Grade Received on Report : 100This essay will analyze the ideas presented in Franz Kafkas “Metamorphosis”, Rene Descartes “Meditations”, Aldous Huxleys “Brave New World”, and B.
F.Skinners “Science and Human Behavior”, applying each to the understanding of the self, and the theory of determinism as related to the self. In order to analyze theories concerning the self, we must first look at what constitutes the self, and how it is defined. There are several views on what characterizes the self, one stating that it is the act of thinking which most logically determines the self, while another claims that it is the summation of all the things that one does during his entire life that constitutes the notion of the self. Descartes believed that the act of thinking proved his own existence, and that if he ceased to think, he would then cease to exist. I understand this argument in that to be able to show that one exists, one must merely think it to be so. Arguing to the contrary leads back to the original statement: If we say that the act of thinking does not show that we exist, then we must show how we can not exist while at the same time we are thinking. This does not follow as a reasonable argument because in order to think, there must be a thing that is doing the thinking.
That thing which thinks is us, which brings the argument back to the initial statement. Another theory as to what characterizes the self touches on the idea that the summation of all the things that a person does during his entire life is what determines the characteristics of the self. This is the argument that appeals more to my ideas on what the self is, but I also believe that a persons physical body also plays a large part in determining the attributes of the self.
Kafka believes that ones physical makeup does not play a part in what the self is, only the actions of the person. I think that a persons physicality largely influences both the actions as well as the ideas of that person. For example, if I was a heavy-set man, I am sure that I would have a completely different outlook on life than I have right now. I would probably view physical activity as a task better left to young kids, rather than the source of excitement and tension-reliever as I now see it. The physical attributes of a person partly determine how others react to that person, which!in turn plays a large role in how he acts around others.
This leads to the next step, to examine the self and find out if it is deterministic. Let us begin with the hypothesis that the self does not actually have any free choice, and everything that occurs can be explained by the laws of science. Theoretically, if a person could gather every single piece of information about another – everything that has affected him in the slightest possible way since his birth, including all of the neurological processes occurring inside of him – that persons actions could be predicted for anytime in his future. This theory concerning the self is known as determinism, which in its basic form states that every action a person takes in life has already been slated to happen. This has created many problems with those opposed to the theory, who argue that if our lives are already laid out for us, then how could we say that we are free to choose what to do in life? Determinists believe that we cannot truly say that we are free. I agree with the determinists, with the additional argument that it is wholly impossible to know eve!ry single factor affecting a person up until, and including any given time.
“It does not follow that human behavior is free, but only that it may be beyond the range of a predictive or controlling science.” (Skinner 249) Skinner is arguing that even though he believes that the self is deterministic, he cannot show that this is true because of the limitations of our scientific knowledge. There are so many variables to account for in this prediction that it is not even comprehensible to be able compile all of them at once, much less analyze them in a sufficient enough manner as to be able to predict human behavior. Determinism has consequences that many people cannot handle and cannot accept.
These consequences deal with responsibility, and those against determinism argue that people cannot be held responsible for their actions if their actions are determined. In this case, criminals could not be punished, because it is not their fault for what they did. Many people cannot deal with the idea that they are not free, that everything they do is definitely going to happen. What many do not realize is that since it is virtually impossible to gather all the information necessary to predict ones future, then in practical terms, one is free to choose. An interesting point of view is presented in Aldous Huxleys Brave New World concerning the idea that peoples destinies are not predetermined, but society gives ideas to the people at such an early age that these ideas are second nature to them. The destiny of every person is determined by the more powerful members of the society when they are very young.
When a child is created (all babies are created in test tubes in this age), the leaders of the community force the child into a specific lifestyle by teaching it to fear certain things like books, which would allow them to digress from their particular rank in society. When the child grows up, he will feel as if he is free to do what he wants, such as choosing not to read books, but he will not have any idea that the reason why he does not like to read is because his society has trained him to be so.How do we know that this is not the case for us in the present day? In some ways, I believe this is the case, in that television and media impresses many things upon us without us being consciously aware of the fact. Sometimes it is more subtle, leading us to believe that tall, thin women are the epitome of beauty, which we take as our own ideas.
When we think about this, we know that it is something that has been impressed upon us by the media, because it is such a widespread opinion in our society, but elsewhere in the world, the views are very different. Other times, the media is not as subtle, as in the case of advertisements. By repeating the same messages over and over again, some people are convinced that they must buy that certain product, even though they might not have a need for it. According to Kafka and Descartes, there are several viewpoints on what characterizes the self. My belief does not completely coincide with either of them, but matches more closely to Kafkas interpretation of the self being a summation of a persons actions in life. Determinism seems to be the most logical explanation for the nature of the self, and although proponents of free will present some good arguments, the determinists win my vote.