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The meaning of Ghost in the Shell
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Gillsing



Joined: 25 Nov 2005
Posts: 109
Location: Karlstad, Sweden

PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2006 2:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

AlphonseVanWorden wrote:
Questions for Gillsing: Is identity- as discussed above- always and in all ways constructed? And if a person's identity is constructed, doesn't it have to be constructed after the fact- i.e., first, something comes into being, then it develops/is given an identity? Or does the way something comes into being- a body, an organism, etc.- have something to do with its identity? If that's the case, mightn't the copy's "identity" have a lot to do with its status as a copy?

Yes. I see an identity as a result of identifying something. It's like giving something a name. In order to identify something you generally need to spot enough differences to distinguish that something from all the other things, and this can become more specific as you study the thing closer and for longer time. That's where identities as man/woman, human/animal/robot comes into play. When I think of "Americans" as a mass identity I pretty much include any Americans I happen to know personally in a single identity which consists of all the Americans I think exist. But it's just a convenient construct in my mind, and each an every American will still identify themselves as whoever they usually identify themselves as.

I don't see identity as a "what I am" but as "who I am". And I am what I control. I have direct control of my body and my body limits me, so that's where I draw the line. If I merged with a building and began to directly control the whole building I might begin to think of the building as myself, and others might begin to think of the building as me too. If I ran a whole country like a dictator I might think of the whole country as me ("I am France"), at least from an international aspect. But as a human in our modern society I don't feel that I can exert enough control over other people that I'd ever consider them part of my identity. And I also don't identify myself as part of a group, even though I acknowledge that I can easily be placed in different groups both by myself and others. But there's no reason for me to simplify my own identity like that, only the identity of others.

AlphonseVanWorden wrote:
So, I'm kinda with you on this, Gillspring... It shouldn't matter, at least on a practical, day-to-day level. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck... But the vagueness of the term "identity", the "might" and "only if" ("it might matter only if someone knew it was a copy" seemed to be your position), and the way the identities of both original and copy haven't been clearly defined or described give me pause, simply because I wonder whether or not the conclusions necessarily follow from the premises, and what the conclusions would mean when put into practice. It sounds sort of like, "Well, this is true, until somebody discovers it's not, then stuff might go horribly wrong"- which doesn't tell me a lot about identity, which I think is the basic question. And at what point does choice come into identity, or into reaction?

Choice comes into identity when people give thought to how they identify something. If a perfect copy turns up without revealing itself as a copy it will be given the same identity as the original by people who identify it. There will be no choice in this since no thought will be given to identifying someone new. It's only when the status as a copy is revealed that people will be able to re-identify the copy and either let it keep the original identity or identify it as a new entity, perhaps with less social/legal value.

AlphonseVanWorden wrote:
"They could choose the copy's identity for themselves..." Are we saying that people other than the copy could choose the copy's identity, no harm, no foul, no implications?

There's implications, but notice that they only choose the identity for themselves, not for the copy. The copy would still consider itself to be whoever they identify themself as, although I suppose that it is possible that a copy accepts that it is a copy and not the original, and may voluntarily re-identify itself. Although it might not feel voluntary, since people sometimes are changed by their surroundings whether they might want to or not. But that's life. What are you going to do, control your surroundings before they control you?

AlphonseVanWorden wrote:
Or might this lead to something less innocent than a difference of philosophical opinion? Would this shape the copy's legal/moral rights in relation to those of the original? Could those rights be taken away, even though the copy is "identical" to the original, simply because people decide the copy, although identical to the original in every respect, doesn't have the same identity as the original and therefore doesn't have the same rights?That seems... arbitrary. And while I'll grant that laws tend toward the arbitrary on a certain level, an effort is made- in some countries- to put them into some kind of consistent form.

That's a mighty task. But you'll have to enter the domain of "should" and leave the area of "would". There are already laws that regulate various legal identities and determine what they can and cannot do. If a perfect copy of you existed, the rights to this forum account would go to whoever changes the password first. Depending on physical security this could apply to a bank account as well. My account uses a plastic card with disposable 4-digit codes, so I guess a perfect copy of mine would have to get hold of that to get to my bank account, though if he managed to get an ID-card he could visit the bank and withdraw money manually. Damn copy, he'll use twice as much money! Unless we shared the apartment and did things in shifts. Hm...

But you lot wouldn't notice a significant difference between me and him, so you'd just think of us as "Gillsing" (or whoever you think I am).

AlphonseVanWorden wrote:
The copy has the same identity as the original, until it's discovered to be a copy, in which case everything becomes a matter of perception, of choice. The copy has the same rights as the original, until people decide it doesn't have the sort of identity that would allow it to have those rights, i.e. until people decide that it's not the original, and so its rights aren't necessarily the same as the original's. This could lead to some nastiness if we extend the argument to other aspects of identity, e.g. citizenship.

You don't have to bring perfect copies into this. Ever heard of identity theft? Ever heard of people being deported because someone found out that they don't really have the right to live in a country? Laws are laws, and they can lead to a lot of nastiness. ;)

AlphonseVanWorden wrote:
If the copy is developed offshore and enters the country thinking it is a U.S. citizen, is it a citizen of the U.S., if the original was a citizen of the U.S.? Or would the copy have to be deported, as it wasn't "born" on U.S. soil and, in this example, crossed the border into the U.S. thinking it was a U.S. citizen? Would it fall under the same laws that cover animals smuggled into the country? Would the action constitute entering the country under an assumed identity?

This is where you have to ask yourself: WWJD? Except it wouldn't be the regular Jesus, it'd be the golden bearded Aryan Jesus, wrapped in his American flag and armed with his M-16+. Or in other words, how do you think USA will treat perfect copies when they start turning up? As illegal entities which should be destroyed perhaps? Apparently that's what's done with cells left over from failed fertility treatments.

AlphonseVanWorden wrote:
It seems to me that we use the term "identity"- when speaking of humans, at least- to describe a kind of value based on similarities and differences. "I am <of this ethnic group>." "I am <of this sexual orientation>." "I am <of this gender>." "I am <from this nation>." These are all identities, and are in no small part matters of social and self-identification.

Do people really identify themselves this way though? I can see how they'd use such definitions for "what am I?", but do they also use them for "who am I?" or do they just not differentiate between the two?

AlphonseVanWorden wrote:
Or do we mean something different when we say identity? Is there some simpler definition for identity when speaking about humans, some simpler definition that doesn't ignore the world's complexities?

Well, I think my definition is simple enough while not ignoring the complexities. I am what I control. Yeah, simple, yet open to a lot of complexities. If my arm starts moving on its own and stops taking orders from my brain and also stops sending input like touch or pain, I'm pretty sure I'd start to consider it to not be a part of me (my identity), even though it'd still be a part of my body.
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AlphonseVanWorden



Joined: 05 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2006 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Yes. I see an identity as a result of identifying something. It's like giving something a name... I don't see identity as a "what I am" but as "who I am". And I am what I control. I have direct control of my body and my body limits me, so that's where I draw the line.


Gillsing, you write that "identity [is] a result of identifying something." I'll agree with that while noting it's a circular definition, sort of like saying that a walk is the result of walking, or an omelette is the result of cooking an omelette.

It's interesting that you use a logocentric, i.e. word-based or -centered, simile for identifying people. "It's like giving something a name." Using a figure of speech to describe the process of indentifying something in terms of giving something a name...

You follow this description with a more detailed account of the process of identifying someone and constructing an identity. Let's see how the process works.

Quote:
In order to identify something you generally need to spot enough differences to distinguish that something from all the other things, and this can become more specific as you study the thing closer and for longer time. That's where identities as man/woman, human/animal/robot comes into play. When I think of "Americans" as a mass identity I pretty much include any Americans I happen to know personally in a single identity which consists of all the Americans I think exist.


I observe the use of "generally" and the "can become." The language suggests that there are exceptions to the rule. But I remain skeptical. When looking at something physical and describing its operations, we can say, "This is generally the case," and we can observe and make note of specific exceptions. If the exceptions are numerous, we can revise the rule that we thought covered the majority of cases. When dealing with words- with representation- we had best very, very careful, especially when making essentialist, i.e. "this is how people operate always and in all instances," claims. Or we had best prepare ourselves for the rhetorical equivalent of wiggling and twisting.

And it's wonderful that this category is ready-to-wear for those Americans you haven't met but think exist.

I will note that what you say here seems to contradict a later point:

Quote:
Do people really identify themselves this way though? I can see how they'd use such definitions for "what am I?", but do they also use them for "who am I?" or do they just not differentiate between the two?


You were responding to my comment:

Quote:

It seems to me that we use the term "identity"- when speaking of humans, at least- to describe a kind of value based on similarities and differences. "I am <of this ethnic group>." "I am <of this sexual orientation>." "I am <of this gender>." "I am <from this nation>." These are all identities, and are in no small part matters of social and self-identification.

(One can imagine that people of a given ethnicity didn't contemplate the notion of other ethnicities until they came into contact with different ethnic groups. Then the idea of difference between ethnicities became part of discussion, of identification, of definition. Same thing applies to cultural practices, assumptions about gender, codification of sexual conduct, etc. "These people are... different from us." "You ain't from around here, are ya?")

Then there's another type of identity- and this might be a matter of levels or degrees- in which a person is a combination of various things. A composite identity, if you will. "This person is <of this race-social class- educational level- gender-sexual identity-nationality>." But even this shifts according to context, with some aspects being emphasized in certain contexts, disregarded or ignored in others. "I'm this thing, but I'm also that thing, and in this context, my being that thing is more important or relevant."


If I follow your argument, you make those kinds of calls about other people. ("In order to identify something you generally need to spot enough differences to distinguish that something from all the other things, and this can become more specific as you study the thing closer and for longer time. That's where identities as man/woman, human/animal/robot comes into play.") But people don't think of themselves that way, or you're not sure on the matter. ("Do people really identify themselves this way though? I can see how they'd use such definitions for 'what am I?', but do they also use them for 'who am I?' or do they just not differentiate between the two?")

Notice that I don't call the statement "This person is <of this race-social class-educational level-gender-sexual identity-nationality>" a definition; I prefer calling it a description. (I could perhaps be persuaded to call such statements "provisional" or maybe even "operational" definitions.) I said it's a value or set of values based on similarities and differences. A map, not a territory. I stated these things belong to the domains of the social and cultural. A definition of the sort you seem to be discussing would be always true in all instances. But the words that would fill these categories are loaded and ambiguous, and the categories themselves are culturally and socially relative; they can be proven to be context-specific or case-sensitive rather than essentially "true" in some way, with the exception of something like sex. And someone might even take issue with the essentialist "definition" of a sex.

We'll return to this in a moment.

And yes, people certainly do think of themselves in those kinds of terms, and sometimes they don't differentiate between who they are and what they are (whatever those phrases mean). If you ever work in advertising, political campaigning, marketing, or certain other fields, you'll realize just how closely connected and deeply mixed up the who and the what of a person can get. I can think of at least two armed conflicts taking place because of ethnic and/or tribal tensions. Mention America in a negative way, and I'm sure someone's feelings will be hurt, or someone's anger will be provoked. And in post-Katrina New Orleans, I can assure you that the city's tensions have a lot to do with the conflation of what and who a person is and with the way a person thinks about identity, about why something bad happened to one group and why something not-as-bad happened to another group, about why the thinker went through what he or she did.

Quote:
I have direct control of my body and my body limits me, so that's where I draw the line. If I merged with a building and began to directly control the whole building I might begin to think of the building as myself, and others might begin to think of the building as me too. If I ran a whole country like a dictator I might think of the whole country as me ("I am France"), at least from an international aspect.


Besides, those pesky plebs might well object to the metonymy and drag you to a date with Madame Guillotine.

The example of a tyrant raises several points, all having to do with naming and identity.

Can the identity that other people give you- the "name"- have aspects that would imply control over you? If so, it's not simply a matter of you having direct control over your own body. Consider your own use of the word "tyrant"; I doubt if many tyrants think of themselves as tyrants.

Let's work our way down from the ruler to the ruled and examine power- control- from a suitable position. Let's kneel. Let's grovel. Let's take a look at oppression from the position of the oppressed.

(It's interesting to note that you put yourself in the hypothetical position of king rather than subject. Of course, it's easier to talk about identity in terms of control by using that comparison, isn't it? The analogy implies control, and it's gendered to fit a masculinist view of power.)

