19th century philosophy

127 Hours

Schopenhauer argues in The World as Will and Representation that Non-representational reality consists of the raw forces that motivate us unmediated by our consciousness. He discusses the type of stimuli that are met with immediacy and intensity that drive humanity outside of rationality. An example of this phenomenon is seen in the story 127 Hours which has been reiterated in writing as well as film. 

127 Hours tells the story of Aron Ralston, a lone hiker who gets his arm stuck under a boulder for, you guessed it, 127 hours. He relied on many instincts to keep himself alive, most significantly upon the amputation of his own arm. The brain stem has long been understood as the part of the brain responsible for stereotypical human instincts like survival, reproduction, fight or flight, etc. Schopenhauer indirectly refers to this human function (as well as others) as “Will”. 127 Hours is an acute example of a man’s reliance on this will. Ralston operates completely outside of desire and comfort when he finally faces the reality that his flesh and bones are standing in the way of life. 

This example is notably more complex than more “immediate” examples like recoiling from a hot stove or scratching an itch. With that said, the Ralston used the same part of the brain to grapple with the reality that he too, will have to scratch that itch. Moreover, he used a dull two-inch pocket knife to hack away at his arm for about an hour– this further illustrates his will to survive essentially overcoming torture. He was also forced to rely on drinking his urine. In this case, non-representational reality is working to keep the hiker alive at all costs. If it weren’t for this will, he would’ve resorted to the instinct to feel comfortable (not in pain or repulsed). But as Schopenhauer discussed, Ralston’s desire for life overcame his senses. His is one of the endless instances where a human being resorts to unthinkable or repulsive tactics when forced by circumstance.

“These hoes don’t be mad at Megan, these hoes mad at Megan’s Law”

Hegel’s aim in “Phenomenology of Spirit” is to ultimately achieve a sense of absolute knowing by dissecting the role of consciousness (quite meticulously) in the different forms of perception. He also touches on many different angles of knowledge, religion, power dynamics, etc. One of the ways he does this is by highlighting the subjective nature of reality and therefore the deception of human senses, more specifically the deception of certainty. This essay discusses Hegel’s idea of this contrast in a controversial lyric by Megan the Stallion. 

The line “These hoes don’t be mad at Megan, these hoes mad at Megan’s Law” was notoriously received as a jab at fellow rapper Nicki Minaj for her husband’s failure to abide by “Megan’s Law” when he neglected to publicly register as a sex offender. The atrocity itself aside, when I heard the line, I took it completely as a play on words that had no target or direction at anyone. Rappers are known to use their names in unique ways that either bend the mind or evade logic completely, which is why many listeners assumed nothing of the line at all. This is a rather fun example of one of Hegel’s focuses on the distinction of reality based on senses. He declares that there can be a twofold interpretation of the same thing which implies that the object’s (or line in this case) significance relies on determinateness and is not in and of itself a truth. In passage 126 Hegel remarks, “it is posited as the absolute negation relating only itself to itself, but negation relating itself to itself is just the sublation of itself, or it has its essence in an other.” In this line he notes that something that appears self contradicting is merely a subjective object with external perception that truly defines it. Moreover, Hegel argues that during object perception, an idea like this can have “essentially one” meaning and “inessentially many” meanings in relation to outside influence. He concludes by stating that understanding the subjective nature of an idea or object therefore relies not solely on perception but on its context. This is seen very acutely in this now semi-infamous line when its interpretation varied depending on the circumstances of the listener.