed to see mentioned in the notes, if simply for the reason that it was my first idea of writing a blog post after reading chapter two) to her distorted sense of Geography, she, along with what she knows, has changed. With her growing, her perception of the world has changed.

But Alice is also saddened by her growth. Once she has completed growth she, as so many adults, wishes herself back to her smaller size, if only to pass through the door. And here we see Carroll’s primary warning to Alice, and to us. When we begin to age, we must not forget at what price. We adopt adulthood and rationale at the price of our youth and our old beliefs. Instead of wishing to grow up, why do we not enjoy what is current. Similarly he addresses the adult readers by showing that while they may have it worse in many a way, they are intellectually superior to children.  However, it also draws a line in between the one and the other, that distinguishes in between adults and children. While they may have elements of the other within themselves, which must be cherished to achieve a balanced existence, they are distinct beings.

The theme of growing up has too many aspects to ever be covered fully in a blog entry that addresses today’s generation and their short attention spans (my 630 words are already pushing it). As illustrated above, however, Carroll does make statements about both child and adulthood, and especially the transition in between.

Neoalicism

Posted in Benedikt K.'s Entries, Philosophy / Big Picture on October 31, 2009 by Benedikt K

After talking about the parallels from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to The Matrix, and reading this blog post, I literally fell down a rabbit hole, into a room of doors, each with a different place to go. So much to talk about, and so small attention spans to appeal to. So I will restrict myself to a more obvious theme within both stories, the question of existence.

But if I’m not the same, the next
question is, Who in the world am I?
Ah, THAT’S the great puzzle!

So, like so many authors before, Carroll has finally arrived at the age-old question of whether we exist. Interestingly, he is able to package a thought process intriguingly similar to Descartes derivation of “Cogito ergo sum”.
Alice concludes by simple exclusion, a logical principle that even a child can approach, that she must be Alice, and not anyone else. She may not put it this way, but the fact that she is wondering about her existence and her identity proves that and who she is, not her exclusion. Like Descartes she, or rather Carroll, who is really just using Alice to speak to his audience, is wrestling with the principle of existence.
Interestingly we find a similar approach to existence by The Matrix. Because Neo thinks about the world not being real, because something doesn’t feel quite right, he can escape the matrix. Once more, thought sets Neo free from the matrix.
The matrix is, after all, very similar to Alice. Yes, it has big guns in it, people getting shot and killed, and all the usual sexual tensions, but what it boils down to is simple, yet difficult. Both Alice and The Matrix ask very elemental questions about humanity and its existence and purpose. Alice asks it in a seemingly playful manner, yet both she and Neo fight their mental battle in a checkered room. While she eliminates possibilities, he shoots the security. While she struggles with her own existence, Smith asks Morpheus about why humanity should exist.
But both of them leave questions open. If the world is a matrix, why should this “real world” be real? If Alice is down a rabbit hole, which world is real, the one left behind or the one she is in?

The next interesting layer of meaning can be unraveled by recalling Carroll’s comment on how Alice should not be analyzed. If reality is fake, is it really worth escaping from it? To quote Cypher from The Matrix “Ignorance is bliss”. If we never consider the possibility of our own nonexistence, what are we to loose? Isn’t reality just as real as we make it? When the matrix is telling us that our steak is juicy and delicious, is it not as real as anything we could experience in reality, and what is reality after all? Do we not define it ourselves?

So, to put all of these rhetorical questions into one honest one, is the knowledge of whether we exist important, and, if so, how would your actions change if you discovered that none of this is real?