If someone had an image of you- an identity for you- that placed you in a position of subordinance, of inferiority, of having fewer rights than that someone, would you say your identity is simply a matter of how you see yourself? If you were subject to verbal abuse and social exclusion, or even imprisonment and torture, as a result of someone's perception of you, would you say that your notion of your identity is as valid as the dominating individual's conception of you?

Can you reclaim or be proud of what someone else calls you? Can you say, "Yes, I'm <this>, and I'm proud of it"? Can you say, "You can't use <insert perjorative term> for me, I'm human, too"? Can you become proud of that which makes you different, regardless of whether we're talking about a social class, a sex, a gender, an orientation, an ethnic or religious minority?

Note that that part of who you are- that identity- is foregrounded in certain circumstances, e.g. if you're an African-American in a predominantly white crowd or an Arab or North African immigrant walking through a white European suburb, you might well be aware of the difference, even though that difference is historically, culturally, socially grounded.

In this context, we might think of the immigrants in 2nd Gig, of the show's backstory, and how political and cultural matters function in the show.

You might reply that accepting such an identity is a choice, that you can always reject any imposed identity and simply assert the identity that you choose. I would argue that the kinds of identities that we're discussing, the ones that are based on culture and social relationships, are rooted in history, culture, language; that you have no choice, no control over what others call you, or what they might do to you. I'd say that the choice lies with how you respond to the identity that others give you, that history has given you, that culture imposes upon you. I'd say the choice lies in your response to actions that offend, oppress, marginalize you. But those choices always come in terms of the identity, and the identity is not a choice. It's something you're born into.

That being said, one can self-identify according to the difference, thus subverting or playing with the meaning of that identity. But subversion implies there's something to be subverted, which in this case would be the identity that you've been given.

I'm saying that the imposition, the acceptance, and the use of such identities is never innocent.

I'm saying that violence can arise over a cartographers' dispute.

I would propose that if someone discriminates against you based upon your sex, your gender, your race, or any of those other identities, it's not a matter of feeling that the identity is imposed upon you; it is imposed upon you, and the imposition isn't voluntary, i.e. it's not of one's choosing. And the identities are loaded with biases.

What makes a woman different from a man? Her anatomy? Her body's chemistry? Assumptions about what being a woman means? If you met an incredibly talented and gorgeous female impersonator, would she "be" a woman because you perceive her as one? Would that male-female dichotomy collapse if you realized she had a history that doesn't quite fit binary notions of male and female, masculine and feminine, experience?

Remember Batou cracking wise about the Major's having a female body being a limitation, and how she hacked his brain and forced him to punch himself as an answer to his comments.

Think of the history of light-skinned African-Americans "passing" as white, or of white prostitutes in the Storyville red light district advertising themselves as one-eighth, one-nine, one-sixteenth black in order to charge white customers more, as predominantly white patrons fetishized "blackness", but only as a thing to visit, not as a thing to marry. What does this say about race?

Perhaps that it, too, is a socially and culturally constructed thing, and something that can be undermined only in terms of its own assumptions about appearances, categories, identities?

I wrote:

Quote:
It seems to me that we use the term "identity"- when speaking of humans, at least- to describe a kind of value based on similarities and differences. "I am <of this ethnic group>." "I am <of this sexual orientation>." "I am <of this gender>." "I am <from this nation>." These are all identities, and are in no small part matters of social and self-identification.


I also stated:

Quote:
"This person is <of this race-social class- educational level- gender-sexual identity-nationality>." But even this shifts according to context, with some aspects being emphasized in certain contexts, disregarded or ignored in others.


By which I meant that we are born into linguistic, cultural, political, social systems. If we live in a heterogeneous society, we can't help but think of ourselves as white, black, male, female, gay, straight, etc. when we come into contact with those who are different from us. Our languages- our cultural backgrounds- gift us with these differences. And we self-identify according to those differences. But the self-identification becomes more pronounced according to our surroundings. (See my examples above, an African-American surrounded by whites, or an Arab or North African in an affluent European suburb.) We can subvert or play with assumptions about those identities. (See the other examples I've given, the flawless female impersonator and people passing as members of a given race.)

Which brings us back to the idea of an identical copy of a particular human being.

Quote:
you'll have to enter the domain of "should" and leave the area of "would"


With regard to the notion of rights, I used "would" and "could". You can use "should" and I would encourage you to do so, as it reveals exactly where you stand on the matter. These were my questions:

Quote:
Would this shape the copy's legal/moral rights in relation to those of the original? Could those rights be taken away, even though the copy is "identical" to the original, simply because people decide the copy, although identical to the original in every respect, doesn't have the same identity as the original and therefore doesn't have the same rights?


And notice that my scenario had nothing to do with the copy engaging in wrongdoing. I simply asked what would happen, what the ethical and legal status of the copy would be. Again, I find no direct answer in your comments:

Quote:
There are already laws that regulate various legal identities and determine what they can and cannot do. If a perfect copy of you existed, the rights to this forum account would go to whoever changes the password first.


As I was inquiring about the legal identity and status of an entity that doesn't exist as yet, and as I was pretty clearly referring to something like "human rights" or "rights before the law", I don't quite see the relevance of your example. There's a difference between, say, the right to access a forum account and somebody's rights as a citizen of a nation or as a human being. I'll admit that they're related, but I think the latter (citizenship, human rights) are of more concern than the former (accessing a forum). With due respect to the management and community here, I'd be more worried about imprisonment than I'd be about losing access to this site; I don't like jail cells. I was asking what people think such a copy's rights might or should be, which is why I used the example of a copy unwittingly entering the country as an original.


Quote:
You don't have to bring perfect copies into this. Ever heard of identity theft? Ever heard of people being deported because someone found out that they don't really have the right to live in a country? Laws are laws, and they can lead to a lot of nastiness.


Actually, I didn't bring perfect copies into it. That would be someone else... Laughing

I was merely responding to that person. Or to the copy of that person, or the person pretending to be the person in question. Wink

Identity theft laws apply to people masquerading as other people. The situation I postulated is this:

Quote:
If the copy is developed offshore and enters the country thinking it is a U.S. citizen, is it a citizen of the U.S., if the original was a citizen of the U.S.? Or would the copy have to be deported, as it wasn't "born" on U.S. soil and, in this example, crossed the border into the U.S. thinking it was a U.S. citizen? Would it fall under the same laws that cover animals smuggled into the country? Would the action constitute entering the country under an assumed identity?


You imply that the copy's identity would be decided by "people", by which I assume you mean humans who aren't copies or copies that don't know they're copies. But you've also drawn a comparison between the copy's act of entering the country in good faith and identity theft. Identity theft, as I said, requires intent, and as the law stands, one can't steal one's own identity; therefore, the thief would have to be someone other than you, different from you. And a copy is in the same position as the thief, you seem to be saying, if folks decide that's the way things are. But the copy in my scenario doesn't know it's stealing anything; it thinks it's the person who's a citizen. So I don't see how the people could make that particular accusation stick.

Similarly, a copy that doesn't know it's not a citizen is in a different position from an illegal immigrant. The comparison between the copy's situation and that of someone who suddenly discovers that documentation, etc. is not enough to prove citizenship, who discovers that he or she might be deported due to a bureaucratic oversight, seems more relevant to the proposed situation. (I'm thinking of those rare but unfortunate examples in which somebody believes he or she is a citizen of a country, but it turns out the person doesn't meet and never met the requirements of citizenship.) Perhaps you'd care to elaborate upon that.

Your position on the copy's status takes no heed of the copy's wishes or needs:

Quote:
It's only when the status as a copy is revealed that people will be able to re-identify the copy and either let it keep the original identity or identify it as a new entity, perhaps with less social/legal value.


Given that current laws do not provide for a situation in which a copy that doesn't know it's not you acts as if it's you, I'm not sure what your point is, unless you're saying that folks will be able to determine the legal status of such a copy once its existence is known to everyone. And if you're saying that the copy's status, when discovered, should be decided by people "who can make up their own minds" about what the copy is and how it should be treated, that seems more than a bit solipsistic and morally problematic, especially in light of what I've mentioned about oppression and naming.

"When others know the copy to be a copy, it's up to others to decide what to do with it," you seem to be saying.

A perfect copy that didn't know it was a copy would be of a different order from an identity thief; it would be different in kind. So the subject of identity theft isn't quite germane to the matter at hand. In fact, I could argue that according to your reasoning, if we equate identity thieves with copies, so long as no one knows you're using a stolen identity- say, if you're using someone's credit card to buy CDs- those people will treat you as if you're that person, and it won't matter unless you're caught. Perhaps you could decide to be the person whose credit card you've stolen. After all, identity is like naming.

Let's continue with this. As long as the companies from whom you're buying stuff get paid- say, if the victim decides to pay the bills in order to keep his or her credit history clean, and doesn't want the hassle of wading through a credit card company's bureaucracy- the only folks with a right to dispute would in fact be the thief and the victim.

In which case, you could resort to dueling rather than appeal to the courts, I suppose.

In short, the ethical messiness and social implications dissolve in a cloud of self-interest and vague definitions.

Or was that cordite from a pair of pistols, smokeless, leaving nothing but traces of itself and the duelists' bodies and the blood?

Then we have the equation with stem cells. You seem to be saying that the copy and the stem cells are equivalent, or that Americans would take the two things to be the same, or that your position is more valid because... I don't know? You support embryonic stem cell research?

Quote:
This is where you have to ask yourself: WWJD? Except it wouldn't be the regular Jesus, it'd be the golden bearded Aryan Jesus, wrapped in his American flag and armed with his M-16+. Or in other words, how do you think USA will treat perfect copies when they start turning up? As illegal entities which should be destroyed perhaps? Apparently that's what's done with cells left over from failed fertility treatments.


I assume this is an example of the "mass identity" of which you spoke:

Quote:
When I think of "Americans" as a mass identity I pretty much include any Americans I happen to know personally in a single identity which consists of all the Americans I think exist.


But, to judge by your own words, it's not really much of an identity:

Quote:
But it's just a convenient construct in my mind, and each an every American will still identify themselves as whoever they usually identify themselves as.


Knowing that your definition of identity provided you with enough room to wiggle out of the domain of the offensive and the ad hominem, I ask: Are you arguing that an exact copy of a human being would be equivalent to stem cells in some ontological way, or is this simply what you believe Americans would think about the issue?

Or are you saying that Americans are just dumb and reactionary and anti-intellectual, but they aren't really dumb and reactionary and anti-intellectual; that's just the convenient construct you have of Americans, the category you've posited for Americans, the identity that's not really their identity?

Or were you attempting to make a joke?

If I reframed the question and the copy attempted to enter, say, Nigeria or Belgium or Russia or Saudi Arabia or Thailand or Honduras with documents indicating it was a citizen of the relevant country, if it didn't know it was a copy, would that change the way you interpreted and responded to the question? If so, why?
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AlphonseVanWorden



Joined: 05 Mar 2006
Posts: 170

PostPosted: Wed Mar 15, 2006 8:52 am    Post subject: "Not another one!!!" (See the last post.) Reply with quote

(With thanks and apologies to Sylphisonic, Jeni Nielsen, and Bringin It Down.)

Quote:
You might reply that accepting such an identity is a choice, that you can always reject any imposed identity and simply assert the identity that you choose. I would argue that the kinds of identities that we're discussing, the ones that are based on culture and social relationships, are rooted in history, culture, language; that you have no choice, no control over what others call you, or what they might do to you. I'd say that the choice lies with how you respond to the identity that others give you, that history has given you, that culture imposes upon you. I'd say the choice lies in your response to actions that offend, oppress, marginalize you. But those choices always come in terms of the identity, and the identity is not a choice. It's something you're born into.

That being said, one can self-identify according to the difference, thus subverting or playing with the meaning of that identity. But subversion implies there's something to be subverted, which in this case would be the identity that you've been given.

I'm saying that the imposition, the acceptance, and the use of such identities is never innocent.

I'm saying that violence can arise over a cartographers' dispute.


