What is the point?

I came across Tim Urban blog post what makes you you?


And it was a delight. I enjoyed how he tackled this question not by simply taking us down Ontology lane by providing quotes from Aristotle to Heidegger, but by rather by narrating a series of thought experiments. It’s a lengthy post and it should be read, as any summary takes away from the pleasure of experiencing the meandering of your own thoughts, like a centipede they get nudged, probed, stretched and dropped. The two main sources that Tim heavily relied on were: The free course from Yale Professor Shelly Kagan’s http://oyc.yale.edu/philosophy/phil-176#sessions, & Derek Parfit’s book Reasons and Persons, which both now are on my reading list. Tim also teamed with Kurzgesagt to present this YouTube video on the same topic http://youtu.be/QOCaacO8wus

The post starts with 3 theories of the Self:

1) The Body Theory: Physical body and its incidentals, including Cells, bones, DNA, the pieces and/or the sum.

2) The Brain Theory: The Gray Matter inside your skull only is you.

3) The Data Theory: The Stuff inside the gray matter is only you, memories, thoughts, etc..

With each theory the holes are exposed right away. However, with series of thought experiments listed below:

A. The Torture Test

B. The Teletransporter Thought Experiment

C. The Split Brain Experiment

D. The Cell Replacement Test

E. The Body Scattering Test

F. Continuity

As you read through the various tests, the idea of what you think you are oscillates. The interesting part as the sequence of the narrative changes while pondering the same thought experiment, your opinion on what you value most about yourself: data, brain, or body subtly shifts too.

What is my conclusion? I think when you experience the impermanence of your thoughts in successions, you are indulging in a part of you that is akin to when you are staying at a five star hotel; you are accessing your own luxury, you are just visiting this hotel, and while you are here, use the robe, order-in food, look out the window, get a message, get drunk, watch TV, have sex, and when you check-out don’t forget to thank the establishment.

All this short-lived pondering, much like the life span of a fly, leave me with vague colorful streaks, that somehow represents the slow shifting of a new perspective relative to an old perspective, and vice-versa, rummaging the space of this fleshy building like a wild young boy, and my older self is there snapping pictures from hundreds of cameras that are stringed along the interior walls. To what purpose? To celebrate the fact that we are hacking our own mind, using our own words, and then sharing a piece of you to prove we are not alone.

I think at some point we realize that we can’t crack the ceiling, we can’t be the architect, so we might as well enjoy being an interior designer.

It was an interesting read through-out, did I say interesting already?


One thought on “What is the point?

  1. On Friday, I read your blog after watching short documentaries for the late director Marwan Baghdadi.one film was done 5 years into the civil war the other was done 3 years after the first.
    I left the theater feeling disturbed. You see, the second documentary time line happened to coincide with the twenty five years old self.
    I was among those people inhabiting that war-torn capital. I was a student getting my art degree always an optimist and believing that our humanity would prevail. A state where religion would not determine who we are and what we can accomplish . After all that it is how civilized countries do it .
    The first documentary named Hamasat(whispers),the narrator was the late poet Nadia Twaini, the wife of Ghassan, the mother of Gibran Twaini and the sister of Marwwan Hemadi The director mention an interview done before of 2 leaders of opposite sides. You might have guessed their names :the Christian and Muslim leaders. Off course they are Basheir Jammail and Kamal Jumboulat.
    Needless to say all these names mentioned above are dead. Only Ghassan and Nadia died without being bombed except Marwan he survived his car bombe.

    At the end of the Film the director wrap it up by stating the never ending love of the people for life. He shows splinters of light :Young people like my young self, workers carving stones and engineers planning new roads in Downtown?!!

    You see how things are progressing over the years? The opposing forces today are: Welate Al Faqeih and ISIS. Oh, did I forget to mention that Marceil Khalifi was singing in the film, the Christian from the right singing to the left? Couple years ago he went to court to defend himself against blasphemy case, because he sang a song of Mahmood Darwish words that included verses from the Quran.


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