Friday, February 25, 2011

Teleology: what it is and why the Existentialists wouldn't like it

Teleology is, according to Merriam-Webster, "the fact or character attributed to nature or natural processes of being directed toward an end or shaped by a purpose."A couple words come to mind when I read this particular definition: destiny and predestination

The Existentialists would hate this.

Jean-Paul Sartre, through Nausea, states that things don't come in pre-made categories. This flies in the face of teleology, which pretty much says that we're being directed to an already-decided purpose or end.

Furthermore, because things don't come in already-determined, already-defined categories, this essence of a thing is meaningless: what matters is that it simply IS (like I mentioned on Tuesday, what matters is not that a cactus is spiny, but that there is a cactus to begin with). Sartre subsequently turns "essence precedes existence" upside down and instead declares that "existence precedes essence," since in order to have an essence a thing must already exist.

Now, since the sole existence of things is all that matters, once one realizes this they become wholly, really free. Because any meaning a thing might have (like social and cultural constructs) comes solely from our actions, we realize we can be anything we want to be. (But wait! This doesn't mean you can be a Hedonist and just get away with it! Because you have absolute freedom, according to Sartre (and other Existentialists), you also have absolute responsibility. Isn't that less fun!) 

Back to teleology-- if our social and cultural surroundings don't really have any meaning, any bearing on us and who we are, and since then we can be anything we choose to be, then we don't have to follow a predetermined, natural process toward some end. The handsome young prince DOESN'T have to go wake up Sleeping Beauty, and can instead spend his days in the pub after fighting dragons. 

I like that ending better anyway.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Choice. The problem is... choice."

The following link goes to a clip where Neo and the Oracle discuss free will a little bit:

Now, as far as Existentialism is concerned, we have free will, and this free will has consequences (either good or bad, depending on what you decide to do). Later when Neo speaks with The Architect, we get a fair bit of philosophical thought thrown at us, including consciousness (The Architect also tells him that his consciousness "has been altered") and the theory that the whole world is made of numbers (echoing the Pythagoreans). During this discussion, though, The Architect informs Neo that this is not the first Matrix to exist, nor is Neo the first "anomaly" in the program; at this point the "Neo screens" start yelling stuff like "You can't control me!! You can't make me do anything!", and Neo says "Choice. The problem is... choice." Human beings, even in the Matrix, have free will, and it's this free will that is destroying The Matrix (The Architect tells Neo that the first Matrix was "quite naturally perfect. It was a work of art; flawless, sublime." until people happened in with their free will business).

At the end of their conversation, Neo is faced with two choices: save Zion, or go back to his lady friend and the destruction of all of humanity. Talk about choices with consequences.

three minute phil the I do not believe in god guy

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Free will, as far as Metal Gear Solid 2 is concerned

Existentialism claims that we, as human beings, have free will.

Following is a clip from the game Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (yes, it's a video game....but it has a ton of movie-style sequences, so hey). The premise here is that by simulating certain scenarios, anyone can be made into the perfect soldier; basically, the "free choices" made by many of the characters in the game have NOT been made of their free will-- they have been playing along in an orchestrated "game". ...except for one character, who was unexpected (and, presuming since he goes by his own rules, exercises his free will).

Just to let you know: If you're playing this game for the first time, or would like to and haven't yet, DO NOT WATCH THIS VIDEO, since this would spoil the whole game for you.