Self-Conscious Reality

April 27, 2012

Life is a concept taken for granted.  Conscious bodies naturally assume a sense of self to experience existence.  The lived experience of existence can only be recognized by a self.  Experiences of self seem to constitute what is and is not living.  This assumption poses a question: what is it to be living?  A problem answering this question arises in attempting to locate the experienced self.  The self appears to be physical in nature, but cannot be restricted to any individual physical manifestation such as a heart or brain.  This limitless physicality creates an intangible sense of self.  Yet without the physicality, the intangibility could not be experienced.

The self’s existence is undeniable through lived experience.  Defining its essence proves a taxing effort, because accepting the self’s existence does not determine what it is.  A definition of self is: a conscious reality by means of experience, remains incomplete as its physical location has yet to be specified.

A clear interpretation of a conscious reality is needed to understand experience of the self.  The reality of consciousness is an awareness of the present moment.  Understanding consciousness requires a phenomenological approach.  Phenomenology is used to describe the way in which the world shows up.  It remains focused on the phenomenon being studied, and tries not to stray away from the subject matter discussed as experience.  Experience is a matter of perception that some identify happening within the brain.  Philosophers who adopt this method of describing experience neither deny, nor affirm the brain’s role in perception.  Rather, they start with experience.  Perceptual experience is more than reception, but requires interpretation.  This can be attributed to the fact that objects which are experienced already have meaning.  The semantic work which one is conscious of is facilitated by the objects, arrangements, and events one encounters (Gallagher and Zahavi, 7).

Separating consciousness from self-consciousness is ineffective when interpreting a conscious reality.  Merleau-Ponty states, ‘consciousness is always affected by itself and that the word consciousness has no meaning independently of this fundamental self-giveness’ (Gallagher and Zahavi, 203).  To have consciousness there must always be a self.  Let’s say you are writing an end-of-term paper.  You can be conscious of the paper as separate from you, but that requires already predetermined notions of self.  Your past experiences mold your conscious understanding of your relation to the paper.  The ability to be conscious of the paper would only be interpretable through a prior self-conscious awareness of experiences.  Even if it wasn’t your paper, but instead a paper you were critiquing—a conscious perception of self-experiences (such as acquiring a language) is necessary for any form of interpretation.  This conscious understanding can only be of the self.

Cassam believes that a creature must be capable of thinking of self-ascribed experiences belonging to one-and-the-same self when determining if an entity is self-conscious (Gallagher and Zahavi, 48).  He means that self-consciousness requires the creature to be conscious of its own identity.  The only way one is capable of consciousness is to have a self.  All things which to be conscious of arise out of experience.  The self is recognized through the conglomeration of experience.  Experiences have an unbreakable bond with self-consciousness.  Cassam is correct when pointing out the necessity of a creature, which may be comprehended to be any body, when settling on what can be conscious.  The physicality of experience is integral to consciousness.  From a phenomenological standpoint, consciousness can only be realized self-consciously.  Separating consciousness apart from a physical self would entail the acceptance of a form of dualism.

Dualists can be segregated into two main categories.  The first being interactionism. Interactionism determines the mind and body are distinct from each other, but interact in both directions (Chalmers, 1); while the other group is defined as epiphenomenal.  Epiphenomenalism holds the distinction between mind and body, but maintains that physical states are able to influence mental states while mental states have no impact on physical states (Chalmers, 1).  The latter shares a similar view held with the religious understandings of souls.

The Cartesian approach of dividing physical experience from a conscious self deserves discussion.  Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy owes its philosophical credibility to the fact the self has yet to be physically located.  Descartes does not deny his self.  It isn’t possible that he who is thinking is not something.  He doesn’t accept identifying solely with his senses for self-experience.  Instead, he believes in the possibility that body, shape, extension, movement and place are hallucinations (Chalmers, 10).  To him the self is a mind or intelligence.  He still recognizes his self but not in a purely physical manner.  The sheer fact that I’m aware of my hand, brain or any other body part makes it understandable why one could imagine one’s self as being of a metaphysical nature.  If I am capable of objectifying physical manifestations, including my own body; it would seem as though I am something beyond the physical realm.  This non-materialized inner being that is to dualists, the essential self, needs and uses the body as a tool belonging to its self as means to imagine corporeal things.  Instead of identifying with the body, its sensory perceptions allotted by nature are simply used to “inform the mind of what is beneficial or harmful for the composite of which the mind is a part” (Chalmers, 18).  In saying this, Descartes unwittingly stresses the importance of a body when realizing a sense of self.  If the mind-self is apart from the body then nothing physical could be harmful or beneficial to it.  The body would just be an object, not an essential part to experiencing self.  Yet without the body, there would be no corporeality to relay sensory information to a self.  Life as we know it would be drastically different.  Challenges to Descartes’ belief are concerned with how exactly physical information is transported to the immaterial self.

