TED Conversations

Jim Moonan

Owner/Artistic Director, NorthWind Education


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If you had a choice, would you rather your life on earth be lived in a physical state or non-physical state?

Purely an exercise in philosophy...

Suppose we lived our lives in a non-physical state. Everything else remained the same. We were born (but through a non-physical process), we died, we had careers,vacations, nature, loves, temptations, desires, interests - all the things we currently experience in our lives, with one exception - we had no bodies.

Old age is largely equated with the physical deterioration of the body.I watch my father's physical health deteriorate even as his mind remains relatively strong. The physical world has largely left him behind; he is unable to see, unable to walk without assistance, unable to do many of the things that require physical action. Yet his mind remains lucid, full of life.

Our world places a great amount of importance on physical appearances. Is it fair that some people are born physically unattractive?

If it is true that "beauty" is in the eye of the beholder", isn't it also true that our physical self is unimportant?

Is beauty skin deep?

Is our physicality a ball and chain?

Are the two inextricably linked?


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  • Nov 19 2013: I reject the notion that we could exist in a non-physical state and "everything else would remain the same."

    In the absence of the physical, would not our desires, temptations, careers, interests, etc. be inevitably different also? What (except possibly nature if you mean that which exists naturally other than ourselves) is not experienced through our physical selves, affected by our physical selves, and affecting our physical selves in turn?

    Certainly our physical self does not exist primarily for "beauty.' Beauty is a judgment we make about our own and others' physical (and perhaps non-physical) characteristics, rather than a primary function of physicality. I would argue that no one is born physically unattractive. It may be that some people are more likely to be judged unattractive than others, but the standards for that are hardly universal or unchanging.
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      Nov 19 2013: Yes, I totally understand the impossibility of what I am asking. It is a fatally flawed question that most might avoid discussing because of it's premise...

      I asked the question on a lark and now have come to my senses. I love my physicality and cannot even imagine how to separate it from the non-physical.
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        Nov 20 2013: Jim, I do not think it is a fatally flawed question. I can see layers in it.
        Notwithstanding my attachment to physicality of my bodily existence, there are non-physical entities that are born, that grow, compete, flourish and/or die in a manner akin to physically living organisms. These non-physical entities interact between themselves and with us all the time. I have heard about ideas having sex in TED! :)
        You could have as well asked how would we feel if (as in a thought experiment) we were ideas or concepts, or theories or principles (assuming these can feel and sense). In that philosophical exercise we can have insights towards how markets or societies function.

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