What is it like to be a bat? and its applicability to the articulation of existence.

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What is it like to be a bat? and its applicability to the articulation of existence.

Erotica Explorer Erotica Explorer
I've no idea where to put this, but this ties in with the "books" portion of this sub-forum.

Thomas Nagel wrote this essay in 1974. The gist of it is this: Nagel conducts a thought-experiment to see if the division between "brain" and "consciousness" (e.g., the "mind-brain problem") can be meaningfully depicted. Nagel chooses a bat because it is superficially so like us--it's a mammal, it has senses, and so forth--and yet is so totally unlike us that it becomes difficult to reconcile our experiences with that of the bat. Nagel is not interested in human-as-bat experience, but in bat-relating-bat experience. If we cannot achieve the second, resolving the mind-brain problem using traditional definitions and approaches is a lost cause.

Something has troubled me about how we go about describing ourselves, our lives, and our narratives (Wittgenstein would say is what we are is the story that we tell about ourselves) to others. It is thoroughly modern to argue the case of specificity ("you may consider what it is to be a bat when--and only when--you are a bat") as opposed to generalizability (one may have an imprecise but more or less conveyable notion of what it's like to exist outside oneself, and language is the instrument of shaping and forming this notion).

Which of these approaches on the spectrum is more likely applicable to answering questions of consciousness and being?

Simply put: must we be a bat to describe what it is to be a bat ("specificity"), or can we get a close enough approximation via language and determined probing ("generalizability")?
Answers (public voting - your screen name will appear in the results):
Overwhelmingly likely "specificity."
More probable than not "specificity."
Ansley , potstickers , dv8
3  (50%)
More probable than not "generalizability."
Purpleducklings , pinkcupcakes , Sweet-Justice
3  (50%)
Overwhelmingly likely "generalizability."
None of these (explain).
Total votes: 6
Poll is closed
03/23/2011
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Ansley Ansley
It was a tough choice and I chose what I did because of perception. Language does give the ability to gain a general understanding of what it may be like to be a lesbian, French or a Vietnam Vet. But, I don't think you can truly understand what it is to be anything other than yourself.

I know there are homeless, sick and starving children in Africa, but I don't know what it is to be that child.

I know what it is to be a white, middle-class woman who has the opportunity to be a stay at home wife. I know what it is to be educated by the public school system instead of a private or charter school. I know what it is to shop at big box stores for clothing instead of high-end boutiques.

I know what I see and how I feel about it but I cannot ever presume to know how someone else will feel or react to the very same thing. My perception is not yours, yours is not mine.

Who's opinion would you consider first: a person living in poverty or a person who studies cases of poverty?
03/23/2011
Erotica Explorer Erotica Explorer
Quote:
Originally posted by Ansley
It was a tough choice and I chose what I did because of perception. Language does give the ability to gain a general understanding of what it may be like to be a lesbian, French or a Vietnam Vet. But, I don't think you can truly understand what ...
Ah, but there is an implicit problem when considering these opinions: while the person who studies cases of poverty may have outlets from which to reach you, the person living in poverty has fewer options.

If this inequity can be bridged, then it is better to go "closer to the source" of the experience and seek out the person living in poverty. But bridging inequities isn't always possible, especially when it takes resources to get a message injected into the public consciousness.

In this specific case, then, I would say the question posed is a non-starter because the playing field is entirely uneven; we attend to what we know and what's placed before us; in this case, this is likely not to be the person living in poverty.

A non-starter, perhaps, but not something to which we should not attend.

I'm being somewhat cagey here as I don't want to answer which of these two broad approaches seems the more useful to me just yet. I look forward to continued responses; this could be interesting!
03/23/2011
Ansley Ansley
Quote:
Originally posted by Erotica Explorer
Ah, but there is an implicit problem when considering these opinions: while the person who studies cases of poverty may have outlets from which to reach you, the person living in poverty has fewer options.

If this inequity can be bridged, ...
Bridging gaps between anything would be difficult and ultimately that is the crux, is it not? It is impossible for one to know what it is to be X if they are Y. All you get are snapshots because I guarantee you whatever is happening on the surface, there is an entire subtext happening in their mind - things they don't, or simply won't, say.
03/23/2011
dv8 dv8
Describing qualia is difficult enough without having to change species.
03/23/2011
toxie m toxie m
Quote:
Originally posted by dv8
Describing qualia is difficult enough without having to change species.
True say.

May I just say thanks for posting philosophy of mind stuff in the EF forums because I am totally supposed to be writing a paper right now on a very similar topic but was procrastinating my time away on here And lo and behold, now I'm back to focusing on the task at hand. I'll probably come back and post a rambling reply to this later but for now I should write a rambling paper on it since that's what I'm paying the school all the monies for
03/23/2011
Sweet-Justice Sweet-Justice
So long I almost passed it up. XD; But yeah, More probable than not "generalization."
03/23/2011
Erotica Explorer Erotica Explorer
Quote:
Originally posted by Sweet-Justice
So long I almost passed it up. XD; But yeah, More probable than not "generalization."
I thought about this and gave a bold "Cliff's Notes" version to go along with the lengthy set-up.

Thanks for sticking with it!
03/24/2011
Erotica Explorer Erotica Explorer
Quote:
Originally posted by toxie m
True say.

May I just say thanks for posting philosophy of mind stuff in the EF forums because I am totally supposed to be writing a paper right now on a very similar topic but was procrastinating my time away on here And lo and behold, now ...
Glad to hear it, and glad to have provided a poll so well-timed for you.

It's been ages since I took Philosophy of Mind as an undergraduate, but I found the course fascinating.
03/24/2011
Total posts: 9
Unique posters: 5