Human Existence and Identity in Modern Age: A Socio-philosophical Reflection

by Hülya Yaldir (Volume editor) Mirza Iqbal Ashraf (Volume editor)
©2019 Edited Collection 280 Pages


The magnetism of modernity has remained human being’s passion since his earliest days. A born thinker, philosopher, scientist, and discoverer, he has cognized to define his identity by shaping it according to his contemporary period. Liberating himself from the deterministic modes of his existence and viewing to be no more at the mercy of biological and natural forces, he endeavors to weave the tapestry of his life with his own hands. This book epistemically reveals the mind of contemporary time, tools of cutting-edge technology, and ideas of socio-philosophy by the thinkers of modern age, who have revealed their experiences of diverse aspects of human being’s existence and his identity in today’s age of artificial intelligence.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Part One: The Humans
  • Human Consciousness and Artificial Intelligence
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Human Condition and Intelligent Machines
  • 3 Being Aware of Himself
  • 4 Emergence of Consciousness
  • 5 Neurophysiology and Psychology’s View of Consciousness
  • 6 Consciousness and Qualia
  • 7 Conclusion
  • References
  • Books and Magazines Recommended
  • Vanishing Values in the Flow of Images and Shows for Ratings: A Commentary on Russian Roulette, 15 Minutes, Killwithme.com, and Black Mirror
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Material and Method
  • 3 Conceptual Framework
  • 4 Three Movies and One Series
  • 4.1 Live or Dead: The Splendid Show of the Death of Selected Victims and the Rationalization of Death Accompanied by the Witness of the Spectators
  • 4.2 15 Minutes: Encouraging Everyone to Make Their Own Film in the Wildest, Most Sensational, and Bloodiest Manner
  • 4.3 Killwithme.com: Use of the Viewers as a Murder Weapon in the Cyber World
  • 4.4 Black Mirror: Contestants Turned into Objects Suitable for Program Formats
  • 5 Discussion
  • 6 Conclusion
  • References
  • Illusion and Awareness in Consumption Culture from the Perspective of Anti-Consumerism
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Consumption Culture
  • 3 Anti-Consumerism and Sustainable Consumption
  • 4 The Scope of the Research
  • 5 Data Analysis
  • 6 Findings
  • 6.1 Consumption Culture Perspective
  • 6.2 Motivations Leading to Awareness
  • 6.3 Awareness Development Process
  • 6.4 Definition of Awareness
  • 6.4.1 Consumption in Everyday Life
  • 6.4.2 Defining Awareness as Anti-Consumerism
  • 6.4.3 Being a Conscious Consumer
  • 6.4.4 Alternative Consumption Practices Adopted
  • 7 Effects of Awareness
  • 7.1 Changes Experienced
  • 7.2 Reactions Experienced
  • 7.3 Outputs/Attainments
  • 8 Opportunities for Awareness
  • 9 Discussion and Deductions
  • Declaration
  • References
  • Part Two: Technology Issues
  • The Idea of Mechanical Automata in Modern Age: A Cartesian Approach
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 The Body as a Machine or Natural Automaton
  • 3 Body Versus Mind or Vice Versa
  • 4 The Importance of Language, as the “Only Sure Sign of Thought”
  • 5 Conclusion
  • References
  • Human Passion for Techno-Power:
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 The Nature of Power
  • 3 The Birth and Development of Power
  • 4 The Changing Nature of Power
  • 5 Power in Hyperconnected World
  • 6 The Passion for Techno-Power in Contemporary World
  • 7 The Power of Cyber-Net
  • 8 Conclusion
  • References
  • Recommended Reading
  • Psychological Factors Leading to Voluntary Servitude
