“I don’t like the ending…”

Doobster has posted another masterpiece called “I seen it all”.  The story has a great beginning, but then suddenly ends causing the readers to beg for more, if you read the comments.

This is a great story.  I think, it reveals a great deal about ourselves.  We get irritated when things do not go according to expectations: when unexpected things come up and mess up our plans, when other people behave irrationally (i.e. in a way that wee cannot explain or expect). Getting irritated about those things often leads to anger, fear, worry, and anxiety. I train myself to accept reality as it is, good or bad, expected or not. It’s just my way to be content.

Doobster’s story is great for practicing this philosophy. One would think that the story does not have an “ending”. Well, it ends, doesn’t it? The problem is that we don’t like the ending. We expect something more. But that’s not a problem with the story. It’s a problem with ourselves.  Just deal with it, folks.  And, to add some seasoning to the recipe, Doobster, who is an excellent writer, calls the story “I seen it all” and sprinkles this grammatical error, like a good chef, throughout the story to tickle the taste buds of the “grammar Nazis”.

This reminded me of my favorite TED talk by philosopher Dan Dennett.  In the beginning, he promises to explain consciousness, but warns that his explanation may disappoint many people because it’s like explaining a magic trick: when it is explained, the “magic” disappears — it’s not “magic” any more. Then Dennett uses a few examples of optical illusions to show how our mind creates “reality” that does not really exist — how we see people on a picture where, in reality, there are just few color spots on a canvas that don’t look like people at all;  or how we fail to notice that an airplane is missing an engine simply because we presume that it’s there.  The basic message behind this video is that we see what we expect to see, whereas consciousness and reality are not what we expect them to be — they are what they are.

The comments to the talk are most amusing.  People are disappointed by Dennett’s explanation of consciousness because…  it is not what they expected…  although Dennett warned everyone that they will be disappointed and although that’s the point of the talk — that consciousness is not what we expect.  In other words, Dennett has masterfully delivered on his promise to disappoint.  Brilliant.

6 thoughts on ““I don’t like the ending…”

  1. First, thanks for the shout-out. That is an interesting video and I think it illustrates another problem writers, in particular, have and why we are so lousy at proofing our own work. We “see” what our brain expects us to see when we attempt to proof whatever it is that we have written, not necessarily what our eyes see or what is really there. So no matter how many times we read what we have written, or how diligent we attempt to be, there’s a fairly high probability that an error will still get through because of what we expected to see versus what we were actually seeing.

  2. I wonder, is Dennett’s reductive account of consciousness losing traction? It seems that way to me, although I’m not an expert in the field. The old joke about his book Consciousness Explained needing to be retitled Consciousness Explained Away seems to ring truer than ever. The matter is completely unsettled of course, though the ideas of Tononi and Koch, and of Chalmers too, seem to be at the cutting edge of current thinking.

    • Reasoning about consciousness is always faulty because it’s circular. Many philosophical issues are circular. Circular reasoning is often amusing, but that’s, perhaps, the only useful purpose it may serve. I like Dennett’s talk because it’s amusing, not because it explains anything. But people who expect explanation from him, are disappointed. I think, it’s very funny to be disappointed that Dennett delivered on his promise to disappoint. Often, the more we say, the more we have to explain.

      • Yes, we can never get out of the gearbox of our comprehension, so to speak. This is one of the great problems facing any Science of Consciousness. As to reasoning about consciousness being “always faulty”, then I think that’s too sweeping. We can, after all, say what it is not, and this is largely what Dennett has always done – even to the extent of denying it in effect. It is possible to approach truth by negation, the ontology of Classical Advaita Vedanta being one such example.

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