“To be OR not to be” Indeed

“To be or not to be” was a supreme soliloquy. Let us see what it means philosophically.


I once read about a woman who experienced something so shocking it sent her into a cry unlike any she ever had before. She recounted, however, how she also became aware of herself crying.

Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. I know that sometimes when laughing I find myself surprised at how my voice sounds and how positive and genuine the experience feels.

It appears then, in a sort of ‘second-order awareness,’ to be possible to watch your Self watch your self being itself.

Such experiences lead me to wonder whether someone can be subjective and objective at the same time.

In the case of when I laugh and also perceive myself laughing, there appears [to this second-order awareness] to be (1) a diminished impact of the initial experience under scrutiny or (2) a bifurcation of the two phenomena in terms of experience.

That is to say when I laugh without thinking about it, the laugh is my primary focus; I am laughing. When I think about my self laughing, I am being aware.

In the two-point analysis above, the operator word is “or.” In logic we learn that or can mean “either-or” or “one or both.” An example of the former would be, “You may spend your dollar or you may keep it.” An example of the latter would be, “You may try our fish special, our steak special, or our ostrich special — and, being hungry, you elect for all three.

At this point it is uncertain to me whether this is an either-or question or whether we can both be and perceive. It is truly a challenge to ascertain whether both experiences occur concurrently or else there is a sort of back-and-forth motion that fluctuates so swiftly and seamlessly we are unaware of the transition.

Many will agree humans can feel pleasure and pain at the same time, but in a similar and simple exercise, ask yourself, can you laugh and cry at the same?

Such considerations are at the heart of my inquiry: the extent to which our sensations, feelings, and consciousnesses are disparate or unified.

There are many reasonable contentions against the possibility for unadulterated objective awareness.

Humans are finite creatures after all, hardly gods.

Given much of my philosophy concerns the unification of thought and action, it is my romantic hope that we can crystallize theory and action in seamless unity. Something in me yearns for this grand unification.

It is necessary, however, to first understand the extent to which humans are able to enter objective states of awareness for purposes of philosophic or scientific inquiry. Such objective measures require “bracketing” subjective inclinations and understandings, a practice encouraged in phenomenology. Further groundwork in this area require efforts by psychologists and phenomenologists.

Hamlet was considering whether to live or to die in his soliloquy, but to me, this issue of awareness versus Being is of just as much significance. If we must sacrifice one for the other, which ought we to choose? The Scholar or the Brute?

Methinks we ought to prefer unity of the two.

But for now,

I think.