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 The Answer Human Beings Have Found for the Problem of Existence: Integration and Adaptation to Society
  • 3 Obedience and Types of Obedience: Inward Obedience/Outward Obedience
  • 4 Voluntary Servitude as a Form of Political Behavior
  • 5 The Psychological Processes Leading to Voluntary Servitude: Alienation
  • 5.1 Psychic Origins of Obedience: Parental Love
  • 5.2 Loss of Self-Worth
  • 5.3 Ambition
  • 6 Conclusion
  • Declaration
  • References
  • Part Three: Existence
  • From State of Nature to Social Contract: Alienation in Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 A General Framework on Alienation
  • 3 The Critics of Civilization in Rousseau
  • 4 From the State of Nature to Social Inequalities
  • 5 Social Contract: Reconstruction of Equality and Freedom
  • 6 Conclusion
  • References
  • Aesthetics and Politics as Existence Spheres in Jacques Rancière: Distribution of the Sensible
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 The Adventure of the Relationship between Art and Politics in the Modern Era
  • 2.1 Nation-Building Model
  • 2.2 Art as an Autonomous Model
  • 2.3 Avant-garde Model
  • 3 Rancièreian Meeting of Politics and Aesthetics: Distribution of the Sensible
  • 4 Aesthetic Birth of Revolution or the Possibility of Such Aesthetics in Rancière
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Declaration
  • References
  • The Presentation of the Self in the Era of Social Media: George Herbert Mead
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Symbolic Interactionism and Mead’s Sociology
  • 3 The Phenomenon of “Self” and Mead’s “Self”
  • 4 Media, New Media, and Social Media
  • 5 Mead’s Approach to the Presentation of Self in Social Media
  • 6 Conclusion
  • References
  • Part Four: Human Identity
  • Toys as the Identity Transmitter in the Reproduction of Human Body
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Body Reproduction in the Process of Capitalization
  • 3 Body and Identity Formation
  • 4 Contribution of Children’s Toys to the Construction of the Body
  • 5 Method and Aim of the Study
  • 6 Findings of the Study
  • 7 Conclusion and Evaluation
  • References
  • Gender Perception and Identity Problem
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 A Brief Look at Human Appreciation
  • 3 Identity and the Formation of Identity
  • 4 The Relationship of Gender and Identity
  • 5 Conclusion
  • References
  • Modernization and Identity Construction of Turkey: Axel Honneth, Jürgen Habermas and Identity Debate
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Relationship between Identity and Recognition
  • 3 Perception of Identity in Turkey and Current Problems
  • 4 Conclusion
  • References
  • Part Five: Gender Discrimination
  • Women’s Movement in Turkey
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 The Process of Feminism in the West
  • 3 The Global Women’s Movement
  • 4 Women’s Movement in Turkey
  • 5 The Agenda of Women’s Movement in Turkey
  • 6 Organizing Strategies
  • 7 Conclusion
  • References
  • Philosophical Cognition of Feminist Thinkers
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Philosophical Reflection of Feminine Mind
  • 3 Woman, No More the “Other”
  • 4 Philosophical Awareness in Womankind
  • 5 Conclusion
  • References
  • An Ongoing Human Tragedy in the Modern Society: Child Labor
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Childhood Phenomenon
  • 3 Birth and Development of Child Labor
  • 4 The Reasons of Child Labor
  • 5 Risks to the Lives of Child Workers
  • 6 Conclusion
  • Declaration
  • References
  • Notes on Contributors