The means by which physical sensory information becomes a conscious reality for the dualist’s immaterial self creates a nexus problem.  There must be a linked connection if the body ever wishes to experience the self (or vice versa).  The question of self would still be looming even if a link can be identified in some manner.  A belief in a nexus link only furthers the incapability of defining the self.  A third variable is brought into an already complicated philosophical equation which isn’t getting us anywhere.  Sensory information collected by the body to be transferred by way of a connection to a metaphysical self for meaningful interpretation only explains what the self is able to be conscious of, and leaves an empty definition of its essence.  One may argue that the nexus link is the true essence in determining the self– opposed to a body or mind explanation– because the nexus link has the ability to make the mind-self consciously aware of perceptual experiences.

Before advances in neuroscience and biology, it’s been said that the tie between mind and body could be located obscurely within the body.  The body’s deterioration would eventually lead to the release of the mind-self to continue on into eternity.  This situates the nexus link to be a physical entity as well.  When the physically recognizable images of our bodies cease to exist in their original syntactical format, the nonmaterial self will have no means of experiencing a consciousness of the self.  This is not to say living can only be embraced by restricted syntactical structures, nor is it intended to say the self can be defined exclusively in terms of behavioral patterns of sensory stimulation.

The lived self isn’t confined to a limited biological syntactic structure.  A particular structure may have advantages and disadvantages comparably to others, but is nevertheless capable of playing a role in cognition.  The self depends on surrounding environmental factors for a lived conscious reality.  The surrounding environment contains ‘external’ objects of which to become conscious.  Experience of these objects is the fashion by which cognition evolves the realizable consciousness.  Cognition involves a display of meaning, an interpretation, and expression of semantic value by a conscious being.

For example, suppose you work at a pet store.  The day is boring and monotonous until a teenager pokes her fingers through the parrot cage.  You see this happening, but are reluctant to mention anything because you want to suppose she knows what she’s doing.  You turn away to check if there’s a line at the register, and within a matter of seconds you hear a piercing squawk and a shrill scream.  You look to see the teenage girl has blood all over her hands, and begins having a tantrum.  Immediately you reach for paper towels to hand to the girl then run to the back office to find peroxide and bandages.  Upon your return you see the girl with a concerned older man by her side.  You infer that it’s her father.  You find out quickly that your inference was correct when he begins to blame you for the teenage girl’s idiotic accident.  You begin to nod your head without speaking (only to find out that this angers the father even more).  The girl’s tantrum begins to escalate.  The father is threatening to sue the company, but you can’t say anything because on your first day the boss said never admit responsibility of action if someone is unintentionally injured.  The scenario could play on.

The entire experience was self-conscious through externalized cognition.  The self realized itself consciously throughout the event.  Just before the girl was bit, the recognized self felt bored by the repetitiveness of the day.  This feeling of boredom could only have meaning distinguishable by previous experiences involving boredom not of that moment.  The girl whom stuck her fingers in the cage exemplified her cognitive understanding of big birds.  This unfortunate cognitive act led to an upset bird, a disfigured daughter and a fuming father.  These states of consciousness all contributed to a self-experiencing act of externalism.  Clark and Chalmers define active externalism as ‘the active role of the environment in driving cognitive processes’ (Chalmers, 643).  The entire experience pertaining to the day at the pet store was not simply a result of a causal chain of a skin/skull boundary classification of self, but was actively playing a crucial role in a presently-conscious reality (only to be recognized by an extended self).

The extended self remains physical by nature even if it goes beyond the skin/skull boundary.  The objects perceived create experiences to be realized consciously.  It can be confusing to identify a conscious self if it is not limited to a skin/skull bodily boundary.  Yet, it is the boundary that gives rise to self-consciousness.  The events which led to the memory of your first day at work were all dependent upon the external physical environment in relation to self.  The external environment set the stage for the self to recognize squawking and screaming as; something to be avoided, a father’s infuriation, and an uncertainty of what to do next.  The way in which this process of cognition occurs is an unfolding mystery which identity theorists attempt to explain.

