As I am still uncertain as to what exactly I am supposed to be writing about, I will start this post with a bit of trepidation. I’m no philosopher, so I cannot sum up the kinds of questions that have been plaguing great thinkers throughout time with some flip answers of a college student intent on doing maybe a day or two of thinking. Tossing words such as “metaphysical”, “reality”, and “humanity” around are a sure way that someone (probably even myself) is going to stagger under the implications attached to the word. (Maybe I shouldn’t even be writing at all, because this is less of a communication device and more of a virtual vomit; how can I know I’m “thinking” if I can’t even define the word?). Considering the kinds of things brought up by the question, such as what it takes to be human, what it means to think, and how can we define words using other words, the educational plate is pretty crowded. It is almost like looking at a five-course banquet and being told that you are only to eat one course, yet still be able to describe the banquet’s other courses with a degree of knowledge as to how they taste. Regardless, here’s attempt number one of the Emergence homework.
There seem to be two components I can infer from the original question posed to us in class. The first part regards to whether impulse/intention comes from the physical or the ephemeral. The second part is almost a sub-set of the first part, regarding the question of whether or not thought is an illusion.
Okay… so I tend to get a bit pedantic when I’m nervous. How do I unpack the previous sentences?
First: impulse and intention. Are they the same thing? Probably not. Impulse is something most likely connected to the simplest behaviors perhaps even associating with the concept of instinct. In fact, Wikipedia mentions the strong hints of “a wish or urge“ in relation to control; i.e. a lack thereof regarding the urge. (Surprisingly, the use of “urge” also implies base instincts and the connections back to instinct or “sub-conscious” level of operation). Intention seems to imply a decision or some kind of extra layer to a decision than “mere impulse”. By claiming “intentionality” there are strong hints of conscious thought and philosophy. This brings us to the most important topic at hand: does this matter? By bothering to define the words, it would seem as if this were so; however, the main question being addressed is directly related to this issue regarding impulse and intention.
If we have separate words for impulse and intention, are there also differentiations between the hardware and software of the human body? The physical reality of a human body (the hardware, the chassis, the flesh, the “reality”) versus the software of the human body (the mind, the soul, the spirit, the thinking, the “fantasy”), surely these are not the simple breakdown between impulse and intention? We attribute the ideas of “idea”, “thought”, “metaphysical” to the realm of the brain; however, should it also not be considered that the brain is comprised of both the hardware and software to be called a brain? Does this mean we are to call a “thought” not only a metaphysical event, but also a physical reality? Or tying this back to the original question is a thought only physical manifestation of chemicals?
Okay, so in making a huge circle out of the land of “thinking too hard”, where are we, where we began? (and if Baibh is supposed to be answering a question (as in singular), why are there MORE questions than when this post started?)
Well, in order to get an answer… why not say that the formation of a thought requires both aspects? This is similar to the issue of “maturity” and “making sense” that came from the reading for this upcoming Monday. Children are able to change some physical pieces in order to create new metaphysical pieces (the evolution of body and mind in child development). Is such a thing as creating oneself “pre-programmed”? Is this rushing into the dangerous territory of “nature vs. nurture”?
To bring it back into the realm of semi-understandable, I would like to point out that impulse and intent are a combination of the physical and metaphysical. If we consider a human being to essentially be a “complete robot”, wherein there is hardware and software, then we could come to the conclusion that both physical and metaphysical properties are necessary components in the creation of a thought. A program cannot be run without hardware and hardware cannot run without programs, and there is no true way to say “hardware is the driver” or “software is the key”. As such, the “human robot” (for lack of a better term) is then a product of input. Unless there is something which one can react to, there can be no thought. Without input, there can be no thought. So is thought physical or metaphysical? I’d say both because hardware without anything to run on it is just as useless as software without anything to run it on.
This leads us to the sub-question of whether or not thought is an illusion. Depending on the definition of thought, one can come to different conclusions. If one believes thought to be “hardware” and wired into the brain, then it would probably be tied to a specific portion of the brain. Is there a specific region of the brain for thought? It’s something to think about.
If one claims thought as software, the issue of measurement will arise. However, there is an answer in the vague reactions of the brain in response to the thoughts. If one imagines a memory bank sitting in a computer, one knows there are millions of bits and bytes and such stored inside such an object. However, it is not a truly tangible thing as 250Gigs and 500Gigs can fit into the same box with no outer difference. How do we know what such an object can actually hold? Looking at the human brain is a similar experience. We cannot physically map where thoughts in the brain are stored. Likewise, if thoughts are merely a pre-programmed response to the plans encoded into our DNA, then surely we are absolved of anything we might do. Eerily enough, this means I was destined to write this essay IN ENGLISH since my birth. How odd!
Okay, so since thought surely isn’t just an illusion where I’m manifesting something that has been determined since my coding as little DNA molecule, what is thought? Is it the nebulous connection between the input and eventual output? I would like to think so, but maybe there are other answers out there.