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Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Generalization of "we"

The other day in class we discussed a quote from Nicholas Carr’s book, The Shallows. Carr believes that “While we know that or brain is an exquisitely sensitive monitor of experience, we want to believe that it lies beyond the influence of experience. We want to believe that the impressions our brain records as sensations and stores as memories leave no physical imprint on its own structure. To believe otherwise would, we feel, call into question the integrity of the self” (Carr, 38). In class we discussed what Carr was trying to say and whether we agreed with him or not. I, like many other students in the class, disagreed with this statement.
The first reason why I disagree with this quote is because of the way the sentence is structured. Carr generalizes his idea to the whole population and uses the word “we”, assuming that all of his readers will feel the same way that he does.  I find this quite irritating because from class discussion it seems as though the majority of the students feel the exact opposite of this theory.  While some people may agree with Carr, I feel as though he shouldn’t have used the word “we” in this context because he has no evidence that every single reader of his book has ever even considered this idea never mind saying that they agree with it. To eliminate such frustration in his readers he could have kept the word “we” but could have better clarified who “we” is.
The second reason why I disagree with this statement is because of it’s actual content and meaning. Carr believes that everyone would rather live in denial than accept the fact of our brain’s plasticity and the fact that every single experience we live through, no matter how minor, physically changes its structure. While people of older generations may agree with Carr’s idea and may view the findings of modern science abstract and hard to relate to, many younger generations would argue that this isn’t that abstract of an idea and are comfortable accepting it. Many people are content with the fact that the brain is constantly changing and accept it.
The final reason why I disagree with Carr is because he believes that by accepting these facts, we would begin to “question the integrity of the self” (Carr, 38).  I disagree with this because I feel as though everything we experience helps to form and solidify our personalities and who we are. I feel as though the nature and nurture perspectives go hand in hand in influencing who we become as people. I don’t feel as though the idea that our brain changes should have anything to do with effecting how we see ourselves as a whole. Every brain is uniquely our own and a major part of who we are. As we grow and change, it seems elementary to know or think that it changes along with us.
Had Carr stated his theory in a different manner, had not generalized it to all of his readers or clarified who “we” are, people could have better related to the point he was attempting to make. I think that this quote wouldn’t have elicited such a response from the class if he had made the population of his theory more clearly to his readers. 
Nikki Gaspari


  1. I agree with your point that Carr shouldn't have addressed the reader as "we" assuming that everyone felt the same way has he did. As you point out almost everyone in class disagreed with his statement. I also think your point that "every brain is uniquely our own and a major part of who we are" is very true and it puts down the negativity of the idea that the brain constantly changes.

    Michelle Salvati

  2. I agree as well. everytime he says something anout "we" i think to myself "what? i dont think this!". It is so annoying because some of the stuff he says doesnt even make sense.

    Kim Fairweather