Identity theory claims brain states are identical to mind states.  Experience by Smart’s standards can be recognized as a brain process.  He opposes a dualist stance when defining mental/brain states because he believes that everything is composed of something (Chalmers, 66).  This is fair enough concerning brain processes or even acts of cognition– though deciding that everything is composed of some sort of matter still leaves the self undefined.  Cognition and brain processes only account for why and how particular mind states are reached.  They don’t answer what the mind states are.  Mind states cannot be entirely attributed to the brain.  A brain without a body has no method of ever experiencing a self; it lacks the sensory sensations required.  Smart points out that the brain is quite important when it comes to consciousness, but without an extended cognition theory, Smart’s, Troubles with Functionalism, falls short accurately defining a conscious self.  If mind states can be equated to brain states then the self is left to be whatever process that causes self-consciousness.  The conscious reality experienced to be the self, by the self is not merely the ability to draw correlations between what is so comparatively to what looks so, but rather, relies on a current collective cognitive process.

A variety of methodical approaches can be employed to surpass the actuality that self is indefinable.  Sartre associates the term ‘ego’ to the self.  Overall he adopts a no-self doctrine.  He claims as long as one is absorbed in an experience (such as reading a story) no ego will appear (Gallagher and Zahavi, 199). Metzinger refers to the ego as a representational construct. That is to say the ego has the potential to be possessed by a biological organism with a self-model, but the no-self doctrine asserts that such self-models are not truly selves, but instead, complex brain states (Gallagher and Zahavi, 199).  In any case, the no-self doctrine still is unable to define the self even through denial.  The falsehood of the self is still an experience of a conscious reality.

The self has the capability to arrive on the scene by way of narrative construction.  MacIntyre words the unity of the self as residing ‘in the unity of a narrative which links birth to life to death as a narrative beginning to middle to end’ (Gallagher and Zahavi, 201).  This does not negate the claim that the experienced self is a conscious reality.  One must presently be conscious of the experiences being discussed to create or interpret a narrative of any sort.  A narrative of the self is no different.

The commonality shared by experiences is an awareness of mineness.  So even though a pet store worker appears physically separated from a teenage girl or an enraged father, the complete experience of the bird-biting phenomenon will contain a sense of mineness for each self to realize consciously.

Although the self has remained undefined because of locative inabilities, it is still important to understand it.  The self as a conscious reality forms the concept of life to be separate from plainly existing (if even possible).  Self is needed to incorporate life into existence.  It provides a purpose to being-in-the-world.  The unrealized self is nothing of conscious significance.  The only means by which we recognize life living is through our selves.  It also entertains the possibility of death and mortality.  I have only experienced conscious realization through a lived self.  The self I experience does not recall living before my biological structure was thrust into the world.  So when my biological structure deteriorates into dust it is quite possible that the self being experienced will cease to live, but the essence in which it was physically derived will continue existing through ever-evolving structures.  This might mean that physicality is immortal, and death is the loss of the self’s capacity to be conscious.  To be conscious is a verb that requires a subject (Perry, 385).  The problem in conceiving the experience of death lies in the inability to realize consciously a self without a physical subject.  It is true that bodies are never fixed.  They continuously change alongside physical existence.  Cells regenerate, neural chemicals alter composition, external cognition alters mind states, and entire senses of being develop throughout a lifetime.  Perry’s, Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality, suggests the physicality we experience is the ‘outer wrapping’ from which we infer what is inside (Perry, 387).  The character, Gretchen, reminds us there is no possible method to observe the sameness of body and self.   If the body is continuously changing its structure and if we reject the idea of an immaterial self, the thought of death will forever escape us until experienced.  That’s if it’s even a possible phenomenon to experience.  Self-consciousness has needed a body to be experienced.  We can admit the body is used to experience the self is not the same body today that it was five years ago.  The conceptualization of self is then not dependent on any fixed bodily structure.  The undeniable self is realized without willingness.  It does not require extensive meditation and thought.  It has been sensed through our bodies for as long as memory permits.  So if a body’s composition of mass and energy is always in flux while self-consciously living, maybe it’s possible that death does not exist.  The flowing body proves that the self is adaptable to physical change.  Physically, death is only a re-disbursement of the mass and energy which currently make up our skin/skull boundary.  I do recognize the conscious reality experienced through self is a conglomeration of all things past converging here-and-now.  So this leaves open the future possibility for the redistribution of mass and energy to a more evolved self, physically and mentally.