Anyone reading the above comments might think I’m saying that cultural and social identities- and I include sexual identities, racial identities, political affiliation, and notions of gender difference as types of those identities- are somehow essential. I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying that gillsing is correct, insofar as gillsing notes that identity is based upon the perception of differences. But I disagree with this gillsing’s conclusion:

Quote:
When I think of "Americans" as a mass identity I pretty much include any Americans I happen to know personally in a single identity which consists of all the Americans I think exist. But it's just a convenient construct in my mind, and each an every American will still identify themselves as whoever they usually identify themselves as.


I find this problematic for the reason that I mentioned: Because human beings are social creatures, the identity that we give to someone else is mirrored by, a reflection of, the identity that someone else gives to us. Furthermore, someone's reaction to us- especially if that person has some sort of influence on our lives- informs how we think about ourselves. It’s not as simple as saying, “Oh, well, I’ll place this person within this category, but I know the person has unique attributes and probably views him- or herself differently than I do when I use this kind of mental shorthand.” And it’s not quite sufficient to say: “The other person is essentially unknowable, but I have to use certain categories (identities) to describe the person, even though I suspect the person sees him- or herself differently.”

As I said, an error in mapmaking can kill just as surely as a deliberate attack.

Let’s look at some specific problems with this description of identity, and use our own world, GitS, and discussion about GitS to examine these things.


OUR BODIES, OUR SELVES

Elsewhere on the forum (Philosophy, “Mechanical Bodies and Body Image”), Jeni Nielsen wrote:

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Over break I watched, and mostly averted my eyes, from a show called Dr. 90210. This reality TV show is about the lives of plastic surgeons and their patients. Apparently this is a popular topic on TV nowadays as evidenced by more than one show like this including the fictional Nip-tuck… This leads me to believe that, if given the opportunity to have customizable bodies as in Ghost in the Shell it would become like plastic surgery 10 fold.


(Nota bene, my friends: Although I’m referring to another thread, it’s relevant to this discussion, and relevant to any comments about the show’s meaning(s).)

She also wrote:

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I've seen women who are basically addicted to plastic surgery and never feel like they have the body they want. I think self-image issues come from society, but ultimately are located within the person themselves. I think that the only way to gain self-confidence is to start from the inside out.


Before continuing, I’d like to point out a few things. First, note that this dialogue begins with a discussion of representation, or rather a series of representations, but refers to “real” issues.

(Still, we should notice that Jeni mentions a reality television show dealing with the business and process of altering one’s body, alludes to a cable drama involving plastic surgeons, and uses both programs to examine technologies from a Japanese science fiction franchise in order to discuss “actual” issues. For anyone living in the United States, cable television and mass media provide social contexts, or can at least be said to provide a representation of social contexts- and when one engages in “meta-thinking” about society and representation, the two things are often the same; what one sees is how one sees. When the map is the mediacape and the territory is something as difficult and complex as reality, the map often seems to become the territory, or the territory sometimes appears to dissolve into the map. We're forced to refer to TV, movies, newspapers, magazines for examples, references, models. We use these things to reflect upon ourselves and to remind ourselves of human experiences other than our own.

(And speaking of map/territory confusion, let’s notice the settings for the representations Jeni mentions: Beverly Hills/Los Angeles/Southern California, Miami, and Japan. Settings that are themselves hyperreal environments…)

Second, the reference to “women who are basically addicted to plastic surgery” might remind the reader of Jenny Lee Burton, a self-described plastic surgery addict who has had more than 30 procedures performed on her body and who has been interviewed about her addiction on CNN, Oprah Winfrey’s program, the television tabloid The Insider, and many talk shows. One might say that Ms. Burton gives a face to the kind of addiction Jeni mentions. Burton puts a human face on an experience. And this face and Ms. Burton’s story become part of the discourses; the concept of addiction becomes part of the discussion, and addiction raises many questions about identity and the self. And I propose that the discourses-and their representations- have a lot to do with anxiety about the Self, about identity, about where “you” end and where everything external to “you” begins.

Third, we have the following statement from Jeni: “I think self-image issues come from society, but ultimately are located within the person themselves.” I believe Jeni is saying is that tensions between one's sense of self and social standards generate a kind of pressure that one feels as sometimes strong, sometimes weak, but present in many situations; that when internalized through socialization, this external element- the social standard- informs one's self-image; and that there’s also something internal, some “self” which responds to that pressure.

Sylphisonic replied to one of Jeni’s posts:

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In my experience, although I often feel great about myself there are times when I am incredibly insecure about leaving the house; and it's usually when something I ate the day before gave me a slight stomach ache or something like that... You just have that "out of synch with your own body" feeling, know what I mean? Anyway, although I see myself in the mirror and I know I look good, I'll ask Jeff 20 times, "Are you sure I look okay?" (Stereotype, I know!).


In this response, Sylphisonic describes a causal relationship. She eats something; it upsets her stomach. The result? ”You just have that ‘out of synch with your own body’ feeling, know what I mean? “ Again, we have the body and an underlying self, but the underlying self is now focused on the body, considering the body, worried about how the body appears. Notice that she describes looking into a mirror. Without going into psychoanalytic theory, we can safely assert that she is concerned about how others see her. She asks Jeff, her partner, “Are you sure I look okay?” But this isn’t the end of it. She states that this behavior is a stereotype, meaning that it’s stereotypically ‘womanish’, i.e. the behavior conforms with cultural clichés about women’s behavior.

As the behavior can be labelled stereotypical, Sylphisonic didn't invent it; she received the stereotype. (We're born into a world in which certain concepts, words, images existed and became exhausted long before we were conceived. And our own subversions of cliché will one day become clichéd. Still, subversion is worth pursuing.)

But Sylphisonic wants us to know that she's aware the behavior is clichéd. Why? So that we know that she knows how the behavior must sound. And this is the dilemma, part of the human condition: If you don't conform to social standards or ideals, you worry about how others will respond to you- or your nonconformity generates another identity, i.e. that of a nonconformist. And we can conceive of stereotypical noncomformists, and of clichéd nonconformity.

A woman who doesn't conform to received standards of beauty will either have to refer to her actions as "stereotypical" feminist, or question the notion of stereotypical feminism, or she'll appear humorless- and therefore seem like the stereotype- or she'll be told or have someone say about her that she has "a unique look" or is "eccentric" or something equally dismissive. Or she'll have to find someone who doesn't care about people conforming to norms or who fetishizes the particular kind of noncomformity which she exemplifies, i.e. she'll have to find another nonconformist. Or she'll suffer, and in suffering because of her looks, because of people's inability to see how beautiful she really is, she becomes another sort of stereotype, a different cliché. In other words, whatever happens, she becomes a "type". (Welcome to the Desert of the Social. Self-crucifixions welcomed and encouraged, but not mandatory.)

But if she does conform, or if she even harbors a bit of concern about her appearance, she has to refer to her behavior as "stereotypically" feminine or risk becoming the stereotypical girly-girl. And if she's smart, she doesn't want to be a stereotype.

None of the above are "bad things" in and of themselves, but they do indicate that a person's identity- and relationships and labels shape an identity, establish value for an identity- is shaped by the social sphere, by language, by categorization, by relational value between individuals and society.

Somewhere inside the cliché is a human experience; somewhere beyond the stereotype is a person. And a smart person can let you know she's there, just by referencing the stereotype.

It's the speech-act equivalent of putting a message in a bottle and hoping someone finds it, to use a cliché.

There's some of this sort of thing in the character of Motoko, too.

To put this another way: Sylphisonic is smart. But I find it a darned shame that the stereotype exists in the first place, because its existence means that women have to think about how people will think about what they're saying about what they're feeling.

"When this happens, I feel this way, and I do this, and I know it sounds clichéd, but... I feel this, and you know how it is."

All these attempts to articulate thoughts and feelings and experiences are representations. The question is, do they allow us to do more than represent? Do they allow us to communicate, or merely to comment?

I wrote, lo these many words ago:

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It seems to me that we use the term "identity"- when speaking of humans, at least- to describe a kind of value based on similarities and differences. "I am <of this ethnic group>." "I am <of this sexual orientation>." "I am <of this gender>." "I am <from this nation>." These are all identities, and are in no small part matters of social and self-identification.

(One can imagine that people of a given ethnicity didn't contemplate the notion of other ethnicities until they came into contact with different ethnic groups. Then the idea of difference between ethnicities became part of discussion, of identification, of definition. Same thing applies to cultural practices, assumptions about gender, codification of sexual conduct, etc. "These people are... different from us." "You ain't from around here, are ya?")

Then there's another type of identity- and this might be a matter of levels or degrees- in which a person is a combination of various things. A composite identity, if you will. "This person is <of this race-social class- educational level- gender-sexual identity-nationality>." But even this shifts according to context, with some aspects being emphasized in certain contexts, disregarded or ignored in others. "I'm this thing, but I'm also that thing, and in this context, my being that thing is more important or relevant."
...
My point being, not only can we say that certain identities are constructed by us and by those around us, for us; we can say that a lot of identities are case-sensitive, i.e. who you are depends upon the situation. (And no, I'm not saying there isn't some unique sort of "you" in you. That's just... a different kind of identity, the experiencing/feeling/thinking subject, which has a certain connection to those other identities/functions. If you didn't have that sort of subjectivity in you, you'd be hard pressed to explain how the heck you're reading this post. As to how that subjectivity exists, how it came to be, how it works... well, folks are working on that.)


I might be mistaken, but I think Jeni and Sylphisonic very much believe that they have identities as women; that those identities are very much a part of Jeni's and Sylphisonic's individual identities, of who they are; and that both the individual and "womanly" identities are inscribed within a social context that intrudes upon the personal. I think they're saying that sometimes, in certain situations, their status as "women" becomes foregrounded, becomes something they ponder on a pretty profound and- dare I say it?- essential or foundational level. I think they’d also agree that, while society exerts pressure- control- upon women in postindustrial/ late-stage capitalist nations, responses to such pressure are matters of choice, of free will, for people in those nations, unless a person is broken by the pressure or willingly submits to it, or unless actual force- direct as opposed to discreet control- is applied to a person, or unless the person is mentally ill, as Bringin It Down proposes on the same thread:

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I agree that good self image and self esteem should come from the inside out, but there are people who are incapable of feeling good about the way they feel, and sometimes it requires the planting of a seed of hope (in certain cases, plastic surgery or toning your body of exceess body fat) can help, and I emphasize help a person (male or female) feel better about themselves, and that little seed of hope can sometimes make all the difference.


I believe Bringin It Down was alluding to BDD, or body dysmorphic disorder, but I’d add that BDD sufferers are in fact obsessed with the perceived imperfections and failings of their own bodies in relation to some ideal, usually an ill-defined ideal, sometimes a cultural notion of “perfection.” That ideal becomes, in a sense, an Other that's an obsession, something outside of themselves that they want to be- or to punish themselves for not being.

In other words, I think all three posters communicated. And I think they were communicating points about mind/body and Self/representation issues, and about identity and all its anxieties.

It's this anxiety about the Self- and about identity- that the GitS franchise addresses from several positions, each position dependent upon the primary artist’s take on the issue. In the case of SAC, we might think of the Laughing Man’s comments to the Major.

Laughing Man: “By disappearing, it acts as a regulating medium for the dynamism of the social system.” “In the end, it vanishes, leaving traces of its existence neither inside nor outside the system.”

Motoko: Fredric Jameson.

Laughing Man: Yes. And no. The last part’s from Masachi Ohsawa.

...

Laughing Man: Who knew that the absence of an original would produce copies without an original? If you had to give this phenomenon a name, what would you call it?

Motoko: Stand Alone Complex.

Laughing Man: Yes. Stand Alone Complex... From the beginning, the very nature of our current social system has contained the mechanisms to trigger such a phenomenon.

Now here are some questions: How does the mechanism work? Does it already exist in our world? Can we think of examples?

I believe the posters respond passionately to suggestions that people might become copies without an original, that the Self and "humanity" might prove to be simulacra. They're reacting to something few people want to believe is true, to something many people's behavior suggests is possible.