Hülya Yaldır


Each era brings with it a paradigm shift that changes dramatically the prevailing world-view. The postmodern era is no exception. In this era, as Jean-François Lyotard famously argues, the universal and absolutist meta-narratives of modernity have been replaced with the small narratives that foster plurality, diversity, and relativity. Put it differently, whereas the modernity is characterized by its quest for certainty, universality, and unity, postmodernity stands for subjectivity, relativity, and diversity. Owing to these defining features of postmodernity, the age-old problem of identity presents itself with a new vigor and a greater difficulty. The postmodern self is no longer unified and permanent as it was in the modern era, but rather constantly changing and composed of many selves.

Situated in a world of small narratives, people form their identities relative to them. That is, people gain a sense of identity based upon their place within the world of narratives. All identities, national, ethnic, religious, class, gender, etc., have been created in accordance with these narratives. From the moment they are born, people are exposed to a set of narratives dictating their identity, their ethnic and religious affiliation, as well as their gender roles, and start perceiving the outside world and themselves accordingly. Being surrounded by these narratives, people find a space where they can construe their own narrative and feel a sense of belonging. As new narratives are continuously being added to the narrative set, identities are reformed and reshaped.

In the twenty-first century, the world of the narratives has gone through enormous changes. The digital revolution being witnessed in this century has shattered the existing narratives and set the stage for new ones. The technological advances and the development of communication have significantly transformed people’s lives and the way they define themselves. This is achieved through what the social theorist David Harvey calls ‘time-space compression’ or the diminution of the spatial and time barriers. This is especially evident in the internet wherein a cyberspace (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) has been created. This space enables people all over the world to communicate with each other at any time. So, social space has been reduced to ‘a virtual common space’. This opens the door for the transformation of our individual, social, political, and moral identities. But, unfortunately, this transformation is not always a positive one. For the internet and social media platforms offer people an opportunity ←11 | 12→to create a world of illusion and fantasy. In these platforms, people can portray themselves as they want by changing their personal information like age, physical appearance, job, etc. Put differently, people can use these spaces to build ‘virtual selves’ whom they want to be (e.g., beautiful, blonde, intellectual, etc.) without making any effort. This is the reality of today’s digital world, and it echoes what Jean Baudrillard calls ‘hyperreality’ or ‘simulation’. Living in a world of hyperreality or simulation, people have become more alone and more alienated to themselves than ever. For their real selves have been superseded by their virtual selves. Owing to this fact, people of digital age exhibit a schizophrenic character, suffering from an identity crisis and existential anxiety. This existential anxiety is fuelled by the capitalist consumption madness. For people have tried to overcome their existential crisis by means of consuming and have begun to express themselves with the products they buy.

So, today’s digital age has given rise to existential fears, identity crises, and depression. This in turn has led people to question their identities along with the world surrounding them and figure out their true selves. So, how could people flee from the world of simulation or hyperreality and find their true selves? Does the erosion of meta-narratives (Kantian universal moral law, Marxist understanding of history, etc.) lead to the destruction of selves? Or does it bring about a new kind of identity? How will people re-define themselves as ontological, political, and ethical beings in today’s world? These and suchlike questions are the main focus of this book. The book will address the question of human existence and identity in the modern mega-tech age through interdisciplinary, in particular philosophical and sociological, reflections.

This interdisciplinary edited collection, Human Existence and Identity in Modern Age: A Socio-philosophical Reflection, is a comprehensive and extensive effort by the editors, and the contributors focus on a multitude of challenges regarding human existence and identity, which calls for an immediate solution in today’s world. The main task of this book is to increase awareness of the public, particularly university students, who are interested in arising human existence and identity problems in modern world through the viewpoint of the intellectuals who cherish different cultural experiences, and to offer valuable suggestions for solution. This study particularly intends to encourage young intellectuals across the world to become more conscious on the personal identity and survival of Homo sapiens, along with others, by creating a better and more peaceful world. The role of the Humanities and Social Sciences in enriching society and human condition should thus never be underestimated.←12 | 13→

Mirza Iqbal Ashraf

Human Consciousness and Artificial Intelligence

The light of the sun and moon cannot be outdistanced, yet mind reaches beyond them.

Galaxies are as infinite as grains of sand, yet mind spreads outside them.

(Myoan Eisai – A Japanese Zen Buddhist)