Works Cited

Chalmers, David John. “Foundations.” Introduction. Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. Print.

“Dualism: Meditations on First Philosophy (II and VI).” Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings. Comp. David John Chalmers. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. Print.

Gallagher, Shaun, and Dan Zahavi. “Consciousness and Self-Consciousness.” The Phenomenological Mind: an Introduction to Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science. London [u.a.: Routledge, 2009. Print.

Gallagher, Shaun, and Dan Zahavi. “Introduction: Philosophy of Mind, Cognitive Science, and Phenomenology.” Introduction. The Phenomenological Mind: an Introduction to Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science. London [u.a.: Routledge, 2009. Print.

Gallagher, Shaun, and Dan Zahavi. “Self and Person.” The Phenomenological Mind: an Introduction to Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science. London [u.a.: Routledge, 2009. Print.

“The Identity Theory: Sensations and Brain Processes.” Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings. Comp. David John Chalmers. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. Print.

“Internalism and Externalism: The Extended Mind.” Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings. Comp. David John Chalmers. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. Print.

Perry, John. A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 1977. Blackboard. Web. 23 Nov. 2010.


April 27, 2012

The Holy Dark

I’m generally not a huge fan of debates over religion. I like the idea of them – of people coming together to present arguments for and against religious positions – but conversations and debates over religion almost never even approximate that ideal of rational, civil, critical, self-reflective discussion. They usually just turn out to be a few people reiterating, with increasing volume and vigor, their own religious or non-religious view, along with their tired stereotypes of the other’s view. So, one way to fix discussions over religion is to inject a little civility, humility, and critical thought into them.

But that’s what everyone already knows is wrong with most debates over religion (except the people who participate in them). There’s another problem with these discussions/debates, though, that is less obvious: when people engage in these discussions, they normally aim too high. Specifically, it’s generally the position of person A in…

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Rainbow Pollution

April 27, 2012

It felt dry in Washington as the redline escalator carried Jasper out to DuPont Circle.  He planned to meet a good friend, Lena.  She texted him earlier that some fabulous news came out of the blue, and they just must meet up for a coffee date so she could spill.  This sort of news made Jasper nervous.  Surprises never go well for a person hidden beneath books all day, but he loved Lena and she loved Jasper.  As he stepped off the ascending stairs, the sun sunk into the marble monuments, leaving the skylight refracted into a color like rainbow pollution.  A bright flag hung limp straight across the metro station outside the café, where Jasper spotted Lena fingering through a Ginsberg poem at an outside table.  He quickly lit a cigarette before circling to the other side.

He only sucked down half a smoke before spitting it out.  These days one might’ve fined a person for lighting up near the open edges of an establishment.  Besides Lena never smoked.  Her cheeks rounded like peaches when Jasper tapped her back.

“What’d ya get me, lady?” he asked with an unforced grin.

“Oh, Jasper!  You won’t believe it.  Grab us a cup of coffee, and I’ll tell you everything.”

With rolled eyes and a twirl in and out the door, Jasper returned with two cherry white mochas.  He set the ceramic mugs lightly on the table so not to splash any froth on the thick striped shirt-skirt he admired on her.

“Thanks, babe.  How’s work?” she asked.

“It’s the bottom floor of the Library of Congress.  It blows,” Jasper replied.

“And not in the good way.”

They laughed at the inside joke Jasper had with all his girlfriends.  Lena sipped caffeine with both hands while yellow-gold irises singed together the green-grey hue of his.  He knew she’d reveal what brought them together that evening, but Lena took time making sure things felt right.

“So I bet you went home with that blonde last night, huh?” Lena asked.

“Sure did.  I couldn’t say no to a smile like that.” Jasper’s forehead reddened.

“You forgot to mention his ass.  Mmm, I bet that was firm.”  Jasper particularly enjoyed when women objectified men.

Jasper’s arms heated up.  He liked guys, but he himself was never one to publicly objectify.  Even though seven years had passed since his father spit words at him, claiming he’s too young to actually make a choice straight kids don’t.  This was after Jasper admitted the boy driving him to school freshmen year was more than a friend.  A good thing that was though; a father’s naivety meant sex slept over sex with legs touching toes at night.