Speaking of Jameson and Ohsawa, interested parties might wish to read the following essays, to compare and contrast the views- much as the Laughing Man did- as the authors consider issues ranging from fear of technology (if you don't know what a Luddite is, you might want to find out) to the relationship between representation and cultural identity (the Ohsawa piece discusses anime and science fiction in the context of the Tokyo sarin attacks) to terrorism/violence, identity, and representation. And I think they have more than a little to do with the meaning(s) of GitS- manga, films, and series:

Fredric Jameson, “Globalization and Political Strategy”: http://www.newleftreview.net/NLR23803.shtml

Masachi Ohsawa, “The Aum Sect: Religion and Terrorism”:
http://www.socialcapital-foundation.org/journal/volume%202003/issue%2010/Presentation%20Ohsawa.htm
_________________
Such is the soul in the body: this world is like her little turf of grass, and the heaven o'er our heads, like her looking-glass, only gives us a miserable knowledge of the small compass of our prison. - Bosola, in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi
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Jeni Nielsen



Joined: 27 Nov 2005
Posts: 405

PostPosted: Wed Mar 15, 2006 11:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You know it's funny. I generally skim posts on this forum, but I think I should respond to this since I was kind of dragged into it unwittingly. :)


First of all gender is a construct plain and simple. It's strange to say this, but up until recently I have never thought of myself as a "woman" in the way you seem to think most women do. It's also the same with my race. Until I took a racial studies class I never thought of myself as a white person. I didn't have to.

I know that I am a woman, but I wouldn't say that on the list of the ways I define myself that my identity as a woman comes anywhere near first. There's a theory that people have multiple identites. Woman is rather far down on my list believe it or not.
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AlphonseVanWorden



Joined: 05 Mar 2006
Posts: 170

PostPosted: Wed Mar 15, 2006 3:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jeni Nielsen wrote:
You know it's funny. I generally skim posts on this forum, but I think I should respond to this since I was kind of dragged into it unwittingly. :)


First of all gender is a construct plain and simple. It's strange to say this, but up until recently I have never thought of myself as a "woman" in the way you seem to think most women do. It's also the same with my race. Until I took a racial studies class I never thought of myself as a white person. I didn't have to.

I know that I am a woman, but I wouldn't say that on the list of the ways I define myself that my identity as a woman comes anywhere near first. There's a theory that people have multiple identites. Woman is rather far down on my list believe it or not.


Actually, I'm glad that you responded. :D

But I don't recommend skimming if you're going to comment upon a position.

I don't think we're disagreeing on this. I said that most identities are constructed, or else arise from complicated networks of meaning and interpretation.

And you seem to be reading my comments in a way similar to gillsing's reading. Gillsing wrote:

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Do people really identify themselves this way though? I can see how they'd use such definitions for "what am I?", but do they also use them for "who am I?" or do they just not differentiate between the two?


You wrote:

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I know that I am a woman, but I wouldn't say that on the list of the ways I define myself that my identity as a woman comes anywhere near first.


But if you look, I stated pretty emphatically:

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It seems to me that we use the term "identity"- when speaking of humans, at least- to DESCRIBE A KIND OF VALUE based on similarities and differences. "I am <of this ethnic group>." "I am <of this sexual orientation>." "I am <of this gender>." "I am <from this nation>." These are all identities, and ARE IN NO SMALL PART matters of social and self-identification. [emphasis mine]


And I said later:

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Notice that I DON'T CALL the statement "This person is <of this race-social class-educational level-gender-sexual identity-nationality>" A DEFINITION; I prefer calling it a description. (I could perhaps be persuaded to call such statements "provisional" or maybe even "operational" definitions. [Perhaps I should explain what those sorts of definitions are, and how they differ from what most people think of as "definitions." AlVanW.]) I said it's a value or set of values based on similarities and differences. A MAP, NOT A TERRITORY. I stated these things belong to the domains of the SOCIAL AND CULTURAL. A definition of the sort you seem to be discussing would be always true in all instances. BUT THE WORDS THAT WOULD FILL THESE CATEGORIES ARE LOADED AND AMBIGUOUS, AND THE CATEGORIES THEMSELVES ARE CULTURALLY AND SOCIALLY RELATIVE; they can be proven to be context-specific or case-sensitive rather than essentially "true" in some way, with the exception of something like sex. And someone might even take issue with the essentialist "definition" of a sex.[emphasis mine]


And I mentioned the idea of mediated or constructed identities and realities several times, I believe.

I said that gender is a constructed identity, that its value is relative to other identities, that when one is in a situation in which that constructed identity is brought into play- "sometimes, in certain situations...a person's status as 'women' becomes foregrounded, becomes something they ponder on a pretty profound and- dare I say it?- essential or foundational level." Meaning, if someone treats you in a sexist manner, you might well become aware of sexism and how sexism works in relation to gender constructs. And you might start thinking about what it means to have a constructed identity as a woman. And, if the experience is a profound one, it might cause you to think about "who you are" and that sort of thing; it might cause you to reconsider your ideas about yourself.

I didn't say that your identity as a woman was your primary identity. But if gender is constructed and race is constructed, and we agree that those are identities, I wonder how one constructs a list of which identities are primary.

To put this another way: If someone asked you to define yourself, how would you do so? Would it have to do with your experiences, with which memories you value? I said in an earlier post:

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A person's memory... is that constructed by others, or in relation/reaction to one's experience of others? Do memories change over time? Can something that gives me pleasure one day- let's say Tuesday- cause me to weep, years later? And does that process of thinking about the memory change the memory in some subtle or even fundamental way? And how does memory relate to identity?"


Might identity have a lot to do with your awareness and experiences, with your consciousness at a given point in time, with how your memory works?

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It's also the same with my race. Until I took a racial studies class I never thought of myself as a white person. I didn't have to.


I think that was my point to gillsing about race. As there are privileged discourses, there are privileged identities. To say that race is constructed, plain and simple, and to say that gender is a construct, plain and simple, does not indicate that these processes of construction are innocent. In certain non-academic and truly scary situations, a person might well have to think about race or gender in a way that forgrounds the social inscription of identity, i.e. calls attention to just how arbitrary that construction is.

And dominant ideologies tend to use constructs, while denying or ignoring their use. Which is one factor that helps any paradigm shift or revolution. When the construct is called into question, when its arbitrary status becomes unavoidable, inescapable, it can be challenged, perhaps rewritten or reinterpreted, perhaps done away with forever. (Although, as Kafka once commented, "Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind the slime of a new bureaucracy.")

I wrote:

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Note that that part of who you are- that identity- is foregrounded in certain circumstances, e.g. if you're an African-American in a predominantly white crowd or an Arab or North African immigrant walking through a white European suburb, you might well be aware of the difference, even though that difference is historically, culturally, socially grounded.


Even though that identity is constructed (and to be African-American or to be an North African immigrant is to have a history of constructed identities imposed upon one), I don't think how you define yourself matters in those kinds of situations. To be in a position in which the possibility of violence is present, to be situated in such a way that difference (and therefore power relations) is felt, is to be unable to forget the constructed identity for the duration of that experience if not longer. And your sense of self- in those situations, and living with the memory of such situations- might well arise in a dialectical relationship with that constructed identity.

(No, I'm not implying that all African-Americans would feel threatened by white people. But somebody of that race, in the situation I described, might well look around and wonder, "Huh, I wonder why I'm the only person like me here?" And that would be another example of a constructed identity's foregrounding.)

That was my point about the subjects leading the king to the guillotine.

At a certain point, when one becomes aware of the constructed identity, one responds to it, or one views it as academic (and that's always easier or harder to do, depending on whether one is nearer the center or the margins of a system). Each option implies choice. When a king's subject realizes, "Huh, this king's family has been doing stuff to my family and my people for all these years, and there's really no reason why things can't be otherwise," there's a choice. Act or not act. Or, as I said in relation to gender:

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[T]ensions between one's sense of self and social standards generate a kind of pressure that one feels as sometimes strong, sometimes weak, but present in many situations; that when internalized through socialization, this external element- the social standard- informs one's self-image; and that there’s also something internal, some “self” which responds to that pressure.


Note that I said the pressure- the presence or experience of those constructed identities- is "sometimes strong, sometimes weak, but present in many situations." I never said it was always present for all people, nor did I say that it was always something you think about, although for some individuals- because of their experiences it can be.

Somehow, I think of something Sylphisonic wrote on the "Empty" thread:

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The problem I have with thinking about the AI and it's ability to do that as something so "other" is that there are already plenty of "challenges" to "laying claim" on the world... Those coming from within humanity. An analogy is the world powers- the British Empire once held power in the world, but when it lost dominance it it did not make the people within the culture feel somehow less significant. If the US should stop being the greatest power in the world, I also doubt that Americans will feel as though it somehow makes them a lesser group of people either. Power is all subjective... and there is such a thing as sharing it too.


When she speaks of the British Empire, she seems to be assuming that geopolitical power always has to do with occupation, imperialism, military might; the lingering economic and social impact of the old imperialism on colonies is minimized- excluded from the discourse- and the feelings of those who were colonized is also excluded.

(That discussion remains focused on the feelings of British citizens while ignoring the continuing impact of British and other imperialism is problematic to a discussion of power, to say the least. Especially when making claims about how power is relative, and about how one can "give up" power and maintain a feeling of significance. British Petroleum's operations in Iran from the 1950s till the 1979 Revolution, anyone? The relationship between these operations and power brokering and bargaining on the part of the company, the British government, the United Nations, and some pretty nasty regimes? Effects on Iran's neighbors, or on the world, then and now? Or is this the price of doing business? Or do we simply not notice it till someone points it out?

(These manifestations of power are part of post-colonial discussions in and about the Middle East. As with all types of dominance and power, there's the obvious stuff... but when methods that don't fit the older models come into play, those who aren't affected don't think of them as controls and inscriptions of identity, even while people on the receiving end pretty much have to think about them and live with them. As nation-states and capitalist models changed, so did the nature of imperialism, power, and "sharing." And I'm not even going to mention the BTC pipeline...)

There's a line in a novel I love; a character who isn't American basically says that Americans make outsiders feel as if everything they could say to express themselves has already been said before, and the problem's been solved. While that isn't true of all Americans or Brits or Westerners, and while I'm not trying to pick on you or Gillsing or Sylphisonic, I would say that a lot of people make statements that are pretty essentialist- "Here's how this thing works" or "Here's what this thing is"- then exclude ambiguities and tensions, or gloss them over. Maybe because while they're outside some things looking at the inside, they're also inside some things, looking outside at other people.

One can think of these things in term of Gramsci's concept of hegemonies and hegemonic thought, or in terms of Foucault's notion of biopower, or in terms of Negri's theoretical writings.

One might experience these things in one's own life, and not even need theory to provide one with context..

Or one might not think about these things at all.

I asked:

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What makes a woman different from a man? Her anatomy? Her body's chemistry? Assumptions about what being a woman means? If you met an incredibly talented and gorgeous female impersonator, would she "be" a woman because you perceive her as one? Would that male-female dichotomy collapse if you realized she had a history that doesn't quite fit binary notions of male and female, masculine and feminine, experience?


I was attempting to interrogate that binary notion of gender and sex, and I find it interesting that so many people think in terms of male/female, masculine/feminine... even when joking about how the terms aren't fixed.

In the "Mechanical bodies and body image" thread, you wrote:

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I think this would, unfortunately, affect both men and women. Men can have body issues just like women can. (Maybe more men would buy strength upgrades)


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Also I realize that asking this topic on a predominately male forum is going to get different results than I expected.


Knowing that gender is constructed, and knowing that you know that, I respectfully ask you: Would your expectations- and the comment about strength upgrades", and the notion that results would be different from what you had expected because the forum is "predominantly male"- have had something to do gender constructs? If you were joking, do the jokes incorporate the construct while commenting upon it? Does it in other words reinscribe- and make use of- a construct? And why was gender bending excluded by omission? Question
_________________
Such is the soul in the body: this world is like her little turf of grass, and the heaven o'er our heads, like her looking-glass, only gives us a miserable knowledge of the small compass of our prison. - Bosola, in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi
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Gillsing



Joined: 25 Nov 2005
Posts: 109
Location: Karlstad, Sweden

PostPosted: Wed Mar 15, 2006 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

AlphonseVanWorden wrote:
I observe the use of "generally" and the "can become." The language suggests that there are exceptions to the rule.

It's me. I'm not comfortable expressing certainty about subjects of which I'm not certain.

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And yes, people certainly do think of themselves in those kinds of terms, and sometimes they don't differentiate between who they are and what they are (whatever those phrases mean).

