Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Definition of Self

It's been a long time since my last/first Soma post and in between that time I've released three Life is Strange posts. I feel guilty for doing that as it makes it seem like I don't really care about Soma anymore and it was just a passing fad.

I still do love and think about the game, it's just finding time blogging about things can be difficult.

There is a whole host of things to discuss about in this game but, today, I'm going to focus on what makes a person who they are. I'll first be going over the definition of humanity and then breaking down every version of Simon (aka Original Simon to the Simon in the Ark).
What Makes Us Human

One of the things that we as human are at fault of is thinking being human makes us better than any other organism. That being human is a badge of honor that should only be placed on certain people. Some criminals and people we don't like are given terms to show that they are less than human.

As if being human was a title that you could simply take away when the person wasn't worthy enough. As if being human was so much more than the body.

Simply put, we relate being human to the body as much as to a state of mind.
Varying religions and forms of spirituality make it harder to pin down what is and isn't human. Some forms of Christianity believe that animals don't have souls while humans do. A distinction that elevates humanity to a level of respect not given to animals.

Some other religions that have reincarnation have the more worthy being born to higher castes. Giving certain humans innate greatness that others can't achieve no matter what. Humans being given more innate worth than others is, of course, not limited to reincarnation.

The list goes on and on and I don't have time to mention all the variations here.
Even if you aren't religious or spiritual, you are told that humans are so much more than the body. That human is a state of mind which not every person who is human in the physical sense can achieve. We are told that in both real life and in fiction.

A bunch of phrases and terms exist to imply a human in the physical sense isn't always human.

So to think, even imagine, that what makes us us can simply be copied and repackaged doesn't make sense. It can't make sense as what we are seems to be is so much more and what happens in Soma, people's brains being scanned and then those scans being put in new bodies, means the copies/robots aren't really humans.

Hell, some people may even start to question if they are real or sentient because of the way we are usually used to viewing humanity. We might even start to question if these copies are really alive and if killing them is murder.

I believe this confusion is because of how we normally view the term 'human.
I've only really been discussing this topic without mentioning the soul. This is really to keep things simple but I know many of you might have questions about it. You might think that the copies can't be alive, alive like a 'human', because they don't have souls.

Being soulless is damnation as then you can't tell the difference between right or wrong is. You are stuck in a mindset where you will sin, and sin greatly, merely because you have nothing to tell you that what you're doing is wrong.

But what if these copies have a copy of the soul? A copy so great that there is no difference between a 'real' soul and the copy's soul.

What if enough of the soul is copied? A not so good copy that still gets the job done, in other words.

What if this copy is granted a new soul like baby's at conception? The copy's consciousness is the same as before so if one is deserving of a soul, the other should be too.

The decision you make regarding the soul question is extremely personal to every individual. It's not something I'll go fully into here as I'd have to talk about some things that would detract from the point of this post.
Sentience over Humanity

Suffice it to say that a huge question that Soma asks is 'what makes us human?'. A question that is profound for a lot of people and the reason why I started this post off with it. It isn't a question that I feel is needed or makes sense, though.

For me it places too great of an importance on humans and that question taints every other question in the game. Such a question could be 'is killing the machines murder/euthanasia?'. It removes any sympathy for a sentient being to 'if it isn't human, I have to think about it'.

And who cares if the beings you meet aren't human anymore, anyways?
I am, as everyone else, biased when I come to conclusions. Sometimes much more biased than at other times. This is such a case.

I believe in reincarnation and that this isn't my first time living on this planet. I was originally a shapeshifter so I've come to the conclusion, long ago, that to be human isn't the important thing. I wasn't more or less important in either lifetime.

I could think and feel in both so to question what it means to be human doesn't make sense to me. It doesn't compute.

The truth is that Simon and Catherine aren't human. They have been changed on a fundamental level. Asking if they are still human is clinging onto the past when they should accept their present so that they can carry on.
It is much more important to abandon the human ideal. It is much more important to abandon the importance of being human so that the philosophical musings will be much clearer to you. I understand that this may not be easy to some of you because, as stated previously, the term 'human' is so important to a good majority of us.

It is just as hard for most to comprehend the fact that being human isn't important as it was hard for Simon to realize his current situation in Soma. Or at least as much as he was able to comprehend during the course of the game.

So what should we focus on if not the term 'human'? The term 'sentient' which includes everything that can think and feel. Sentient would include beings that have hopes a dreams.
So whenever you kill a machine you are killing a sentient being. Whenever you kill a sentient being that is either murder or euthanasia.

Once you strip the term 'human' away from its self-imposed importance, there is no confusion in what you're doing. The terms to use are both crystal clear and horrifying. You are now free to decide on whether killing/euthanasia is moral or just something that needs to be done in the context of the game.

One grey area is removed while a shit ton more pop up.
Catherine Chun seems to be able to deal with not being technically human the best out of all the characters in the game. She knows what she is and yet doesn't bemoan her fate like Simon Jarrett. Of course this could partially be explained by the fact that she was in charge of the ARK project and is more than aware about what goes on.

It still does take a certain point of view to be able to deal with the situation, though. She remarks to Simon at one time that she doesn't mind and seems she never really felt comfortable in her original body before.

