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.

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