Ok, if you say so. I don't think I have met such people, but I don't meet that many people, and probably don't take enough of an interest to know if they identify themselves with something that isn't just themselves. I have seen people write about other people, claiming that people identify themselves with ideologies and such, but I haven't observed it myself. But I have heard that whenever you get to know someone you find out that they're just another person, not the identity you may have given them.

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Besides, those pesky plebs might well object to the metonymy and drag you to a date with Madame Guillotine.

If they do that I wouldn't be in control of them, and thus they wouldn't be part of my enlarged identity.

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Consider your own use of the word "tyrant"; I doubt if many tyrants think of themselves as tyrants.

It's interesting that you claim that I used the word "tyrant" when I used the word "dictator", because I got the inspiration for the example from the Jaghut tyrants from Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen. They used magic to control creatures around them, and thus would be very close to actually considering those creatures as part of their identities. The books also contain shapechangers which can assume the shape of several creatures while retaining a single identity.

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(It's interesting to note that you put yourself in the hypothetical position of king rather than subject.

It was an example of my identity growing to encompass more than my body. I also included an example of my arm rebelling and thus reducing the 'contents' of my identity. I'm pretty sure that a subject would retain their whole identity even though the king might consider the subject part of his identity. Very similar to how I consider my own body included in my identity, while my individual cells could consider themselves as 'their own'. If they were self aware, which they are not.

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If someone had an image of you- an identity for you- that placed you in a position of subordinance, of inferiority, of having fewer rights than that someone, would you say your identity is simply a matter of how you see yourself? If you were subject to verbal abuse and social exclusion, or even imprisonment and torture, as a result of someone's perception of you, would you say that your notion of your identity is as valid as the dominating individual's conception of you?

I suppose that it might be possible to drive someone crazy enough to believe themselves to be someone else. And I don't think that I have ever argued that other people can not reduce a person's identity to encompass less than it did. But I have since long lost sight of the relevance.

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Can you reclaim or be proud of what someone else calls you? Can you say, "Yes, I'm <this>, and I'm proud of it"?

No, I don't believe that I can. I don't really feel pride (or shame), and I don't remember ever doing so. I tell myself that it's connected to my desire for truth, and I do consider pride over something I've done well to be unnecessary, since just doing well is good enough. Similarly for shame, it's bad enough to have done something wrong, there's no need to feel even worse about it. I believe that both pride and shame are decietful, in that they embellish the existing condition, whether positive or negative. And I'd like to think that I can do without that. Though it might explain why I take less joy in living compared to other people. But I don't think it does, I think that the reason for that is my lack of interest in other people.

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Can you say, "You can't use <insert perjorative term> for me, I'm human, too"?

I suppose that I could, but I probably wouldn't. I'd probably ask the person to not use the term for me, unless I'm in a position where I'm supposed to give them orders, in which case I might very well tell them "don't". I'd probably never use "you can't", unless I've made sure that they really can't. As in making it literally impossible.

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I'd say the choice lies in your response to actions that offend, oppress, marginalize you. But those choices always come in terms of the identity, and the identity is not a choice. It's something you're born into.

I'd say that I'm only interested in discussing identity as the label on the box, not the identity as the contents of the box. People include a lot of stuff in their identities, and the variations are just too extensive for me to discuss in this context.

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What makes a woman different from a man? Her anatomy? Her body's chemistry? Assumptions about what being a woman means? If you met an incredibly talented and gorgeous female impersonator, would she "be" a woman because you perceive her as one? Would that male-female dichotomy collapse if you realized she had a history that doesn't quite fit binary notions of male and female, masculine and feminine, experience?

She'd be a woman as long as I don't get to know her and start thinking of her as "that person that I know". From that point her gender would become one of her characteristics and not her identity in my mind. How I'd sort her based on gender I don't know, since I have no practical experience with such a situation.

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Think of the history of light-skinned African-Americans "passing" as white, or of white prostitutes in the Storyville red light district advertising themselves as one-eighth, one-nine, one-sixteenth black in order to charge white customers more, as predominantly white patrons fetishized "blackness", but only as a thing to visit, not as a thing to marry. What does this say about race?

One-nine? One ninth? How? It says that race is a characteristic that people might desire, or not desire. Please ask someone who cares. :)

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Perhaps that it, too, is a socially and culturally constructed thing, and something that can be undermined only in terms of its own assumptions about appearances, categories, identities?

To a large degree, yes. But I'm not lactos intolerant. Though perhaps that is culturally constructed, as I've been drinking milk my whole life. ;)

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With regard to the notion of rights, I used "would" and "could". You can use "should" and I would encourage you to do so, as it reveals exactly where you stand on the matter.

Yup. "I don't know."

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I was asking what people think such a copy's rights might or should be, which is why I used the example of a copy unwittingly entering the country as an original.

The booming voice from above states: "Ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law". And that's my guess. Copies who don't know better will be treated pretty much the same as people who do. Possibly with extra explanations due to the likely confusion.

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Actually, I didn't bring perfect copies into it. That would be someone else... Laughing

Fine. Be like that. But if the copy isn't perfect it should be real easy to apply a new identity, and that kind of defeats the point of being a copy. You might as well create a new being and implant memories of being a citizen.

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Similarly, a copy that doesn't know it's not a citizen is in a different position from an illegal immigrant.

Only from its own viewpoint. And if the immigration laws cared about the immigrant's viewpoint, wouldn't they just let all immigrants enter/stay? Yes, I foresee your copy being treated quite similarly to an illegal immigrant, though perhaps like a 'crazy' immigrant, seeing as they can't help being mistaken regarding their citizen status. Sure, they're not actually crazy, but unless mentally deficient immigrants are treated more lenient, I'm guessing deportation.

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Your position on the copy's status takes no heed of the copy's wishes or needs:

Yup, there's the legal system for you. People could move for more lenient laws, and maybe they will. I don't know.

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Given that current laws do not provide for a situation in which a copy that doesn't know it's not you acts as if it's you, I'm not sure what your point is, unless you're saying that folks will be able to determine the legal status of such a copy once its existence is known to everyone. And if you're saying that the copy's status, when discovered, should be decided by people "who can make up their own minds" about what the copy is and how it should be treated, that seems more than a bit solipsistic and morally problematic, especially in light of what I've mentioned about oppression and naming.

Laws would determine legal value, people (society) would determine social value. It's really very simple, since I don't feel like speculating on what actual laws and social considerations will be in effect.

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Knowing that your definition of identity provided you with enough room to wiggle out of the domain of the offensive and the ad hominem, I ask: Are you arguing that an exact copy of a human being would be equivalent to stem cells in some ontological way, or is this simply what you believe Americans would think about the issue?

Well, if embryonic stem cell research is restricted due to the sanctity of life (or whatever it is that's restricting it), but cells are still being discarded, then what guarantee is there that the sanctity of life will protect a copy? Perhaps the copying of people would be seen as so unnatural or problematic that copies are declared illegal, the way it's illegal in most countries to clone humans? I could see a society kill copies just because they're copies.

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Or are you saying that Americans are just dumb and reactionary and anti-intellectual, but they aren't really dumb and reactionary and anti-intellectual; that's just the convenient construct you have of Americans, the category you've posited for Americans, the identity that's not really their identity?

Or were you attempting to make a joke?

I was amusing myself, because you made me. You indulge in words upon words upon words, and I indulge in conjuring images of extremes. I'd like you better if you didn't indulge, but you've already made your position clear on that, and who am I to tell you what to do? Though I have a feeling that I won't be reading your next post in this thread. It just takes too long and doesn't feel meaningful.

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If I reframed the question and the copy attempted to enter, say, Nigeria or Belgium or Russia or Saudi Arabia or Thailand or Honduras with documents indicating it was a citizen of the relevant country, if it didn't know it was a copy, would that change the way you interpreted and responded to the question? If so, why?

I wouldn't have access to as detailed an image of extremes, so I'd probably not indulge in conjuring one up. Well, maybe Saudi Arabia would behead copies. Wink
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AlphonseVanWorden



Joined: 05 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 15, 2006 9:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll be brief.

I have no gripe with gillsing. In fact, I like gillsing's posts a lot.

I mentioned "generally" and "can become" because gillsing's post sounded like it was stating a rule about identity. If gillsing isn't certain about identity or how it functions, that's fine; if gillsing is so uncertain about gillsing's position that the propositions must be riddled with "out clauses," responding to the position seems irrelevant.

Kind of like the whole thing about the perfect copy.

gillsing and some other folks were having a conversation. gillsing wrote:
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About the identity stuff, I think that a perfect copy would probably feel like the original unless told otherwise by those who made the copy.


I responded to that. Imperfect copies didn't come into it. And I didn't invent the subject.

I asked gillsing to comment upon identity.

Quotation #1 from gillsing:
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Yes. I see an identity as a result of identifying something. It's like giving something a name. In order to identify something you generally need to spot enough differences to distinguish that something from all the other things, and this can become more specific as you study the thing closer and for longer time...


Quotation #2 from gillsing:
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It's me. I'm not comfortable expressing certainty about subjects of which I'm not certain.


So I pointed out that the initial statement suffered from circular reasoning and that the statements were vague to the point of rendering them meaningless... and the reason for this, the reason gillsing provides us, is itself a circular kind of argument. "Don't express certainty about things you're not certain of."

A simpler solution would've been for gillsing to formulate the argument differently. But gillsing's most recent post seems to show a change of position, some agreement with what I've said, at least on the ruler/subject/guillotine example.

But then I'm told that some of the post was designed purely for gillsing's entertainment:
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I was amusing myself, because you made me.


I made you? You couldn't resist? So much for free will.

I feel cheated. I thought I was having a serious discussion. This smacks of ad hominem hit-and-run. You wanna offer a counterargument, fine. You wanna make analogies, fine. You wanna prove I'm wrong, I'm fine with being wrong.

But instead I'm told my posts in this thread are boring, that you made certain comments for the sake of amusing yourself.

Well, okay. Not sure what that has to do with any of the issues, but...

You made some other comments.

Let's see what your points were.

I actually do interact with quite a lot of people. While some of the reasons for this involve the environment in which I live and others have to do with work, a good part of it is that I enjoy interacting with people. I choose to live in this city because I like interacting with lots of different types of people. Besides, it was- and still can be- a great and fun town.

I've never claimed that people aren't unique, that their identities are completely constructed. I think I've made my position clear. People are something different from what one thinks of them as being. But given the right circumstances- and I think I described those circumstances- people lose themselves within constructed identities. Heck, maybe we all do, at some point or other, or even at moments in our daily lives. I'm not a huge Morris Berman fan, but a quotation comes to mind: "An idea is something you have; an ideology is something that has you."

You've never met people like that? I have. I could give you examples, but a lot of it would involve things that I wouldn't feel comfortable posting on a public forum. Besides, I think I've said all I'm going to say about myself- about my offline life- on this forum. And really, personal experience, while it confirms my thinking, isn't necessary to advancement of the argument. Multiple examples exist. If you're reading this post, you might try reading the Masachi Ohsawa essay; I provided a link to it.

Lost sight of the relevance? One can think about SAC in those terms. And the show directly quotes and references Ohsawa's work, so I don't think this is off-topic.

This is me pointing out that "tyrant" and "dictator" are synonyms. And yes, I know there was once a difference, and yes, I know the appellations weren't always negative.

I mentioned the guillotine because you introduced the idea of a ruler, and to point out that the ruler's subjects would cease being part of the ruler's identity once they decided they didn't need or want to be part of his identity. And the comparison between a ruler's subjects and a person's limbs or cells is problematic, for the reason you mentioned. Cells don't have self-awareness. People do. And once they don't like their identities as extensions of your identity, they might just reinterpret or reinscribe their identity as a collective entity ("the people" or "freedom fighters" or what have you) in opposition to that which defines them.

Analogy doesn't work. Sorry.

Of course, the likelihood of political violence seems greater to me than the risk of a limb attacking the body to which it's attached. I think there'd be some basic biological problems with that scenario, problems that wouldn't have a parallel in the social and political domain precisely because of the difference between bodies and societies.

Subjects deciding they're citizens- this is one of the manifestations of revolution. Afterwards, as I suggested, other identities- also dialectical, also produced through social and cultural relations- emerge. "My enemy's enemy is my friend..." Etc.

Pride? Can't? You've actually made my case for me, and actually argued the same point I did about the subjects offing the ruler. Of course people can and do kill over identities, to say, "You can't call me that." Consider the example of the subjects decapitating their king. No king, no subjects to the king. They might become the subjects of another ruler, but they won't be the king's subjects.

