alexis nexus

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

wenn das Kind ein Kind war, fragt es "warum bin ich mich, und nicht dich?"

jeff's most recent friday simone de beauvoir blog raised the point "The interesting fact that, for me to come into being as the person I am, it is at once a wholly improbably sort of thing and almost completely causally necessary thing--or at least, it feels both of these ways, some of the time." or in simone's words…
sometimes I wake up with a feeling of childish amazement--why am I myself? What astonishes me, just as it astonishes a child when he becomes aware of his own identity, is the fact of finding myself here, and at this moment, deep in this life and not in any other. What stroke of chance has brought this about?

both of which smack of the wim wenders quote in the title from wings of desire, and also of a conversation i had with eden and zack about a week ago (in that yummor organic japanese restaraunt on mission 'twixt 17th and 18th). zack, prefacing that he was a life-long atheist, and that he pretty much always looked at others with the assumption that they were "biochemical" complexes, said that sometimes he was bowled over with a question: (to the best of my recollection) "why am i me, and not you?" or more simply "why me?"

only "why me?" turned out to be only an approximation. he, and eden, asserted that people either felt the question, or they didn't. i would (of course) attempt to answer the why questions (including why me) with the "because history and geography" type answers (being couched in a post descartes/newton western world view, as i am :). but i was left with the impression that this question (or question of a question) about awareness, about I becomes a discussion of some metaphysical (as in "irreducable complexity that implies a higher consciousness that designed the universe" type metaphysical) essentialism, despite their protests to the contrary, because they could only assert a faith that the I (or the question of it) somehow transcended history and geography.

i was left puzzled. particularly because of the passionate importance they attached to the question itself. simone's argument and jeff's recapitulation of neccesity puts me in mind of arguments that the universe was created by a higher power god because how else could we have found life on this planet of all the others. (my response being well you'd be saying the same thing if we were on planet koozbain, so that doesn't get you very far :). if you weren't you1 wondering why you1 were you1 you'd be you2 wondering (or not) the same about you2.

my concern about creationist arguments notwithstanding, i am also interested in the importance that gets attached to such things as awareness. after all, i am a scientist, and believe that the creation of knowledge—the advancement of consciousness, if you will—is a critical component of a progress in human welfare. paolo freire's contientization comes to mind in this regard, also.

so becuase i am not persuaded that the fact of the historical contingency of one's awareness itself is somehow more miraculous than the "stain on the sidewalk," despite the greater importance of my awareness (to me) than the stain on the sidewalk (to me) i have two (sets of) questions:

what exactly is this question that awes so many people (perhaps) does it truly defy articulation? is it really unanswerable by everyday language? is it really utterly independent of time and space?


what is the significance of answering it? just philosophical masturbation? what gets motivated by its answer or the attempt to answer it?