Kyla has been your best friend for as long as you can remember. While you
argue and fight like any other pair of friends, you really understand one
another, and have a deep, complex and satisfying relationship. One day, Kyla
says she wants you to come and meet her parents. She leads you through a
door that mysteriously appears in an apple tree. You find yourself in a
world of tall, strangely shaped buildings, tall strangely beautiful people
and a variety of strange plants and animals. Nothing looks right,
and you feel waaaay out of place. After having a strangely shaped
dinner with Kylaís tall, beautiful parents, you find out that it isnít the
21st Century but the 37th and youíre really on the
planet Entelechia, not Earth. The world you just came from, and in which
youíve lived all your life, was actually a holoprogram based loosely on a 34th
Century soap opera that was vaguely set between 1900 and 2399. You were not
based on any real person, but were originally written to be someone who Kyla
could be friends with. (You could have turned out enemies.) Kyla
explains that, since her father just lost his job, theyíve had to turn off
the big holoprogram and sell the main projector. But, since youíve gotten to
be such good friends, sheís saved her allowance and bought a microprojector
that will keep just you going as long as she pays for the power you consume.
And then she turns you off (temporarily) so she can do her homework.
Are you real?
Itís true that you have feelings, desires, hopes and dreams,
that you have consciousness and experience yourself as having free will,
but you have all of those things because a computer program
creates them. (It does, however, create these things by performing exactly
the same functions that a human brain would do.) You donít have an organic
body. You donít have a biological brain. Your program has been copied from
one computer to another several times. When the computer is turned off,
you cease to exist, and if it was erased from the computer itís on now,
you would never exist again. Explain the best case you can for you being
real, and the best case for you not being real. (Make sure you do
not state these cases as if they are both your personal opinion. You must
indicate that these are arguments that someone might make, and not
necessarily your personal opinion.) Decide which is the logically
stronger case, and explain why.
Specific Instructions (Added 10/11/22)
- Think about what it might mean for a thing
to be real. How are real things different from unreal things, for
- Think about things real things can do, that
unreal objects cannot do. (For instance, ghosts cannot hurt
people, because ghosts are not real.)
- Ask yourself is there's anything you can
do that an unreal object would not be able to do.
- Think about reasons someone might give to
argue that you are real.
- Think about reasons someone might give to
argue that you are not real.
- Logically analyze and critique all of
- If there's an argument that doesn't
fail, that's your nonfail argument.
- All the arguments that failed are your
- Write a paper in which the conclusion of your nonfail argument
is your thesis.
- In that paper, explain your nonfail
argument in detail
- In that paper, explain at least
one fail argument, and explain how it failed in your prewriting
- If you have any
further thoughts or comments on the topic, add these new ideas to the
end of your paper.
Some Important Points
DO NOT ASSUME THAT BEING A HOLOGRAM MEANS YOU
CAN'T BE REAL.
If you find yourself thinking something like "so am I really a
hologram?" or "I'll only be real if it turns out I'm not really a hologram"
or "okay, holograms aren't real, so that means I'm not real," snap out of
it! Slap yourself up the side of the head and stop thinking that way! You're
a hologram! That's it! And it doesn't automatically mean you're
not real! If you think it does, then you've got to come up with an argument
to the effect that a thinking, feeling, self-willed being can't be
real merely because that being is instanciated by means of a hologram.
Don't attempt this topic unless you can accept at least the possibility
that the meaning of the word "real" doesn't automatically include
the meaning of "not a hologram." If you want to argue that being a hologram
makes you not real, then you will sooner or later have to come up with reasons
why being a hologram makes you not real. Saying "I'm not real because
holograms aren't real" won't cut it unless you can eventually come up with a
reason why we should define the word "real" in such a way that it
excludes holographic persons. If you can't, you should say so.
DO NOT PRETEND THAT HOLOGRAPHIC-YOU IS DIFFERENT FROM BIOLOGICAL-YOU
Remember that the subject of this essay is you. You have
not changed in any way. If you want to say things like "As a
hologram, I have no hopes and dreams," remember that you will also be saying
that, as a flesh-and-blood, biological being, you also have no hopes and
dreams. If you had hopes and dreams before you started the class,
holographic-you had exactly those hopes and dreams. If you have hopes and
dreams now, holographic you has exactly those hopes and dreams right now.
DO NOT PRETEND THAT YOU ARE NOT THE HOLOGRAM
Sometimes students write about "the hologram" as if it's not them. Don't do
this. Use words like "I" and "me" to refer to the hologram, because the
hologram is you.
DO NOT "DEFINE" "BEING REAL" AS
The words "real" and "existing" are basically synonyms, and may be used
as such, but this means that when you define the word "real," you can't
just say "a thing is real if it exists." That's not a definition. To
define "real," you have to nsay what the word means, not just give a
different word that means more or less the same thing.
[Edit] And, as always, do not go to
the internet to read and regurgitate the opinions of morons.
Don't attempt any of these follow-up questions until you've attempted the
main topic. Don't do any follow-up question unless I've specifically
assigned you, or given you permission, to do that question. If you want
to do a follow-up question, ask me, and I might give you permission.
Don't do it if I don't give you permission.
People We Know
A final note. Sometimes, despite the frequent admotitions given above, a
student will still write something like "I don't think I could be a hologram
because . . ." This student is deliberately failing the assignment. The
assignment says "You are a hologram." It doesn't give you the option of
deciding that you're not a hologram. Once you do that, the philosophical
problem disappears, and anything you write will be a waste of time.
Copyright © 2010 by Martin C. Young
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