Thursday, February 08, 2007

My paper for philosophy. Who am I, and how do I know?

I am a coat rack. The coats I hold make up who I am. I am a daughter, a sister, and artist, a female, a writer, and a dreamer. Who we are is defined by what we are. Every human has a different set of coats. Sure, there are daughters in this room, but every daughter is different, perhaps all a blue coat, say, but with different fabric and different buttons, a collar, or a fleece lining. Humans are shaped by experience, and by defining different aspects of an object, or a human, we are able to organize and understand what is ultimately unfathomable. When you take away my coats, one at a time, I am still a coat rack. So, you say, you are a dreamer, writer, daughter, and all that, but what else? We don’t know. I am ineffable. Half of my genes from my mother, half from my father. I’m a fully functioning, living, breathing organism, made up of multiples cells, organs, molecules. Yes, yes, but that’s all just scientific mumbo jumbo, right? Is that really who I am? No. It is what I am. Who I am can only be explained piece by piece, defining one “what“ after another, but I am infinitely full of “whats” . Spend millennia observing only me, and you will not know who I am. I’ve had nineteen years in my constant presence, and I don’t know. I am an object to reflect the glory of God. Really? Well, maybe…but that is still what I could be, not who I am. I am, in the end, only a conglomeration of “whats”, big and small, significant or microscopic.
With that said, I think Descartes viewed humans as machines, with a mind and a body . We exist. Who are we? He doesn’t say. What are we? A group of objects. A head, hands, fingers, and feet. We possess senses which God gave us, but we are subject to deception from what we interpret through those senses. He states that he is a man, therefore, to him, I suppose I am a woman, but he would say that neither of us are rational animals, in that both “rational” and “animal” are as yet undefined, and therefore who is he to claim to be one? Descartes decided, in trying to define himself (also using the question “What am I?” as his basis, not the elusive “Who”) to use only that which his mind perceived of himself. That he had a body, a countenance, and also that he walked, perceived, and thought. Cogito ergo sum. I think, therefore I am. Such a powerful phase, but to what end? Proving, philosophically, his existence, but I am unconcerned with his existence. Who exists? As he would say, a certain figure, in a certain place, therefore excluding all other figures not in that place? In that case, who am I, and how do I know? I am me. Because I am here. A certain figure, in a certain place.


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