1 Introduction

Whereas human consciousness, intrinsically arising from human being’s naturally evolved brain, is still a mystery, artificial intelligence, algorithmically developed and uploaded in a silicon brain of a machine is a feat of human brain. Human being has for ages been following and is still following the way human consciousness directs, but the thinking machine is following in a way that mirrors billions of years of evolving brain and its consciousness. From ancient time to this day, the phenomenon of human consciousness has intrigued many philosophers, mostly discussed for many centuries in subjective terms. But for Steven Arthur Pinker (born 1954) a Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular science author and a Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and computational theory of mind, “The brain, like it or not, is a machine. Scientists have come to the conclusion not because they are mechanistic killjoys, but because they have amassed evidence that every aspect of consciousness can be tied to the brain… Consciousness presents us with puzzle after puzzle. How can a neural event cause consciousness happen?” (Pinker in his work How the Mind Works, p 132). Thus, the mystery of human consciousness, from the time of Cartesian cognition, “I think; therefore, I am,” became an open challenge for the neuroscientists. The idea of brain as a “thinking machine” opened a window in human mind to create human brain’s digital double, capable of transmitting artificial intelligence. Toby Walsh in his book Machines that Think remarks, “Not without irony, Stephen Hawking (1942–2018), [an English theoretical physicist, and cosmologist] welcomed a software update for his speech synthesizer with a ←15 | 16→warning that came in the electronic voice of that technology: ‘The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race’ (p. 8).”

Although the “cognitive revolution” has introduced pragmatic methods of studying thought and other inner experiences of our mind, neuroscience, even helped by modern technology, has not yet provided an easy way of finding an answer to the hard question of how does subjective experience of human consciousness arise from the objective activity of the human brain. How can our brain’s physical network of neurons, with all its chemical action, electromagnetic system, and interaction of billions of cells and circuits, create a mind that allows a unified awareness of our thinking, recognizing, remembering, feeling, predicting, cognizing, innumerable experiencing of our life and of the universe, repeating hundreds of millions of times in the neocortex, and finally, apparently giving birth to an instantly combined output of all inner experiences in the form of “consciousness?” While we have not been able to give a definitive or comprehensive delineation of human consciousness, a scientifically created and defined artificial intelligence is already around us—on screens, in our houses, and even in our pockets. One day it will be talking and walking with us as a family member.

We know that at the root of Artificial Intelligence’s technological appeal is the capability of the machine to be able to perform many tasks characteristic of human intelligence. According to Ray Kurzweil, a pioneering researcher in artificial intelligence, hybrids of biological and silicon-based intelligence will become possible, and one day the contents of a human brain will be transferable into a metallic brain, as a CD-ROM uploads its software into a computer. Many thinkers, philosophers, and scientists have agreed that human consciousness is a unique human capability that arises when information is broadcast throughout the brain. But there is yet no central location in the brain identified as the seat of consciousness where—like a streaming data in the head—it can be mapped, copied, and downloaded into a silicon brain.

The pivotal question before us is still about the very nature of human consciousness: Is consciousness an input loaded into the brain through our sensory experiences, perception, memory, intelligence, and diverse media of subjectivity and objectivity that our cognitive process makes use? Or, is consciousness an extra entity that we humans have in addition to our abilities of perceiving, thinking, and feeling? Or, is it an intrinsic and inseparable part of a human being as a creature that can perceive, think, and feel? If it is an extra ingredient—as many of us think of our soul as an extra entity—then we are naturally inclined to ask, “Is it the distinctive telltale signature of a human being?” On the other hand, if we have evolved with it, then we want to know how and why only human consciousness has evolved? Further, there is also an opinion that we all have three ←16 | 17→eyes—the third one inside the head, being the “pineal gland” in the human brain which has the structure of an eye. It has cells that act as light receptors, as the retina does. It has a structure comparable to the vitreous—a gel-like substance between the retina and lens of the eye similar to the shape of a lens. Scientists are researching to better understand the “pineal body”—considered in Eastern spiritualism and Western philosophy—as a possible seat of consciousness. Once scientists are able to develop an artificial pineal gland, the artificial intelligence will then also be able to have an algorithmically working artificial consciousness.

2 Human Condition and Intelligent Machines

Before we argue about the role of intelligent machines and their capability of consciousness that is the same or similar to that of humans, we need to understand more deeply about the nature of human consciousness. The Dictionary of Psychology of American Psychological Association tells that the definition of consciousness is twofold:

The first describes consciousness as “the phenomena that humans report experiencing including mental contents that range from sensory to somatic perception to mental images, reportable ideas, inner speech, intentions to act, recalled memories, semantics, dreams, hallucinations, emotional feelings, ‘fringe’ feelings (e.g., a sense of knowledge), and aspects of cognitive and motor control.” The second part of the definition speaks of “any of various subjective states of awareness in which conscious contents can be reported—for example—altered states such as sleeping, as well as the global access function of consciousness, presenting an endless variety of the focal contents to executive control and decision making (1931)”.