I think I've said- repeatedly- that the map is not the territory, the label on the box is not the contents, although the two can, under certain conditions, merge- or appear to do so, even to whatever is "inside".

Heck, we might even want to modify Plato's Allegory of the Cave...

Do I have to keep repeating the map/territory problem? And isn't the box/contents thing a variation on that theme?

As for the female impersonator, you might want to ask her about herself. Listen to what she says. And respond, preferably without conjuring images of extremes, or whatever you call it.

As for the race thing, an octoroon (or octaroon) is defined- and this is a dictionary definition- as a person of one-eighth African descent. The identity is kind of complicated; try talking to someone who's an octoroon, or has ancestors who were octoroon. Another complication of the whole identity thing...As to how someone becomes an octoroon, I think you can figure that out. If you live in a city that prides itself on tracing families and their histories, a city like New Orleans, being an octoroon or having one in your ancestry can be something you're proud of, and in the city's history, it gave rise to a particular marketplace, a particular demand. So white folks starting pretending that they were of African-American descent so they could make more money. This sort of thing used to be referred to as "speciality." Anything "exotic" cost more. So people would advertise themselves as being, say, one-ninth, one-sixteenth, whatever they thought they could get away with. And it relates directly to the notion of "passing" and to copies.

As for the lactose thing, what can I say? I don't see the comparison. I believe lactose intolerance is a chromosome two mutation.

For what it's worth, I think there was a joke in there, but I hope it wasn't a reference to the mayor's comments. That got old the first week we made fun of it. Razz

Regarding the legal system: Laws are words. Laws are created by and put into effect by humans. People use laws to promote social policy, among other things. And while we're born into a world of laws, the interaction between the social and legal makes it far more complicated a situation than you've presented. Some radical group might form to kill all copies, and the government might perceive the group as a threat to private property- if the copy is viewed as property. Or people might decide that the clone needs to be protected from such groups.

I'm not sure "law" and "society" can be so easily separated. While one can imagine a society without laws- and let's expand this to include customs, manners, rules, taboos in general- I'm not sure such a society has existed.

I sort of see the point. But I'm not sure it's as simple as you make it out to be.

You never told me how immigration authorities would detect a perfect copy, and what laws might have to be created. You seemed to presuppose that they would. Maybe you were talking about imperfect copies. I was trying to find a single thread in a pretty hairy line of argumentation. Something to narrow the terms down a little.

You seem to like jokes. Invent an arbitrary law dealing with perfect copies, just as a thought experiment. Then we can discuss it.

I'm not sure the sanctity of life argument applies in this hypothetical situation. I think the notion is problematic and semantically empty, so I wouldn't even attempt to discuss it in this context. And while that's one aspect of the stem cell debate, I believe there are other aspects, too, including an argument that stem cell research would inevitably lead to cloning, and that cloning is a bad thing. That being said, and realizing that even adherents to the sanctity of life argument would find a copy kind of hard to explain in terms of relating it to stem cells, I can see a society killing copies, but not because of the sanctity of life argument per se.

I don't know if you noticed it, gillspring, but your positions changed over time. You went from certain, to ambiguous, to kind of hostile. And all I wanted was a discussion with examples, and a thorough examination of the issues.

I've been misquoted, restated my positions, examined analogies that were produced as counterexamples, discussed flaws within those analogies. And I've been polite. And I haven't done anything for the sake of getting a rise out of anyone.

If I say something in this or other philosophy threads, I mean what I say.

I actually welcome seeing different points of view; I really like when I can say, "You know, I don't agree, but I see your point." And I don't mind being shown that I'm wrong about something. But showing implies demonstration.

I welcome other viewpoints, different takes on a subject. In fact, that's why I joined. But I'd like to know what the presuppositions are, what examples can be given, how valid the examples are.

And I'd welcome it if we could at some point return- as I've tried doing, by use of analogy, reference, examination of sources- to Ghost in the Shell.
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Jeni Nielsen



Joined: 27 Nov 2005
Posts: 405

PostPosted: Thu Mar 16, 2006 7:19 am    Post subject: Re: "Not another one!!!" (See the last post.) Reply with quote

Quote:
I might be mistaken, but I think Jeni and Sylphisonic very much believe that they have identities as women; that those identities are very much a part of Jeni's and Sylphisonic's individual identities, of who they are; and that both the individual and "womanly" identities are inscribed within a social context that intrudes upon the personal. I think they're saying that sometimes, in certain situations, their status as "women" becomes foregrounded, becomes something they ponder on a pretty profound and- dare I say it?- essential or foundational level.


This was the only thing I was responding to in your post. Since I haven't been a part of this discussion I'll back out now. I probably shouldn't have said that thing about "identity"
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AlphonseVanWorden



Joined: 05 Mar 2006
Posts: 170

PostPosted: Thu Mar 16, 2006 11:28 am    Post subject: Re: "Not another one!!!" (See the last post.) Reply with quote

Jeni Nielsen wrote:
Quote:
I might be mistaken, but I think Jeni and Sylphisonic very much believe that they have identities as women; that those identities are very much a part of Jeni's and Sylphisonic's individual identities, of who they are; and that both the individual and "womanly" identities are inscribed within a social context that intrudes upon the personal. I think they're saying that sometimes, in certain situations, their status as "women" becomes foregrounded, becomes something they ponder on a pretty profound and- dare I say it?- essential or foundational level.


This was the only thing I was responding to in your post. Since I haven't been a part of this discussion I'll back out now. I probably shouldn't have said that thing about "identity"


I said that I was glad you joined in the discussion, Jenni. If I've given you the impression that you shouldn't have spoken/written, I'm very sorry. That would be far more troubling to me than any ad hominem attack.

I was pointing out that the terms we use- the language(s) we employ- draw attention to limitations in our thinking.

"I might be mistaken, but..."

That was how I prefaced the statement. I'm not Jeni; I'm not Sylphisonic. I was- deriving an interpretation, making a reading?- based upon the statements posted, and I conceded that I might've been misreading the rhetoric.

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I think this would, unfortunately, affect both men and women. Men can have body issues just like women can. (Maybe more men would buy strength upgrades)


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Also I realize that asking this topic on a predominately male forum is going to get different results than I expected.


As I've said, these kinds of statement imply that a speaker- in this case, Jeni- has expectations based upon gender. (Men would prefer strength upgrades; males will respond differently than I expected.)

And this sort of statement implies a binary division, coded in male/female, masculine feminine terms. As I said, I can think of several examples of exceptions to those terms, of types of people excluded from- or whose identity is ambiguous in relation to- those sorts of dichotomies. (To be ambiguous in a binary system is to be a problem to that system, and to be excluded from its terms- unless the system makes allowances for the ambiguity.)

I propose that language imposes or inscribes structures that we sometimes can't escape from, although we probably have more options (and a better chance of changing those structures, altering the constructs/identities) when we're aware of how language- and structures- work.

To use another example, from one of Sylphisonic's posts on this thread:

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Most women tend to buy into this view that the people around them feed them, but the ones that don't -and that know the risks of not believing it, and thus prepare themselves well for the world they're choosing to live in- are lucky.


It seems to me that Sylphisonic was pointing out that while many women conform to stereotypical or constructed identity or indentities, some say, "Heck, no," do their own thing, but realize that the choice has consequences. So, unless I'm mistaken, she and I are basically in agreement on that point.

And that was the point I was making. When you're aware an identity is constructed, when you're aware the terms aren't innocent, you can react to- and perhaps undermine, or play with- the identity. "I'm only this... in this context, and not always to myself, although 'I' have to react to the Other who has imposed this identity- and thereby imposed certain limitations or assumptions- upon me."

A person does this sort of thing to "carve out a niche" for herself- or for himself, or for the Self- in society.

But, oddly, this sort of undermining or play has larger value in terms of the imposed- or stereotypical? received?- identity. It's about social dynamics, relationships, value. We may think about it in terms of a person being individual, unique, having some identity-unto-itself- but its implications go beyond that.
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Gillsing



Joined: 25 Nov 2005
Posts: 109
Location: Karlstad, Sweden

PostPosted: Fri Mar 17, 2006 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From another thread, where Lightice suggested that you keep to one or two points per post:
AlphonseVanWorden wrote:
All I can say in my defense is that when I post, I'm responding to one or two points someone else has made, and that I'm looking for clarification, context, and ways the principles could be applied to a specific situation, hypothetical or real. If my methodology- my rhetoric- seems tedious, I apologize. But I think that's an aesthetic difference. I'm comfortable with my style of rhetoric, and I think it's useful.

If you find my posts tedious or boring in spots, that's cool. Ignore them, or skim them till you find something interesting.

I can tell you that it's not very useful here, because you don't seem to be understood. In my case it has to do with buffer overload. I simply can not keep all your points and their relevance in my head, and I'm also not familiar with most of your references. The headache I suffered from yesterday may have been because I tried to read, understand and reply to your post. It's just not worth it.

AlphonseVanWorden wrote:
So I pointed out that the initial statement suffered from circular reasoning and that the statements were vague to the point of rendering them meaningless... and the reason for this, the reason gillsing provides us, is itself a circular kind of argument. "Don't express certainty about things you're not certain of."

It may be circular, or it may be that you're fishing for a much more detailed description which I don't care about.

Quote:
But then I'm told that some of the post was designed purely for gillsing's entertainment:

I made you? You couldn't resist? So much for free will.

It was only that small part of my post, and "you made" me was me continuing to amuse myself. When you see a dark cave, don't go inside if you don't want more darkness. See, I just told myself to quit typing, but what am I, some kind of genius? :roll:

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But instead I'm told my posts in this thread are boring, that you made certain comments for the sake of amusing yourself.

Did I say boring? Or is that the only reason you can think of for people to make jokes? Can you imagine that I feel disappointed and sad that you type so much and convey so little to me? At least with the last guy who wrote even longer posts most of those posts could be discarded, and I could reply to the main point. But I don't even know what the main point is anymore. :cry:

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I'm not a huge Morris Berman fan, but a quotation comes to mind: "An idea is something you have; an ideology is something that has you."

You've never met people like that? I have.

But did they admit to identifying themselves as part of their ideology rather than their ideology being a part of them? I've already said that other people can point at a person and claim that the person identifies themselves as whatever.

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Lost sight of the relevance? One can think about SAC in those terms. And the show directly quotes and references Ohsawa's work, so I don't think this is off-topic.

I never said it was off topic, I'm saying that you have confuddled and overmazzled me. My vision is obstructed.

Quote:
This is me pointing out that "tyrant" and "dictator" are synonyms. And yes, I know there was once a difference, and yes, I know the appellations weren't always negative.

I thought tyrant was negative, as it implies tyranny (oppression and the suffering that follows with it). A dictator could be popular and therefore not need to force the majority of the people. Or have I gotten the meaning of the words wrong? I generally weigh every word carefully, because I'm often interesting in conveying the right message.

Quote:
I mentioned the guillotine because you introduced the idea of a ruler, and to point out that the ruler's subjects would cease being part of the ruler's identity once they decided they didn't need or want to be part of his identity. And the comparison between a ruler's subjects and a person's limbs or cells is problematic, for the reason you mentioned. Cells don't have self-awareness. People do. And once they don't like their identities as extensions of your identity, they might just reinterpret or reinscribe their identity as a collective entity ("the people" or "freedom fighters" or what have you) in opposition to that which defines them.

Analogy doesn't work. Sorry.

I think the analogy works. The people don't need to feel that they are a part of my identity, they only have to obey so that I feel that I can control them reliably enough for me to feel that they are a part of my identity. Or so I imagine anyway. Same thing with the cells, except there is no potential of rebellion there since cells don't gain self-awareness and thus can't decide to disobey. Just because a person obeys someone doesn't mean that they give up their identity and think of themselves as part of a greater identity. Though I suppose that's what they try to do in the military, and maybe that really does work so well that some soldiers identify themselves as cogs in the military machinery before they identify themselves as persons. I have seen it on TV, but is it real, and does what a soldier say guarantee that it's also how they think?

Quote:
Heck, we might even want to modify Plato's Allegory of the Cave...

Don't know. And I'm getting a headache now.

Quote:
Do I have to keep repeating the map/territory problem? And isn't the box/contents thing a variation on that theme?