“So…” he drifted his gaze.  The moon was coming into the night.

“I’m moving to Oakland Heights, Jasper.”  Silence.  “You heard me?  I’m leaving,” more silence.  Lena just moved to D.C. less than a year ago from Cincinnati.  The year before, she stayed in Kokomo for six months.  That was before living in El Paso where people said she turned up and left without telling a soul.

“But why?  Don’t you like D.C.?  You just got here.”  Jasper pleaded.

“I like you, Jasper.  I’m going to stay with beautiful people.  I can’t stay here in a box anymore.  So many rules.  Everyone expects me to walk and talk for them.  I’m my own person, not anyone else’s.  I don’t fit any metro role.  And why should I?”  Lena meant to comfort Jasper, but got lost in explanation.  She stood up bumping her hips against the table—because she was a person who could never handle conflict, causing the half-finished mocha to shoot into spongy sidewalk.

“Well, when’re you leaving?  We should go out one last time,” Jasper suggested.

“In the morning, sweetheart.  Will you take care of that?  I have to pack,” Lena asked.  Her hands anxiously pushed crimson hair behind pierced ears.  She began to rush off, but knew Jasper’s tendency to silently beg.  “Why don’t you come by in an hour or so?  You could help me pack.”

Jasper nodded to all above.  He knew she invited him for his sake, but still, the sentiment wasn’t lost.

The hour passed and he hopped the Circulator, getting off at the steps going down into her room.  Jasper saw black trash bags stacked against a wall through the door window wall fall over.  The knob locked.  Strange.  He knocked on the door.  Lena came out from her closet with a stuffed bag and swung open the basement entrance.

“Sorry.  I just have to,” Lena said.  He rushed her.  “I can’t feel stuck, ya know?  We’ll stay friends.”  Jasper huffed.  Lena already had a problem answering his calls living seven blocks away.  “Talk to me.  I know.  You can say.”

Jasper had walked all over to the baggage.  Cross armed and stiff he started, “What sort of person leaves without a day’s notice?  You’ve other friends too, ya know?  Have you told ‘em?  Or is this place just like all other places?”  Jasper loosened his arms and punched his chest, “Fuck’s sake.  Out of all people, you know me.  You say what I say.  Why now?  Lena, I love you more than any girl and most boys.  Our relationship is different.  Why do you always leave?”

Lena dropped to her feet.  Calloused, bruised, and tired; she edged across the closet’s threshold to sit in the mess she wanted so bad packed, but ran out of bags.

“Say something!  Do you feel a thing at all!” he screamed from nowhere.

“I feel,” cut short, Jasper yanked the travelling feet from the closet depths.  Lena flung her back on a new hardwood surface.  Jasper collapsed into the other body for the first time.  Their lips burned in an unknowable sin as tongues spoke tongues in language busting blue veins like gasoline meeting a single match.  The words came after.  The exact one’s only once.

Jasper let her go when the wet sun rose, and even though they parted, she always managed to float in and out of his life whenever one or the other needed a climax.

The Officer

April 26, 2012

A brief section of a larger work:


The officer’s gloved hands wrapped around Adler’s neck like a spiked collar, releasing as the back latch of the van sliced unlock.  Officer Mutton twirled Adler through the door just as it split open.   His badge number, which normally dropped from his neck like a guillotine,  tucked into the cop’s shirt.  I’m sure it happens all the time, but this time was different.  Six other cops surrounded Adler with cocked batons as he stumbled out of the paddy wagon alone, hitting his nose on a young officer’s steel toed boot.  The young officer looked down with a wince resembling a long forgotten sense of sympathy.  If only he’d remember when his older sister, annoyed and frustrated with a diary-reading little monster, protected him from the violent swats of a father’s disciplinary measures; the young officer may have shielded cracked wrists and bleeding eyes from metal footprints scarring the body half to death.  If only he hadn’t listened to Officer Mutton’s commandments like a guilt-stricken nun tethering her fingertips together with rosary beads, begging for salvation.  Then maybe Adler wouldn’t have awoken to an IV pumping the good-ole and most certainly legal, stuff into veins as blue as the rings traveling around his wrists.