Maybe she doesn't really care about being human as we perceive the term and cares more about helping others. At the end of the game she doesn't mind that she isn't on the ARK and is, instead, left on the hell hole that is now Earth.
What Makes Clones Different

In the course of Soma, you play four different versions of Simon Jarrett. The first Simon is the original whose brain was damaged during a car crash that killed a girl he was interested on dating, at least it appears so from dialogue in the game.

The second is the Simon that is 'woken up' by the WAU in Pathos-II. The third is the Simon that is created when his brain scan is being copied into another body so he can continue his journey with Catherine to launch the ARK into space. The fourth and final Simon is the one on the ARK.
Simon Jarrett refers to his clones as if they were different from him. He takes any advantage a clone has over him as an affront to him. That he should always be given the best. This sentiment extends from beyond just Simon.

It's the reason why people were committing suicide after getting their brain scans: they believed that they should be the ones on the ARK, not a fake version of themselves.

That's, of course, reducing the basic theory down to its barest elements. But it still stands that everyone, except maybe Catherine, views the clones as others that aren't deserving.

However, are the clones really all that different from each other and from the original?
We are formed not just by our genes and innate nature, but also by our past. You probably have a food or song that means something to you because of what has happened in your life. I can't eat cantaloupe anymore due to me being sick while eating it once. There are songs that I heard when younger that just make me happy because I heard them while growing up.

My emotions have been manipulated by both good and bad experiences with people.

So a me that has all the same memories but not the cantaloupe ones would be a slightly different person.

In short: when Simon is copied that clone is an exact replica. There is no difference between the two.

But as time goes on they would become completely different people. The original Simon had more of a caring air to him at the end and that's why he donated his brain scan to science. Simon 2 and 3 are both more concerned about getting on the ARK than saving humanity. Hence Simon 3's outrage at the end of Soma.
So there are differences between them but each Simon thinks these differences happen in an instant. That the exact moment him and a clone of him exist that they are different. That there is some large intrinsic difference between the two.

While this is false, it is what each Simon believes and sends him into an outrage at least once.

With believing there is an intrinsic difference between him and his clones, he also attributes him being better than his clones. That no matter what they do, they will always be less them him. Each Simon believes that he, and he alone, is the most deserving of life of all of his clones.

This is the reason Simon 3 is so pissed off when a different version than him gets to be on the ARK.
Whether one life is more deserving than another is a purely personal matter. It is extremely complex and can't be answered in a simple "yes or no" format. I'd probably need an entire post or two to put my response down in a good way.

So how about you comment on this post with your response to the following question: If you were one of many clones of a person, would you rank your own life as more important than the other clones?
The Simons

So for the final part of the post I'll look over every Simon and the things that make them different. I won't be going over each Simon's entire story, but only pointing out those things necessary for this part.

I feel that a post about Soma should end with something about the game. The majority of this post was about philosophical ideas instead of the actual characters in the game. At least that is how I feel.
Feel Free to Leave Comments About This Graphic HERE
The original Simon Jarrett had been involved in a car crash and only had a set amount of time to live. While being in a state of no hope he finds out about an experimental treatment done by David Munshi. This gives Simon a lot of hope that he will start to be able to live his life again.

He starts to think that there are many years ahead of him and he plans not to waste them.

In the end, though, the treatments don't work and Simon dies. Before he passes away he gives Munshi permission to use his brain scan to help other people. Simon knows there is no hope for him but is thinking beyond himself.

Simon dies thinking all the time he spent hoping was wasted, though.
Simon 2 wakes up in Pathos-II and thinks that he is still human but soon he finds out the truth. He is a man thrown out of time and having to figure things out in an extremely confusing situation. When he finds Catherine he also finds a goal to go towards: launch the ARK and get out of this place.

He isn't doing this for any other reason than for him to escape. It's extremely selfish and who can blame him?

He doesn't really know what's going on and everyone is dead. Not exactly the type of situation one can sit down and calmly think things through.
Simon 3 is made when Catherine and Simon find out that they can't continue with their mission unless Simon is given a new suit. Since Simon is basically a suit already they have to transfer him. When he wakes up to the sound of Simon 2 still talking he's freaked out. Catherine has to explain to him that the ability to transfer a person to another body isn't possible and so they just make copies of brain scans to go into other bodies.

That fact doesn't connect with him as he launches the ARK and is shocked when he isn't on it. He then blames Catherine for lying to him even though she already explained the process to him, a fact she brings up. It isn't surprising he's panicking this way as his entire reason for helping Catherine was to get out of this nightmare.

Simon 3 only calms down when Catherine overloads and he is left alone. His feeling of regret purely because of a personal issue.
Simon 4 gets on the ARK and thinks that the process worked. He doesn't realize, and if he does he most likely doesn't care, that there is a version of him that is stuck on Earth. That will die on a planet full of nightmares and despair.

Simon 4 is just happy that he gets to live in a paradise and is happy to meet up with Catherine. This does raise the question of what happens next. Humanity is saved for a short time, relatively speaking, and there doesn't seem to be a plan for what happens next.

Will humanity's time run out? Will Simon 4 be forced to help save humanity again? Will he save humanity for altruistic reasons this time?

The original Simon found it in him to look beyond his own life, so there is hope for some character growth for Simon 4.




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