Friday, September 12, 2008

Brain in a Bat

It's hard to teach an intro to philosophy class without doing Descartes' search for the foundations of knowledge, which has him doubting everything including even the existence of the world outside his own mind, which he does by hypothesising an 'evil genius' who is manipulating his perceptions and tricking him into thinking the external world exists, but even if this skeptical scenario were so, the search ends happily because Descartes finally cannot doubt that he is in fact doubting, and as he's there to do all this doubting, and doubting is a species of thinking, he must, therefore, exist... but this semester I'm managing to pull it off. It's off the syllabus!

Why? If for no other reason, I'm sick of telling people its like The Matrix.

Or so I thought. Because now with no outlet for my 'what's really real?' shpiel, and because Thursday was an off-day, you're stuck with the following.

I sometimes play an antiquated baseball video game- High Heat Baseball 2004. Curt Schilling on the D'backs on the cover. I own no X station or whatever the kids use to simulate reality these days. No, it's a PC game. Apparently, these are virtually obsolete. The company that makes High Heat- 3DO- no longer exists (but did it ever really? Ooooh. Think about that.) And because no upgrade is available, I still use an old sputtering operating system because I'm afraid an upgrade will be incompatible with the game.

But that's neither here nor there. Which of course leaves it nowhere to be, which is to say, it doesn't exist. Or does it really? (See, I just have to get this stuff out of my system somehow.)

Anywho, the 2004 High Heat game has a 2003 roster (but being the active GM that I am, I've made a few tweaks.) So "I'm" the Sox, naturally, and I'm down 4-1 in the top of the 9th to Cleveland, Mark Wohlers of all people on the mound (I thought he was long gone by '03 too.) 2 down. Things look grim. But Varitek, in the number 7 slot, gets on. I'd long since traded Nomar because he kept popping up, and watching his feet move around in the box was distracting, so I picked up Jose Vizcaino to play short. He normally bats 8th. But Billy Mueller is on the DL, so I've moved up Vizcaino to the 2 slot- he's hitting a robust .320- and I've called up Shea Hillenbrand from his banishment to AAA to play third and bat 8th. But now in the 9th, and because he's an f-word, I pinch hit with Jeremy Giambi, who promptly slams a triple off the center field fence, 4-2. Next up is Timlin in the pitcher's spot- yeah, in this alternate reality, there's no DH- so I send up Trot to pinch hit- both these lefties were on the bench, by the way, as Sabathia started for the Tribe. And Trot laces a double off Wohlers. Still two out, tying run on second, the lineup turns over for Damon, who singles to right to tie the game! I ended up winning in extras, Scott Williamson coming in for the save.

When philosophers update Descartes' thought-experiment about the evil genius who tricks the mind into believing in the reality of the simulacrum external world, they talk of a mad neuroscientist keeping a brain in a vat, stimulating it with electrodes to simulate an external world that doesn't really exist. (Or does it? No.) These examples are terrifying, for, among other reasons, they stipulate an utter lack of control; one is held captive to the whims of some omnipotent and unknowable force, and any sense of control over one's life is entirely illusory.

But when do I have more control? When I watch a "real" Sox game on TV, or when I can manipulate the video game Sox on my computer? And doesn't that control make it "more real"?

No. It doesn't.

Thanks for reading. Maybe next semester I'll put Descartes back on the syllabus, and you won't have to suffer through this again.

Also, when I lose to the Yankees in the video game, I get absolutely furious. It takes me awhile afterwards to calm down. Doesn't the strength of my emotion make it real, as in "I just know it to be true in my heart'?

No. It doesn't.


Rooster said...

In 2003, would Hillenbrand have been in AAA, or is that only in some obscure elctronic reality?

I had a similar computer game. I forget the name, but Nomar was on the cover. I always tweaked the roster to try and match the current team too. Often, it would not let me as I was stacking the team too much - but that was just reality (wasn't it?).

Soxlosophy said...


well, in the real 2003, hillenbrand was traded for byung-hyun kim, in May, i believe, but i didn't make that trade in the video game.

instead, i send down players i don't like into the game's even more alternate reality of the minor leagues; while the high heat series has minor league rosters down even to single A, as there is a "franchise mode" in which one can play successive seasons and develop players, these minor league rosters are stocked with fictional players.

but my triple-a squad is filled with real underperformers and veteran free agents, like joe girardi and tim wakefield (because knuckleballs are boring in a video game), along with fictional 22 year olds. actually, i've even sent down david ortiz, who is not living up to his computerized abilities...

Daniella said...

Seeing if this works.

Daniella said...

it worked. congratulations to all of us, i can "post." so, i thought this particular entry was very clever and funny. i have nothing substantive to contribute at this time, in this context.

except this: i joined a softball team and am delighted at the results, especially because this is my first softball experience ever. out of 5 at bats, i got 2 singles, a double (probably should have been a single but for an error by some fielding agent), and was called out in two kind of close events at first. i was the catcher, no calling me pudge, and managed to catch a pop up off a bat for an exciting out. it was all rather exhilerating and i felt like an asset, which matters to me because there's a mandatory female participation component in this league which i get but nonetheless read to imply a low expectation of female players and because, i'll admit it, this lawyer gig has made me a bit competitive, even when it doesn't count. anyway, i'm now officially into "team sports!"

Soxlosophy said...

thanks, daniella, good to see you 'post.'

and congrats on the successful softball game! my season seems to be done, so i'm jealous.

and your usage of terms perfectly acceptable in normal contexts but unconventional in baseball descriptions is really funny ('fielding agent' instead of fielder, 'events' instead of plays...). much better than baseball jargon. and nice 'pudge' reference.

also, as i get older, i like the word 'delight' more. i was watching the muppet show the other day- not, admiteddly, something one typically thinks of doing as one gets older- and i thought to myself 'how delightful'...