When I say “Facebook Philosophy,” I mean people doing really bad philosophy but putting it into videos in which they over-enunciate enough words with an exaggeratedly confident tone in a flashy video with cool music so that people without the philosophical whereabouts to know better watch the video and leave with a warm, fuzzy feeling which is nothing more than an illusion of the satisfaction that accompanies an attempt at true intellectual investigation and engagement. You could say the exact same thing happens on YouTube, but let’s be honest, “Facebook Philosophy” has a cooler ring to it.
A friend recently brought my attention to a perfect example of this phenomenon from a social media sage who goes by Prince Ea.
Here’s the video:
This entire video is so flawed that I almost feel bad for him. I mean, I know I’m far from infallible here, but there’s something to be said for careful thought, and there’s no evidence of it in this video.
So why am I paying attention to it? Well, this guy is saying that the self does not exist, that Jesus was an Eastern Mystic, and he’s just a perfect example of horribly flawed Facebook Philosophy to pick on. Not to mention, people are listening to this guy. The video has over 150K views on Youtube, 20 million views on Facebook, 200k reactions, and almost 40k comments. So kudos to the guy for turning heads. It’s just too bad it takes sensationalized pseudo-philosophy and gross factual errors to make it happen.
So in the name of keeping polemicism alive, here’s my take on why this video is so flawed.
The entire premise of Prince’s video is defending Jim Carrey by debunking the idea of an “I” or “ego.” Essentially, Prince is saying that the self is an illusion, but the argumentation for that point goes haywire.
Prince begins by stating that the idea of self is somehow fundamentally tied to the idea of being a “person,” and that “person” comes from the Greek word “persona” which means “mask.” Prince seems to think this means the ancients collectively and unanimously held some sort of Eastern view of reality, and we moderns have just forgotten the ancient wisdom. The reality is that this is factually incorrect on many levels including the assumption that there is an ancient body of people who somehow came to a decisive consensus on practically anything. Anybody who has spent any amount of time reading “the ancients” knows that there was no shortage of dissension on any given topic.
Prince’s Romantic delusions of the past aside, his linguistic analysis is embarrassingly wrong. “Persona” was a Latin word, not Greek. The Romans came well after the Greeks, and the idea of the individual had existed for quite some time in ancient philosophy. For example, Aristotle took the individual to be a rational sort of being which kind of necessitates the existence of different beings. In Roman use, the Latin word for mask literally meant a mask. Eventually the idea of a “persona” or “personality” arose and became intertwined with the word which has to do with our outward appearance to the stage of the world. However, this has nothing to do with the denial of a first-person individual self. Prince isn’t off to a good start, and given the success of his social media presence I encourage him to hire a team of fact checkers.
Additionally, Prince should hire a team of philosophers because his philosophy is …lacking.
Prince goes through a series of arguments which he seems to think prove that the “ego” isn’t really a thing, Instead, he offers a strange blend of Eastern Mysticism and defunct tabloid-level psychology. But I guess if you keep over-enunciating everything and use cool enough music, then those things will go unnoticed. But I digress.
He starts his argumentation by asking the viewers what their next thought will be because apparently determining what they will think next is hard for some people. It isn’t. To see this, just say out loud that you will now think about your favorite food (or whatever the heck you want to think about). Then think about it. And now you’re stating what you will think next. So we can determine what we will think next, and this would be puzzling if there was no “I” at the helm of our minds.
Perhaps what Prince means is that we can’t think the exact thought we will be thinking while reflecting on the fact that we will be thinking it at the same time. But that’s just a complicated way of saying that we can’t think two things at the same time. This doesn’t mean there is no “I,” it just means that “I” can only entertain one thought at a time.
Prince then goes on to make his case by asking things like, “Are you seeing? Or is seeing happening? Are you hearing? Or is hearing just happening?” What Prince has discovered is that nouns and verbs can syntactically be used in different grammatical functions. But he seems to think that this acts as a logical argument when the reality is that he is just making two distinct claims which can both be true. It is possible to be seeing, and for seeing to be happening simultaneously. It’s actually what we should logically expect to be the case. It would be odd if something was in the act of seeing, and seeing was not happening. It would be equally odd for seeing to be happening, but for nothing to be seeing.
Not only does Prince’s argument here fail, his way of presenting it actually contradicts his point. He addresses “you,” but if there is no “I” then there is no “you” to be addressed. If there truly is no “I” and we are all just sharing a universal stream of consciousness (the conclusion he arrives at later), one would think that we would be equally aware of his thoughts. Consciousness can hardly be conscious if it is unconscious of itself if there are not distinct streams of consciousness (which is the exact conclusion that Prince must avoid if he wants to avoid the existence of “I”).