“How did I get here,” asked Adler to an empty room.  His vision cross and pixilated, it took a few moments before the swallowing realization engulfed the surrounding blank, bare walls–he closest thing to him.  A weak, but persistent surge pushed through the heart into his drugged bloodstream and kept those speckle-gray irises wandering about those bone-colored walls.

Like a newborn zebra anxiously learning what she already knew to outrun the slobbery tongue of a single, green-eyed lion, Adler began to panic.  Where was Jeanie?  She didn’t see the cops pounce the protesters helping Adler build a jagged but new tent.  She didn’t hear the screams of people rot their own teeth with oaths condemning violent reactions.  She didn’t see the occupiers assemble against Adler after escaping a puppet handed herd of brainless, robotic officers hiding behind the next person in costume sporting adulterated boy-scout badges.  She wasn’t there to stop what happened.

Maybe if the herd of baton twirling cattle-people were forced to learn about any humanities class, then patrollers might occasionally forget their rubber guns and pepper spray grenades in service cars, underneath warm blankets brought from their homes in hopes to keep stubborn people protected from a violent winter storm because a few homeowners carrying signs demanding higher wages didn’t think to invite the wretched homeless in, to sleep on fashionable Ikea couches after watching a favorite documentary shedding even more light on the already too hot Arctic slipping deeper into a blackened ocean full of polar bear corpses and bloody Coca-Cola bottles.  Then they might not catch the flu their insurance plan can’t afford because the cheaper plan leaves enough cash leftover for the plane tickets their daughters need to teach Chinese children English all while children in Afghanistan (or maybe Uzbekistan? You know, the Middle East) cover themselves in dirt to keep cool while waiting days to enter a refugee camp–the only place left with food after economic warfare took their parents, ravaged lands, and put guns in their hands.  Don’t worry though, I hear for every three boxtops collected, General Mills sends a portion of help.  And it only costs eighteen cents a day to save a child’s life so he too can wear Nikes.  Plus I hear troops are headed somewhere else in Africa, I bet it’s Somalia… it’s got to be Somalia, to bring peace, freedom, and democracy because some dictator or something is causing civil war and raping women.  And now, if we don’t have to worry about losing our own soldiers to thoughtless violence because we’ve learned to fly tactical airbombers with joysticks, then soldiers can bring clean water in the spaces where all the weapons would normally go.  I mean we just have to kill this one guy who probably uses tear gas to terrorize people.  All they want is the vote, to be like us, to have representatives telling… well I’m not sure who, but telling someone to give all students affordable educations, properly preparing them for a competitive job market by placing GPA and volunteer hours in manicured hands, proving themselves successful by attaining the coveted middle management 40-hour work week and a 30-year mortgage, easily forgotten about inside SUVs waiting in line for grand openings of timeshares built in hopes of attracting tourists back to a beach filled with the stores you see on interstates, after some disaster control agencies took toothbrushes and baby shampoo to the feathers of greasy pelicans, victim to the wrath of a big oil CEO trying to make a buck.  As one great philosopher once said, “let them eat cake,” two helpings made of cheese!  Liposuction and antacid tablets for all to forget about the pains of a burning heart.  Leave that to the dying poets and painters co-opted into commercials because they too save money for a rainy day, inside where they’ll catch themselves on comfortable couches drooling over the real world through the same flat screen broadcast to the cheesecake eaters, wondering if the infomercial really can make them skinny.  Certainly not as skinny as the black baby on television with a cleft lip, but skinny like the drunken sorority girls dancing on sticky floors to a song feeding already-inflated egos gobs of glitter-mash; attracting mates in a ritualistic manner only children of parents who pay to have friends understand.  Money meeting money must find hands to account for all the worth because I’m certain they’re not going to sacrifice time locked in stocks, waging deals securing a digitized income, bargaining for a freedom they most certainly already have.  A freedom to watch skinny girls dance and fuck all their life. Gyrating only partly explains how a girl like that remains so thin, at least until she marries a balding alcoholic who laughs at the word jugs.  Then dancing isn’t as fun as they jiggle.  Together the nights become identical no matter how much more exciting it is paying to watch a movie up front with a barrel of popcorn doused in a bowl of butter compared to the monthly sweat-pant charge it costs to have a night out on the couch watching America’s Next Top Models talk about issues which only concern us when they talk, telling them both the fantasies they want either way.  Hypnotic repetition gradually shortens attention spans to seek pleasure any other way than clicking the mouse, flipping the channel. Finding cartoon characters speaking to crazies believing throwing out money and pills solve problems.

