Thursday, February 7, 2013

Chris Brown Ends the Quest for Truth and Understanding Rather Early...


In a lot of introductory philosophy courses these themes get brought up (see also: The Matrix, Total Recall, and many, many other movies!). If you had the option of choosing to live in the real-world full of some pain and suffering or a living in a dream-world full of happiness, which would you choose? In the real-world you may not be happy all the time, but you at least know what's true or what's real. In the dream-world you won't know what's true or real, but you will at least be guaranteed some kind of happiness. This is a difficult decision for a lot of people, but for Chris Brown the answer seems pretty clear.

While I have no idea how the lyrics of this song make any sense (see for yourself!), let's try to get a big picture of what's going on. If this love is a lie (i.e., if the love that Chris Brown is feeling does not actually exist in the real-world), then Chris Brown must be dreaming (or in a dream-world). If the love can only be found in the dream-world, then he'd rather stay in the dream-world even though it's not the real-world. 

While this option does not seem to be unpopular, the weird thing is that the option to choose the dream-world over the real-world is made without any supporting justification! Why stay in the dream-world? Well, I'm assuming it's because that's where this love exists. However, we are not told why this love is so great, or why we should believe that it cannot be had in the real-world. Now, to be charitable, let's grant that it is a special kind of love (which it would have to be if someone loved Chris Brown at all...) which can only be had in the dream-world. Even if this is the case, why would you abandon all the other truths and joys that come with seeking an understanding of the real-world for a dream-world that contains this kind of love? Seems pretty selfish to me... then again, I would expect nothing less from Chris Brown. It's bad enough to abandon the real-world and the ability to contribute to other peoples, as well as your own, understanding of the real-world, but to do so for what would clearly be a false or pretend love! That's just tragic. Remember, given that this love exists only in the dream-world, that means this love would not exist in the real-world; thus, it's not really love! It's just a fake version of love. In other words, it's a false love, or, a lie. So, Chris Brown would be abandoning the truth and understanding, and a shot at real love, for a fake love. Doesn't make much sense to me...

I don't know about you, but I'll take the real-world any day. Even with it's uncertainty and painful experiences, it still seems better than a lie... but that may because I get joy from seeking an understanding of the real-world. Not Chris Brown though. Of course, the dream-world is probably the only place that Chris Brown can find love these days. Anyways, it's a tragedy that a quest for truth and understanding could be ended so early. An inquiring mind lost at the young age of 23... such a waste. Chris Brown's quest for truth and understanding: dead at 23 (1989-2012).

Failing to Have Justification for Something You Really Believe is Apparently Like the Loss of Love

In the song "Just Give Me A Reason," P!nk and Nate Ruess (of the band Fun.) recount how painful it is to lose a loved one without being given any reason why the love ended. All they want is an explanation or a reason concerning why the love is gone. Notice: what seems to be the most difficult aspect of the love being over is that there is no reason why the love ended. It's not just that the love is gone; it's that the love is gone without any reason being provided.


What struck me about this song was that it seems like a similar feeling is found when someone is starting to lose their ability to hold a belief or conviction they've previously took to be unquestionable. This is a painful part of philosophy. Think about something you took to be unquestionable at some point in your life (e.g., belief in God, belief in a particular scientific theory, belief in some explanation of a some significant event, belief that a certain ethical theory was correct, etc.). Without a reason concerning why you should continue to hold a belief, or without justification for a belief, it gets harder and harder to keep that belief. Eventually, if you fail to have any reasons or justification for holding a belief that at one time meant so much to you, or at one time provided you with such comfort, then you won't be able to keep that belief.

Let's look at the chorus:
"Just give me a reason.
Just a little bit's enough.
Just a second, we're not broken just bent,
And we can learn to love again.
It's in the stars.
It's been written in the scars on our hearts.
We're not broken just bent,
And we can learn to love again."
(http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/pink/justgivemeareason.html)

Again, it seems like this song could have just as easily been about how hard it is to lose a belief that you hold so dearly (or how hard it is to lose the ability to justify a belief that you hold so dearly). Notice that we can swap out the words relating to 'love' with words relating to 'belief' and the sentiment of the song is still preserved! In the following presentation of the chorus I've replaced the words referring to 'love' with words relating to 'belief' or 'justification' (the word 'it's' should be taken as referring to the belief, whichever one you hold dearest, in question). Take a look:
"Just give me a reason.
Just a little bit's enough.
Just a second, [it's] not broken just bent,
And we can learn to [believe] again.
[It's] in the stars.
[It's] been written in the scars on our hearts.
We're not broken just bent,
And we can learn to [believe] again."

While I have just replaced the words referencing 'love' in the chorus, if you replace the words referencing 'love' in the rest of the song with words referencing 'belief' or 'justification,' then the meaning is still preserved!
It seems like losing the ability to justify a belief or hold a particular thought to be true can be just as painful as losing love. This is why philosophy is important! Epistemology is a field dedicated to justification and knowledge. Without reasons or justifications for our beliefs we succumb to the same horrendous feeling and torment being described in the song. However, if you can critically engage with your deeply held beliefs, then you'll know how to better handle situations like this. You'll either be better able to (i) abandon beliefs for which you have no justification, or (ii) you'll be better able to defend your beliefs, and the chances of you being able to offer justification for your beliefs is greater. :) 

Yay epistemology!!!!!!