So what’s next for Prince? He’s engaged in some embarrassingly flawed linguistic and philosophical history, and he has somehow just now stumbled on the complexity of our language and its ability to make distinct but similar claims about things, and now he stumbles on the mind-body problem but he fails to understand the consequences of arriving there.
Prince notes that we can’t keep ourselves from thinking, and we can’t will ourselves to fall asleep, and he rightly concludes that we are not our body. I’m willing to go along with this. It makes sense to me that I am distinct from my body when I perceive it falling asleep or waking up, or that my brain which is constantly taking in data is constantly processing it in conjunction with the mind to churn out thoughts.
But then he gets into some weird philosophy by saying that since we are aware of the individual voice in our head, we can’t be that voice. Prince incorrectly thinks that we can’t be aware of ourselves, which is rather odd and self-defeating since he essentially tells his viewers to become aware of the fact that they are just brute consciousness. But if we become aware of that brute consciousness, and we cannot be aware of whatever the stuff is that makes us up then we can’t just be the consciousness either since we also are aware of our consciousness.
It’s also worth noting that along the way Prince asserts that we cannot be both a subject and an object. But this is nonsense. Of course I can be a subject and an object. I as a subject perceive my mother’s love towards me, and I as an object receive my mother’s love. This is pretty commonsensical. I, therefore, have no problem saying that I as a subject perceive myself making me the object of my perception.
Ultimately, in trying to prove that there is no “I,” Prince just arrives at the conclusion that we are not our bodies, and I am inclined to go with him a little further in saying that we are not entirely our minds either. I think our identity rests with our soul, but I hold that view with an open hand. I’m fairly convinced that the mind is a huge part of “I.”
Regardless, when it comes to disproving the existence of “I,” Prince just never hits the mark.
At the end of the day, when we consider the fact that we are conscious we are faced with the inescapable conclusion that there is some sort of subject which is conscious. There is a subject at the root of it. If there were not, we could hardly be conscious.
So then the question is just whether or not each individual has an “I,” or if we are all just an indistinct consciousness. As I briefly stated earlier, if all consciousness was entirely indistinct and universal, it would be puzzling for that single universal stream of consciousness to be unconscious of what consciousness is conscious of. I’m sitting in a coffee shop conscious of my surroundings, you are somewhere reading this while you are conscious of entirely different things, and never does our consciousness cross. This seems like exactly the opposite of what we would expect to find if we were an indistinct consciousness.
The reality is that we all experience our own consciousness which seriously evidences the reality that our consciousness is unique to individual subjects. From the perspective of a subject as it is conscious of itself, it simply refers to itself as “I.” Therefore, the reality of individual agency seems inescapable. We may not be our individual bodies, but we must be our individual somethings.
This brings us full circle to the topic in the title which addresses Jesus’ supposed affiliation with Eastern Mysticism. Eastern Mysticism maintains that we are all essentially the exact same stream of consciousness which makes us all essentially the exact same thing. But this worldview is entirely incompatible with any normal Christian notion of Jesus. Jesus in the mind of a Christian came to save beings from eternal punishment in Hell because those beings sinned against Him. Christians also maintain that Jesus never sinned, so if Jesus is the exact same stuff as the sinners then He is equally sinful and could have never saved them. But this is just one of many absurdities if we try to morph mysticism and Christianity together. How strange would it be for Jesus to come die for beings when He is really those beings? What would He be saving anything from? Himself from Himself?
And yet Prince suggests in no uncertain terms that Jesus goes right along with His message in some sort of strange, ancient, mystical fashion. These reasons are why Prince’s video is an abject failure in terms of careful philosophical thought, historical and linguistic fact, and knowledge of basic religious doctrines. Frankly, he should be embarrassed.
Why am I being so harsh? Wouldn’t it be better for me to be charitable in my analysis? Well, probably. But honestly it angers me to no end that this individual has taken it upon himself to try informing millions of people about reality, but he has done so in a painfully careless, mistaken way. He is propagating blatantly wrong facts, and communicating lax philosophical conclusions. These things seriously affect the minds of those who don’t know better, and this has deep, rippling consequences. Prince is just one of many “Facebook Philosophers,” he just happens to be the example that presented itself in this situation. So it’s nothing personal, Prince, but that is why I am being so harsh and why his video ought to be very publicly ridiculed.
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