Try telling that to the trembling boy coughing out a limited number of breathes, never knowing he wanted to save the world until it threw him into the silence found on a dark street, crushing made-for-dirt bone and muscle with naturally violent forces.

“Oh god!  Jeanie, save me.  Where are you?” Adler’s little, inexperienced voice met no other.  Alone in an empty space piercing open white eyes with too much light, Adler couldn’t stand to see a moment longer.


Timothy McSweeney Understands Why. He Does Not Understand How.

Some stellar writing prompts.

Look Like Virgin

April 26, 2012

It wasn’t from a dream,

but I woke up crying

one day after my birthday,

how am I supposed to feel?

It falls outta me–just,

like rumbling water letting out

a voice you can’t make talk.

Running like a child before he’s put to sleep.

I’m breathing top soil

rooted in dust

pale as rib bones

buried beneath

the fuck I look like.

A virgin?

Philosophy of Mind

Original Date: November 29, 2010

The film, Being John Malkovich, investigates the proposition of defining self. There are two recognizable methods used through the movie explaining possible, yet incomplete definitions of self. The obvious method suggests the self is separate from the physicality of bodies. Duality of mind and body is an outdated concept, but its stamina credits to another method that conglomerates the self through extensions of minds. This definition of self remains incomplete because conglomeration defines individual constituents. The complete self has remained a bit of a mystery due to the inability to physically locate it.

The plot begins to take off when Craig Schwartz (Jack Cusack) finds employment with Dr. Lester (Orson Bean) to work in a quirky Manhattan office with low-hanging ceilings. This is encouraging for Craig because his wife, Lotte (Cameron Diaz), wanted him to find a regular job instead of waiting for a boom in the puppeteer business. After a movie orientation Craig meets Maxine (Catherine Keener). He becomes completely infatuated with Maxine in a matter of minutes. He consistently attempts to ask her out without any luck until Craig discovers the portal to John Malkovich’s mind. Craig explains that he was able to feel, see and hear what John Malkovich was experiencing. Instead of questioning the plausibility of this experience, Maxine develops a plan to exploit Craig’s discovery. Craig’s infatuation makes him a business partner. The two begin to sell tickets to the portal.

The notion that one self can enter into a separate body while having the same sense of agency seems unlikely. This assumption confines the self to being an invisible entity with no explanation of why or how. If the idea of a self extends beyond our physical world, then there is no way that it could be experienced. If such a portal exists, the probability of Craig’s spirit escaping his pineal gland to crash into John Malkovich’s body is much more unlikely than his body and John’s body to somehow fuse together. A body experiences a sense of self based upon its structure. Different structures are believed to have different senses of self. So either way, if Craig’s invisible self left his body in thin air to enter John Malkovich, or if the physical bodies fused as one; the experience of self would be different as to that no one could truly experience being John Malkovich. Clark and Chalmers point out that change in external feature leads to the possibility of behavior completely altering (Chalmers, 645). Body structures that are dissimilar, such as a short person and a very tall person, may still have the same behaviors but there is no way each self has the same experiences.

Lotte is unable to keep away once she learns of the portal. The idea of being a man fascinates Lotte, and coincidently becomes extremely attracted to Maxine.  Maxine will reciprocate the attraction under the condition that Lotte is inside Malkovich. Maxine’s house-wrecking skills eventually lead to jealousy. Craig was so upset about Lotte and Maxine that he kidnapped Lotte, and then began to control John Malkovich through his puppeteer skills. This displaces the duality theme momentarily. If the mental attributes of Craig  combine together physically with the body of John, then neither self: Craig or John, would exist. A new self would emerge into being. Craig’s self would cease to be what it was prior because his experience would be coupled with the sensations of Malkovich. Through this scenario, the self that is now part of Malkovich’s body would be an extension of both the experiences of Craig and John.
Lotte escapes to learn what has happened between Maxine and Craig. Lotte decides to seek guidance from Dr. Lester who has a room dedicated entirely to the life of John Malkovich. Lotte learns that Dr. Lester has been able to perpetuate his self for many years because he is able to enter different host bodies. He explains that you can only go into the portal at a specific time. Otherwise you may end up doomed to spend the rest of your life watching the world through someone else’s eyes. If Dr. Lester believes his self is able to extend beyond one body to the next, then he is already doomed because his identity is an intangible self with no means of experiencing its own tangible existence.

