Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Settled? Or pointed differently? Identity, Morality and Society

Okay, we need to distinguish some thoughts here because I'm pretty sure I don't have a problem with using the teleporter, anymore (did I ever, really?). So first things first,

1. If the teleporter works 100% of the time, all the time, then I have no problem using it.
2. We are in agreement that a concept like identity is exactly that, a concept (a way of organizing and augmenting 'information' received via sensory organs) , which human beings have created and utilized to perpetuate their own continued conglomeration of particles.


Now, I have a deep desire to address the things you bring up in the last post beyond the scope of whether or not we use teleporter technology and this may be an unfair analysis on my part. In the event that this is true I'm stating this as my caveat: What you have written previously may not have been meant for the scope of what I want to address with it, never the less, I think it provides interesting discussion...

My problem with the whole shebang is if we take this description of the world and try utilize it in other contexts. The way in which we are trying to characterize 'the world', in my mind, excludes the human endeavor of trying to 'make sense' of 'the world'. Restated: Because of the facilities a human possesses there is a very specific way in which we interact with our surroundings which allows us anything we might call 'intellect'. For instance; the fact that we use language to characterize almost everything delimits what we are discussing to the realm of logic and reason (as defined by man, for man), which under the Play-doh* metaphor, has no place in the 'real world' and in fact doesn't exist in it. Whether we like it or not we have to talk in language and to a certain extent about things like 'identity' or 'morality' because these are key concepts and facilities with which humans have to do (even if we are talking about them just to denounce them). Essentially, I'm assuming that by:

"I am trying to circumvent the necessary culture bias inherent in our thought. Except I'm claiming it's UNNECESSARY, because the cultural bias that's keeping you out of the teleporter doesn't hold me back. "

You meant that the 'necessity of our cultural biases' is actually unnecessary for you to determine that you would enter the telporter and that your resistance of cultural biases does not continue unto things like: having this discussion, enjoying the company of your family and friends over the company of others, studying law or choosing to partake in any part of society at all. Because any of those things necessitate that you interact within the cultural bias whether you are aware of it or not. Because we are situated within our cultural biases.

Hence why Spontaneously Occurring Lincoln, the question of his identity, memory and all that "paperwork" are relevant to a discussion involving human beings. And why social identity is relevant for human beings to survive, because as much as the 'real world' may be devoid of concepts, 'our world' is not (and by our world I mean a world in which human created endeavors matter, not the world in which everything is Play-doh). Our world is one where if you don't recognize yourself as a U.S. citizen and don't pay taxes then other people change your circumstances. And while this may, from the 'greater perspective', just be the adjusting of particles from one place to another, to you it matters deeply that you are at home and not in a Federal prison.

Lastly, I think a major argument against what I say here is that I'm trying to handicap any discussion about the 'truth' of existence by claiming that we only know 'truth' through our human filter. And I think we would both agree that it is a pretty lame position to claim "well, everything ever is only ever a human endeavor" as though it discounts what we do here (by having discussion), but the primary reason I choose this argument is not to put a stop to our discussion but to augment it. It seems to me that by understanding the necessity of human bias we can address concepts in a more humanly meaningful way. Which I think is a fair position to strive for in a discussion because it brings a certain amount of relevance and pragmatism. I.e. If we want to discuss something like morality it may require that we acknowledge it is a just human phenomenon but also that we don't discredit it solely because it is just a human phenomenon. Surely we still reserve the right to be choosy (Modern legal theory and Utilitarianism vs. scripture for a basis of morality) but none the less it requires a sort of acceptance of the 'human endeavor'.

Now as I have stated it may be deeply unfair of me to even have this discussion at all because I'm changing the context of which we are speaking but to address some pertinent things you brought up last time; and in an attempt to elucidate what it was we were discussing with this line of thought originally here is an excerpt from my last post followed by what I took as your response:

Surviving effectively means being part of social orders. If identity did not also include a historical understanding of oneself then memories would serve no purpose. Personal history is as much a evolutionary trick for survival as feeling hunger or a fear of heights. But it is extended to others as well. You remember who is the king of your village because it behooves you to know who's shoes not to shit on... for survival. I think also it creates the kings identity for himself when he knows that others don't shit on his shoes out of fear.

"Here's why I resist social identity. Social identity is the paperwork. You don't give justification to your claim that surviving effectively requires being a part of social orders. I submit that memories are not essential. I like them, but if I can't form memories about pain (thinking of Memento and the shock test), though I would probably die in a hazardous environment, that doesn't mean I couldn't have a rewarding life of thought[**] if I resided in a safe place."

If memories weren't essential for the survival of the human race why do we have them? We evolved with memories, why wouldn't they be necessary? Also, you and I both know people have lived in tribes for a long time, as Anthropologists can estimate--what makes you think that this isn't a necessary human behavior? I don't need to make justification for the necessity of human social orders as much as you need to justify us not needing them.

And further I propose that social memory is a composite part of social order. Social identity is wrapped up in it too. Essentially human beings seem defined socially by their social relations. I assume that if there were only one human we wouldn't have identity but that is not the case. I don't see where you mean to go with these points...

"Regarding your modifications to my earlier statements, is identity so difficult to reduce? We're already supposing the reducibility of the mind. Isn't anything we acknowledge as true reducible? (i.e. we can reduce that which we call the mind, but we don't bother reducing God because we don't acknowledge it as existent. Instead, we reduce the concept of God to logical (and illogical) conclusions of the workings of the brain.)"

Yes, identity is incredibly difficult to reduce. Because it is so socially ingrained. Something like morality (which I would argue is a composite part of personal and social identity) is not reducible to 1's and 0's. It changes daily because people's opinions on the matter change daily. And some peoples opinions on the matter--matter more. Like judges. A concept like morality is similar to a concept like God****--illogical. Yet it defines our society and is a sort of societal 'truth'*&%*. In that it is deeply important and relevant. I agree this isn't pretty or neat but I submit that it is the world in which we exist and necessarily defines our relationship to anything and everything.

*Play-doh's allegory of the cave would get all hard and flaky if you left it out...

**I call B.S. on your claim that you could live a "rewarding life of thought" If you had no memories. First, I doubt you can even begin to understand what a life like that might be like. Second, the word 'thought' is meant in a human context with memories and for that matter so is rewarding to compare a life without a facility so ingrained in (yes I'm going to say it again) human identity is just nonsense***.

***It may indeed not be nonsense at all... I'd just need convincing. Sorry heat-of-the-moment-emotion showing through in that sentence.

****If someone doesn't give me crap because of this then we know for sure that no one reads this blog.

*&%*I'm getting a lot of ambiguity from my CrimLaw class and its sneaking into my discussion of social identity.

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