It probably is, but since most of your points are too big to fit inside the entrance to my mind, I don't know.

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So people would advertise themselves as being, say, one-ninth, one-sixteenth, whatever they thought they could get away with.

My point was that one ninth ought to be impossible, but I guess you didn't think I'd ever ask such a simple (and rethorical) question, huh?

Quote:
As for the lactose thing, what can I say? I don't see the comparison. I believe lactose intolerance is a chromosome two mutation.

It was to show that while race is mostly a social construct, there are also some hard biological aspects. Not that they generally matter more than the social construct, but they're still there.

Quote:
For what it's worth, I think there was a joke in there, but I hope it wasn't a reference to the mayor's comments. That got old the first week we made fun of it. Razz

I don't know what you're referring to here. What "mayor's comments"?

Quote:
You never told me how immigration authorities would detect a perfect copy, and what laws might have to be created. You seemed to presuppose that they would. Maybe you were talking about imperfect copies. I was trying to find a single thread in a pretty hairy line of argumentation. Something to narrow the terms down a little.

I don't know how perfect copies would be detected, but the authorities could probably trace the two persons as they have appeared in different places, and then make an educated guess as to which one is more likely to be the original. Their memories would also start deviating as soon as the copy is created. And feel free to narrow everything down. A lot. I don't see a whole lot in the wordstorm.

Quote:
You seem to like jokes. Invent an arbitrary law dealing with perfect copies, just as a thought experiment. Then we can discuss it.

I don't want to invent a law, nor do I want to discuss one. I just don't see the point.

Quote:
I can see a society killing copies, but not because of the sanctity of life argument per se.

No, but while simply being humane would most likely prevent a person from killing a copy, apparently the "sanctity of life" position does not provide guarantees that laws won't force the destruction of certain types of life. Especially if human cloning is a big no-no I could see copies being destroyed for being against nature and/or God's will.

Quote:
I don't know if you noticed it, gillspring, but your positions changed over time. You went from certain, to ambiguous, to kind of hostile. And all I wanted was a discussion with examples, and a thorough examination of the issues.

Too thorough in my mind, and you don't seem to accept my wish to keep it simple enough for me to keep up.

I also imagine that you must be used to typing "spring" a lot, since it seems to come naturally. I remember a case like that, and it was kind of funny in a freudian slip way when I was watching the guy constantly type a word related to his political views.

Quote:
I've been misquoted, restated my positions, examined analogies that were produced as counterexamples, discussed flaws within those analogies. And I've been polite. And I haven't done anything for the sake of getting a rise out of anyone.

Sometimes just being yourself is enough to get a rise out of people. The fact that you've been misquoted suggest that you are being misunderstood, and I'm not sure anyone has actually read and understood you completely.

Quote:
I actually welcome seeing different points of view; I really like when I can say, "You know, I don't agree, but I see your point." And I don't mind being shown that I'm wrong about something. But showing implies demonstration.

See? I can't say that. Because I don't see your points. I just get a vague feeling that you want more than I'm willing to give thought to.

Quote:
And I'd welcome it if we could at some point return- as I've tried doing, by use of analogy, reference, examination of sources- to Ghost in the Shell.

What we do here is to mostly interpret GitS, since a lot of stuff is open for interpretation. So as long as you can shine some light on things in GitS, that's fine. But because it's open for interpretation it's not always clear what you mean with your examples. In fact, I didn't get most of the stuff you quoted from GitS.

And no, this was not nearly brief enough to qualify as "brief". Sad
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AlphonseVanWorden



Joined: 05 Mar 2006
Posts: 170

PostPosted: Fri Mar 17, 2006 8:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gillsing wrote:
I don't have a problem with posts that are short enough, and I didn't say that I was having fun at your expense. I said that I indulged in amusing myself, and that only applied to a very small part of my post, not the whole post. Trust me, when I have to resort to amusing myself, I'm not really having much fun. Sad


I know you didn't say anything like that in those words, but it seems to me that there's authorial intent- what somebody means by a written statement- and there's what happens when the statement becomes part of discourse or dialogue. (There's what somebody wants a speech-act to do, and what the speech-act actually does. Which is why I use phrases such as "Are you saying that..." or "I believe this position is similar to...." rather than saying that I know what someone's intent is, or at least I do so when I'm not sure of the person's intent.)

Quote:
I was amusing myself, because you made me. You indulge in words upon words upon words, and I indulge in conjuring images of extremes. I'd like you better if you didn't indulge, but you've already made your position clear on that, and who am I to tell you what to do? Though I have a feeling that I won't be reading your next post in this thread. It just takes too long and doesn't feel meaningful.


I've said that my longer posts- and I don't think all my posts are long, but I'll concede that some posts become long as I respond to complex ideas- seem to me to be warranted. I also said that someone might disagree with that appraisal, and that this difference of opinion is probably an aesthetic matter, that that seems to me to be the case.

If someone wants a certain point clarified, all the person has to do is ask. If the person doesn't want to look at the references, or consider the linked material, I don't know how I should respond to that person.

But I don't think that means I shouldn't do any of those things, or that my posts somehow have a negative impact on this community.

If someone feels that they do, the person should feel free to send me a Private Message. I check and respond to my PMs daily.

I'm not sure Lightice's experience would be the same as yours; I don't think Lightice finds the experience of reading my posts "takes too long and doesn't feel meaningful." Then again, Lightice can speak for Lightice.

That's just a hunch on my part. Wink

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This is where you have to ask yourself: WWJD? Except it wouldn't be the regular Jesus, it'd be the golden bearded Aryan Jesus, wrapped in his American flag and armed with his M-16+. Or in other words, how do you think USA will treat perfect copies when they start turning up? As illegal entities which should be destroyed perhaps? Apparently that's what's done with cells left over from failed fertility treatments.


The manner in which you chose to amuse yourself struck me as troubling. It involved a.) what could be perceived as an ad hominem comment about a certain kind of American; this comment was followed by b.) a similarly framed comment about a certain kind of religious belief; these comments were used to argue a point by c.) an analogy that seemed problematic, and these were all d.) comments that, by your own admission, had as much, if not more, to do with amusing yourself as they did with contributing to a dialogue.

If I felt deeply about the United States or religion- if I took those things personally, and I know people offline who do, and have seen examples of people behaving similarly online- I might have been offended by those comments. I suppose one could claim that that's an aesthetic difference, too, but it also has to do with social expression and interaction.

Could someone be offended by those statements? And, without your explicitly stating that such isn't your intent, might someone reasonably assume that you intended to offend?

(While "politeness" derives from a Latin root meaning "to polish", and "politics" can be traced to the Greek "polis" for "city", i.e. community, I'd suggest the two contemporary words are related in usage, in that both terms have to do with one's relationship to a community.)

A problematic analogy can be useful when examining someone's point-of-view, but that usefulness is itself rendered problematic when someone submits the example for the sake of amusing himself or herself, without thinking about the response that the exaggeration might engender.

In other words, your amusement isn't always about you alone.

Other statements seem to indicate that your reading my comments doesn't feel meaningful to you and takes too much time. "You indulge in words upon words upon words." Perhaps that's true, but perhaps I'm doing so for reasons other than self-amusement. To communicate, to share and exchange information and ideas, perhaps?

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I'd like you better if you didn't indulge.


I wasn't aware that your liking or disliking me entered into this discussion (or the degree of liking or disliking, for that matter), but if I'm expressing myself without malice, the possibility that you could like me better is something that doesn't concern me. I don't mean this to be disrespectful, but I don't know you, so I can't say anything meaningful about the degree to which I do or would like you. I dislike several aesthetic choices on the parts of people in the real and online worlds; I wouldn't say that my dislike of the person's tastes relates to a dislike of the person, or has anything to do with my liking of the person. Similarly, I might like a person's tastes or way of expressing him- or herself, and find the person despicable in more important ways.

To respond specifically to this post:

Quote:
I can tell you that it's not very useful here, because you don't seem to be understood. In my case it has to do with buffer overload. I simply can not keep all your points and their relevance in my head, and I'm also not familiar with most of your references.


Given that the GitS franchise is pretty reference-laden, I'm not sure I see the problem. If I allude to, quote, or provide links to the relevant material, are you saying that it's just too much? And if someone makes a broad statement that has several implications- many of which the speaker/writer might not be aware of- isn't it worthwhile to examine those implications?

It seems to me that the franchise does something like that... So perhaps discussions of the franchise can, too.

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But did they admit to identifying themselves as part of their ideology rather than their ideology being a part of them? I've already said that other people can point at a person and claim that the person identifies themselves as whatever.


Yes. To use one example, Larry Kramer, the gay rights and AIDS activist, has said that he primarily self-identitifies as a gay male. Similarly, one can think of Islamic fundamentalists who self-identify as Moslems to the exclusion of alternate identities, African-American activists who primarily identify themselves as African-American, white supremists who identify... And I've met people who do exactly this, some of whom "belong" to similar groups or movements, both here and in Europe. Given certain behaviors on the parts of these individuals, I'd say that the "collective" identity trumps the "individual" identity in certain contexts.

Sometimes, the thinking is subtle; in the above cases, it's more pronounced.

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Though I suppose that's what they try to do in the military, and maybe that really does work so well that some soldiers identify themselves as cogs in the military machinery before they identify themselves as persons. I have seen it on TV, but is it real, and does what a soldier say guarantee that it's also how they think?


One can ascertain the validity of the statement not only in terms of what's said, but how the speaker acts. Does the person act in a way indicating that individual identity is minimized to the benefit of collective identity, at least within the "soldierly" context?

Regarding the hand/subject of ruler analogy: There's a logical argument used in cognitive science debates stating that an analogy is no longer valid when it is reduced to its simplest expression and that expression contradicts scientific knowledge. (As cognitive science, neurophilosophy and -psychology, and A.I. research have overlapping interests, and as the same argument is used in A.I. and cloning debates, this sort of logical argument seems valid here.)

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[T]he comparison between a ruler's subjects and a person's limbs or cells is problematic, for the reason you mentioned. Cells don't have self-awareness. People do. And once they don't like their identities as extensions of your identity, they might just reinterpret or reinscribe their identity as a collective entity ("the people" or "freedom fighters" or what have you) in opposition to that which defines them.

Analogy doesn't work. Sorry.

Of course, the likelihood of political violence seems greater to me than the risk of a limb attacking the body to which it's attached. I think there'd be some basic biological problems with that scenario, problems that wouldn't have a parallel in the social and political domain precisely because of the difference between bodies and societies.


Your response:

Quote:
I think the analogy works. The people don't need to feel that they are a part of my identity, they only have to obey so that I feel that I can control them reliably enough for me to feel that they are a part of my identity. Or so I imagine anyway. Same thing with the cells, except there is no potential of rebellion there since cells don't gain self-awareness and thus can't decide to disobey.


And this is where the analogy breaks down.

Regarding circular reasoning, you state:

Quote:
It [a given statement] may be circular, or it may be that you're fishing for a much more detailed description which I don't care about.


If you don't care about it, there's not a lot I can say. But if the statement's circular, it's logically problematic, and has extremely limited use in a philosophical discussion. A circular definition more often than not refers to a thing in terms of the thing being defined. ("An omelette is the result of making an omelette." So... what's an omelette? What makes an omelette an omelette, and not scrambled eggs? "An identity is created by someone identifying something." So... what's an identity? What are its characteristics?) Circular logic assumes a proposition is "proven" by premises which in turn contain the proposition. ("I say anyone who questions the state in time of war is a traitor, only a traitor would question the state in time of war, so this person's questioning the state during wartime makes the person a traitor.")

Circular definitions and circular logic render any position problematic, and, at times, meaningless. Assuming, of course, that this is a philosophical discussion, and that we have recourse to logic.

Regarding the lachtose intolerance analogy:

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It was to show that while race is mostly a social construct, there are also some hard biological aspects. Not that they generally matter more than the social construct, but they're still there.


Again, flawed analogy. Pigmentation of skin is biological. How we think about "race" is social. Map/territory confusion. Some might argue, "women can't do this" or "men are better at this" or "this race is better at this" based on a biological argument, but much of this reasoning is specious.

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I don't know what you're referring to here. What "mayor's comments"?


I was alluding to a comment that the Mayor of New Orleans made on Martin Luther King Day that got national and some international attention. This was a little joke on my part.