History of man’s evolution reveals that at a certain point of his evolution, when man transcended nature and ended his passive role of only a creature, he emancipated himself from the complete bindings of nature, first by an erect posture and second by the growth of his brain. The evolution of man may have taken billions of years, but what matters is that a patently new species to be identified as a human being arose transcending nature, recognizing life “aware of itself.” Self-awareness, reason and imagination, disrupted man’s harmony with nature that characterized his prehuman existence. Upon becoming aware of himself, the human being also realized the limitations of his existence, and his powerlessness at being a finite being. In his death he visualized his own end. But until today he is never free from this dichotomy of his existence. He cannot rid himself of his mind, even if he wants to; he cannot rid himself of his body as long as he is alive—rather his mind and body create in him a strong urge to be alive, and live an infinite life. He cannot go back to the prehuman state of his harmony with ←17 | 18→nature because he now views himself as a “special species.” He must proceed to develop his reason until he becomes the sovereign of his nature and a master of himself. But an awareness of his biological relation with the rest of animals poses a challenge to his conscious self. To assure himself that he is no more like an animal, he is tempted to demonstrate his merits as a special species through his unique physical advantage and exceptional intellectual eminence.

Human mind, an evolutionary product of his biological brain, is now changing the course of evolution by creating a digital double in his own image, equipped with artificial intelligence and emotions. Homo sapiens, from the time of their appearance on this planet, have used their neural mechanism in building tools which helped them to initiate a new form of evolution that brought about a social culture of sharing knowledge. As neurology gave birth to technology, the process of technology today has led us invariably to the creation of an amazing tool we call computer. The computer has enabled us to create an expansion of our knowledge base, permitting extensive multiple layers of links from one area of knowledge to another. Perceiving the distinctive appearance from other animals and the uniqueness of our intelligence, our power of communication, and our capability of acquiring and sharing knowledge on this planet, has given rise to a realization that humans are special creatures. But throughout our history of knowledge, scientists have mostly remained reticent to evaluate and prove with scientific reasoning our claim of being a special creature, fearing that they might not be supporting the religious doctrine of human exceptionalism of intelligent design. However, regardless of how humans got to be the way they are today, their intelligence with technology in their hands has enabled them to overcome any biological hurdle to changing themselves in almost every aspect of their life. Hard scientific data is cumulated across vast spheres, ranging from ecology to epistemology, and cognitive psychology and consciousness affirm that human beings are truly remarkable and are the only species we know that is achieving this. Today, by developing artificial intelligence, human beings are successfully changing the course of evolution by creating digital doubles in their own image.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2019 (February)
Artificial Intelligence Technology Issues Gender Discrimination Aesthetics Illusion Awareness
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warsawa, Wien, 2019, 280 p., 2 b/w tab.

Biographical notes

Hülya Yaldir (Volume editor) Mirza Iqbal Ashraf (Volume editor)

Hülya Yaldır is Professor of Philosophy at Pamukkale University, Denizli, Turkey. She received her MA and PhD degrees in Philosophy from the University of Reading, UK. Her main areas of interest are philosophy of mind, metaphysics, early modern philosophy, logic, philosophy of culture and comparative philosophy. Mirza Iqbal Ashraf is retired professor of English Language and Literature from the Muhammadan Anglo Oriental College, affiliated with the University of Punjab Lahore, Pakistan. He taught both graduate and post graduate students and lectured on English language, literature, and philosophical issues in his native Pakistan. Since immigrating to the United States of America, he is working as an independent research scholar of world philosophies, sociopolitical, cross-cultural, inter-faith, and Islamic philosophy and religious subjects. He is a popular speaker and lecturer at many institutions and organizations in and around New York, USA.


Title: Human Existence and Identity in Modern Age: A Socio-philosophical Reflection
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281 pages