The film ends with Maxine and Lotte getting together to raise their child, Emily, whom had been conceived while Lotte was inside of Malkovich. Unfortunately, Craig did not hear Dr. Lester’s warning about entering the portal on time so he ended up trapped within Emily.

Works Cited

Being John Malkovich. Dir. Spike Jonze. Perf. John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, John Malkovich. Universal, 1999. Netflix.

“The Extended Mind.” Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings. Comp. David John Chalmers. New York: Oxford UP,     2002. Print.

Apple Cores

April 26, 2012

Wrought in lead, a papier-mâché casket

buried beneath mud with forms unspoken.

A throb knocking between stone and mallet

inscribes: here in lies… a cheap, godless slogan

without life or reason, only because

one came in another like wood ejecting Trojan.

A concrete fortress will have flaws

as dirt turns, cement raises Earth—

long-winded and open jaws

uproot dandelions screaming for rebirth

while gusts tear seeds apart to dust. Flowers

fated to curse rocked land and still birth.

May one follow the cruelest month’s showers

and sprout in the shadow of red oak stood

still in the future resurrected as towers,

find water and drink fast then, as plants should

soak up light dripping through veined leaves to ground,

where day laborers come to collect pulpwood.

 Axed trunks splinter jungle creature sound,

imperial forests left stumped in silence

by talking macaws lost and never found.

The dead tree once lived gives ordinance

as saplings grew underneath its branches.

Its death, transformed scripture’s  reverence

for the living prayers designing churches

from gold to bring salvation.  Alchemists

preach, yet hear out truth as nothing—but noises,

kept bound in a book with calloused fists,

ready to battle those dropping apple cores

atop coffins sunk into soil’s quieting mists.

Cognition: The Difference

April 20, 2012

Cognition and consciousness, according to Andy Clark and David J. Chalmers are, intrinsic but differ in their achievable and realizable functions. Consciousness appears to be centrally located within the embodied mind, while cognition is the ability to become aware of a ‘collective conscious’ by extensions of and through the mind. Clark and Chalmers go beyond the typical understanding of externalism to explain this. They advocate a form of externalism called: active externalism.

The boundary of where the mind ends and the world begins has been the precise issue in which philosophers of mind have debated. Clark and Chalmers have a dramatic solution to the debate.  “In an explanation, simplicity is power,” they quote.  They exemplify this through a story about two museum of modern art patrons, Inga and Otto. Both agents wish to go to an exhibit, but before they can go they must locate the museum. Inga uses neural processing to recall from her memory that the museum is on 53rd street while Otto (whom unfortunately suffers from Alzheimer) must refer to a writing notebook that he keeps important information about the objects and spaces he encounters. Otto is able to determine the museum location through this notebook. Even though both agents used different means as to figuring out where the museum is, they achieve the overall desire to go.

Some pose an argument, claiming Inga’s information comes from inside the head while Otto has retrieved the same information through a notebook. Clark and Chalmers determine that the means in which information is gathered is irrelevant. Inga may have had the memory of where the location of the museum is somewhere within her mind, and can access it through a special neural process delegated to humans; Inga is only aware of this information upon retrieval. She is not always conscious of the fact that the Museum of Modern Art is located along 53rd street. Just as Otto, with his Alzheimer’s disease, is unable to recollect where the museum is without retrieving the information from his notebook. This act of retrieving information is the cognitive process. Inga’s and Otto’s abilities to reflect and examine their conscious thoughts is cognitive even if the means differ; the function is the same.

Consciousness may be realizable within the brain, but what we are conscious of depends entirely on cognitive processes must be experienced outside the brain. When writing this paper I am expressing conscious thought in real-time, but when it comes to examining it by any other conscious agent or myself at a later time, it can only be realized cognitively (primarily through the understanding of the extension of mind that has created the tool of language in this case).
Humans created tools and objects, becoming aware of their thoughts used by the conscious mind to further its cognitive abilities. These objects and tools that are externally located from the embodied mind create a loop that perpetuates and advances our cognitive abilities so that, opportunistically speaking, our conscious mind will reach far beyond any primal-animal origins in which the mind began.