In passing, let me note that both "dictator" and "tyrant" didn't have intrinsically negative meanings to, respectively, the Romans or the Greeks. My use of one as a synonym for the other was based upon the more contemporary and perjorative sense, and upon the fact that the one term is now a synonym for the other. In contemporary English, both terms have negative connotations.

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No, but while simply being humane would most likely prevent a person from killing a copy, apparently the "sanctity of life" position does not provide guarantees that laws won't force the destruction of certain types of life. Especially if human cloning is a big no-no I could see copies being destroyed for being against nature and/or God's will.


As I believe I stated, the "sanctity of life" argument is often confused with the "slippery slope" argument which holds that stem cell research will lead to cloning and that successful cloning of a human being is a harm that would outweigh any possible benefits from the research; however, the slippery slope argument informs most legal discussions involving bans on stem cell research. Many "sanctity of life" proponents object to embryonic cold-storage in general, as a certain number of embryos will inevitably decay over time. They consider this objection to be based upon their being humane, while the system itself is inhumane. (Again, being humane is a relative concept, a notion that means different things to different folks.) The sanctity of an embryo's "life" and the morality of stem cell research are separate but related issues to proponents. (In this context, it's interesting to note that some "sanctity of life" proponents compare both abortion and stem cell research to Nazi medical experimentation; it tells us a lot about how they view the technologies, even if it doesn't tell us why they think the comparisons are valid. Perhaps the argument is: Nazis did bad things with bodies, scientists want to do things I don't approve of with bodies, therefore scientist who wants to do something I believe to be bad equals Nazi? I don't think the analogy works, that it reduces very well, but I think that's how it's used by certain "sanctity of life" folks. As with most flawed analogies, it seems more like an ill-fitting metaphor than an actual, working analogy.)

But, as such storage is legal, they have to find a way to argue against embryonic stem cell research, so the slippery slope argument is used to this end. After all, not all Americans agree with the terms that a sanctity-of-life proponent uses. (It's a way for those who believe in the sanctity of life argument to get support from those who don't buy into the same terms, but are worried about their essential "humanity". To put it another way, conservatives in the U.S. appeal to some liberals' misgivings and fears about the outcome of certain technologies, in order to make their argument- and what they want- appear reasonable to all sides. Both groups seem to be unconfortable with both change and the rate of change, so one group frames the discussion in terms that appeal to the other group's fears. The original issue- embryonic stem cells- gets lost in the rhetoric. And it's worth noting that people who favor stem cell research frame their arguments in terms of benefits to human beings; again, different groups argue from different positions, and the different positions indicate different ways of thinking about the matter.)

So I think legal and social reactions to copies won't reduce to the sanctity of life argument in America, or not simply to that argument, simply because while both groups fear cloning technology, and would probably be uncomfortable with copies, the difference in reasoning- and the fact that one side has to pander to the other's beliefs to get anything done- implies that their reactions might well be different and that a split in opinion might occur when a clone (or other kind of copy) comes into being. In short, the kind of reasoning that seems persuasive before the fact, might not seem persuasive after the fact.

So the future legal and social status of a copy remains unpredictable.

But we can discuss it, and the discussion has relevance to GitS, most explicitly in reference to the first season S.A.C. episode involving the revolutionary leader who copied himself, and in reference to the 2nd Gig episode in which Pazu fights his "double." Do we agree with the characters' responses to the situations? If so, why? If not, why do we disagree?

And I think our answers to such questions aren't simply individual responses; they have a lot to do with religious, scientific, philosophical, social, political presuppositions. Shared beliefs.

Quote:
What we do here is to mostly interpret GitS, since a lot of stuff is open for interpretation. So as long as you can shine some light on things in GitS, that's fine. But because it's open for interpretation it's not always clear what you mean with your examples. In fact, I didn't get most of the stuff you quoted from GitS.


Can you give me a specific example? Perhaps I wasn't clear in my references to or quotes from GitS. I'd be happy to elaborate, and I think I could even do so in a pretty concise manner. Laughing

As to reduction of terms, I don't know if I should do that, as I was pointing to complications inherent to your position. If you don't wish to refine the terms, to narrow the terms, perhaps we should move on. Simply "agree to disagree", as the saying goes.
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Such is the soul in the body: this world is like her little turf of grass, and the heaven o'er our heads, like her looking-glass, only gives us a miserable knowledge of the small compass of our prison. - Bosola, in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi
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Lightice



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 313

PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 2:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

*sigh*

This discussion has already muddled beyond recognition and it wasn't terribly clear to begin with.

Gillsing wrote:
I can tell you that it's not very useful here, because you don't seem to be understood. In my case it has to do with buffer overload. I simply can not keep all your points and their relevance in my head, and I'm also not familiar with most of your references. The headache I suffered from yesterday may have been because I tried to read, understand and reply to your post. It's just not worth it.


Such is the problem of philosophical debates. It's too easy to overwhelm the other with vast amounts of information. However, with a topic as wide-ranged as it is, it's next to impossible to prevent the discussion from spreading in all directions. The best you can do to correct the problem is to concencrate on what you consider to be the most important point in Alphonse's post and seek to clarify that, until the discussion can be once again centralized under a clear topic.
If we are to follow the original topic, that would be "What is the central theme of Ghost in the Shell", if we can say there is one.

Or, since the current discussion seems to be about human copies and their their legal rights, I'll concencrate there, and see, how others respond. I'm afraid that this won't contain much information related to Ghost in the Shell, but that seems to be the case with most of this thread, first posts aside.

Quote:
No, but while simply being humane would most likely prevent a person from killing a copy, apparently the "sanctity of life" position does not provide guarantees that laws won't force the destruction of certain types of life. Especially if human cloning is a big no-no I could see copies being destroyed for being against nature and/or God's will.


While human cloning is a big no-no, as you say, in most parts of the world, can you imagine, that the clone would be killed after being born? While clone is not a copy, except in genetic sense, there are clearly different moral codes to be followed, whether the case is before, or after the fact. Remember, that majority of those, who would wish to ban anything that even implies cloning are also active anti-abortionists. Certainly no civilized nation could make murder of a born baby seem like anything else, than what it is.
Also, I believe, there is no way a murder of an innocent person, who happens to share the genetic background and memories of another individual could be justified in any non-totalitarian regime.

To avoid derailing too far into the cloning issue, let us study the hypotetical act of making perfect copies. At the moment the copy is created or "turned on", so to speak, there should be no difference, or at least no noticeable difference between it and the original. At this very stage the copy ceases to be an object and becomes a person. He and the original share exactly the same memories and identical bodies. In other words, they are the very same person, split in two.

Both are, in their own opinions the "real" individual and the other is "fake". At this point, however, no such distiction exist and one can't be said to be more fake than the other. Technically one is only just born, but from the informational standpoint both contain the same amount of identical information and are, as such, the same person. The separation, too, begins at the moment the two start to inhabit the two distict bodies, so to speak, but at the moment of separation there is no meaningful difference between the two.

To make a simplified metaphor, we have an offical CD-disk and a pirated copy. Does the pirate-copy contain "fake" music? No, the music is just as real. Only the act of creation makes it any different from the original.

Now, Gillsing may consider this metaphor as a way of pointing out, that the pirate-CD is illegal and is destroyed when met by the authorities, but the matter of human-copies is far more complex than this. Humans are, by law given human rights and from biological, as well as psychological standpoint the copy is no less a human than the original. Since two individuals cannot possess the same identity under the law, however, new laws have to be made, to allow the distiction to take place.

Most likely this would be a huge media event and it would be quite difficult for idealists with supernatural thinking, or unscrupulous govermental forces from disposing of this unwanted complication in their thinking. There would, undoubtedly be laws to prevent copies from being made, same way as there now are laws against cloning, but once the act of cloning has, in fact taken place (and it will eventually take place, unless it already has), new kinds of rules have to be made to adapt to the situation.

I try to keep the religous and even humanistic arguments apart from this, since the subject is quite secular and so are the authorities, who would make the decisions in this hypothetical situation.

AlphonseVanWorden wrote:
I'm not sure Lightice's experience would be the same as yours; I don't think Lightice finds the experience of reading my posts "takes too long and doesn't feel meaningful." Then again, Lightice can speak for Lightice.


While I don't disagree with Gillsing, that your posts can be at times difficult to read due their lengthiness, they usually relay enough insight and information to overcome that flaw, if you have enough time to read the post and think on it, before responding. I, happily do.

In this thread, though, the posts have become less and less meaningful and we're strayed from the topic into a different, but related topic and from that topic into discussion, of how exactly should we discuss about the said topic (did that make any sense to anyone? Rolling Eyes ). We'll either have to get back into the actual discussion - whatever definite subject we decide to discuss of - or this thread will become utterly pointless. Just arguing about how one party expresses his arguments and opinions doesn't encourage constructive conversation or debate, whichever we are supposed to have.
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AlphonseVanWorden



Joined: 05 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 3:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
While I don't disagree with Gillsing, that your posts can be at times difficult to read due their lengthiness, they usually relay enough insight and information to overcome that flaw, if you have enough time to read the post and think on it, before responding. I, happily do.


Why, thank you!

Quote:
In this thread, though, the posts have become less and less meaningful and we're strayed from the topic into a different, but related topic and from that topic into discussion, of how exactly should we discuss about the said topic (did that make any sense to anyone? ).


It does to me.

Quote:
We'll either have to get back into the actual discussion - whatever definite subject we decide to discuss of - or this thread will become utterly pointless. Just arguing about how one party expresses his arguments and opinions doesn't encourage constructive conversation or debate, whichever we are supposed to have.


I agree. So, moving on...

Hopefully narrowing the thread's focus a little...

Returning to the subject of GitS's meaning(s) while incorporating the discussion about copies...

Does anyone see a connection between the Laughing Man storyline, the first season episode involving a revolutionary who's copied himself, and the Individual Eleven thing? I think they're thematically related...

And I think they have a lot to do with GitS: SAC's meaning(s).
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Such is the soul in the body: this world is like her little turf of grass, and the heaven o'er our heads, like her looking-glass, only gives us a miserable knowledge of the small compass of our prison. - Bosola, in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi
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AlphonseVanWorden



Joined: 05 Mar 2006
Posts: 170

PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2006 4:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, just to reply to Lightice:

Quote:
While human cloning is a big no-no, as you say, in most parts of the world, can you imagine, that the clone would be killed after being born? While clone is not a copy, except in genetic sense, there are clearly different moral codes to be followed, whether the case is before, or after the fact. Remember, that majority of those, who would wish to ban anything that even implies cloning are also active anti-abortionists. Certainly no civilized nation could make murder of a born baby seem like anything else, than what it is.
Also, I believe, there is no way a murder of an innocent person, who happens to share the genetic background and memories of another individual could be justified in any non-totalitarian regime.
...
Now, Gillsing may consider this metaphor as a way of pointing out, that the pirate-CD is illegal and is destroyed when met by the authorities, but the matter of human-copies is far more complex than this. Humans are, by law given human rights and from biological, as well as psychological standpoint the copy is no less a human than the original. Since two individuals cannot possess the same identity under the law, however, new laws have to be made, to allow the distiction to take place.
...
There would, undoubtedly be laws to prevent copies from being made, same way as there now are laws against cloning, but once the act of cloning has, in fact taken place (and it will eventually take place, unless it already has), new kinds of rules have to be made to adapt to the situation.


What you said. Yep. Laughing
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Such is the soul in the body: this world is like her little turf of grass, and the heaven o'er our heads, like her looking-glass, only gives us a miserable knowledge of the small compass of our prison. - Bosola, in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi
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Jeni Nielsen



Joined: 27 Nov 2005
Posts: 405

PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2006 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

- Sorry for a bit more off-topicness, but...

This is a general reply to what I feel has been a bit of negative back and forth between two of our forumers.

I would just say that in general shorter posts do make things easier, but sometimes it's necessary to have long posts. If you don't like how someone is doing something you should PM them and not fight on the forum. This leads to taking things off topic and general unease.

I don't really feel like this has been too much of a personal attack, so I'm not going to start on that, just make sure that you guys are decent to each other (which for the most part you are ^^) and I won't have to get involved.

And I should also add that I did have to skim this because I just got back from a week long vacation and came back to a lot of new posts.
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