Philosophy of Philosophy

Considering that my last two posts have been on philosophy, it may come as a surprise that I am not actually a fan of philosophy. Granted, I do not find it useless or boring in all cases–but I have never really quite latched onto it and its fundamentals. In my own life, I have found that I am more concerned with feeling my way through my own life instead of reasoning my way to discovering the principles of a perfectly organized and categorizable universe. Thinking about philosophy and defining it in its wholeness is no easy feat; as Luc Ferry’s book¬†A Brief History of Thought makes clear. I’m neither an expert in the field of philosophy or how one is “supposed” to live life, but like everyone else make up this world in which we live in, and do have some sort of grasp on it.

Much of the philosophy that is really the groundworks upon which the field of study is built upon is based on words from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc. Much of their works in turn have to do with how our universe can be explained, categorized, and understood. Much of philosophy is akin to somewhat of a precursor to the sciences and their discoveries. Philosophy is something like the Nanny McPhee of the sciences in that because of the charming philosophy, the other sciences were able to straighten themselves out and grow up to be the respectable adults that they are. Philosophical inquiry often leads to scientific inquiry and discoveries. Therefore, it is not merely the practice of intense navel-gazing adopted by the eccentric fringe of society, but something that is the basis of human thought and actionРsomething necessary to human development.

However, I found that the way that I approached life was much different than a philosophical approach.

For one thing, I do not care for thoughts on what is a part and what makes a whole or when a thing stops being itself. I really find no joy in asking these questions. I found one answer as apt as the next, but clearly there was no possibility of finding a clear and definite conclusion. Each person had a correct answer; and so perhaps there was something wrong with the question being asked.

Many of the questions in philosophy have no answer and merely thinking about them proves to be a futile search. What is important is how the thoughts that you generate affect your life. For example, I think that we cannot really know whether anything outside of ourselves exists or that what we know to be true is actually the truth. There simply is no way to prove we are not being deceived or are in a dream and that there is an entire reality that is more real than this that we simply cannot comprehend. Acting on these thoughts may lead one to depression or madness. However, what is the benefit of that?

At times, these questions simply do not relate to our lives which we are living in. Regardless of whether anything is real or not, we are definitely experiencing something–that is as clear as the nose on your face! Why not make the most of it? There is the possibility of feeling the highest of highs and the lowest of lows so why not at least choose something and see where the ride takes you? We can try to think that we understand how everything works, but it is simply not possible. Here, our questioning leads us to one big questions. Yes, now what? Now how will you proceed? What do you value and what will give you the greatest reward? Do the thinking and question everything–but at the end of the day learn to live your life, as this is what has been placed in front of us.

 

Descarting Away Certainty: Why We Don’t Know Anything

At some point or another–whether it was while taking a shower or engaging in a dull conversation– you have probably thought of the possibility that none of this is real. ‘This’, of course, is the reality that we are in and consciously experiencing. This idea is quite common, especially when you think of creative pursuits based of off this idea, such as¬†The Matrix.¬†The details change, the concept remains the same. Although we could talk about this for quite some time going over all of the nuances, I decided to write about what Descartes had to say about the issue. Let’s get to know our Doubting Descartes a little better, first.

Descartes insisted upon Methodological skepticism, in which he would doubt anything that could not be proven true without a doubt. More so, he thought that we should apply this to all of our beliefs that we inanely and na√Įvely adopted from childhood. Is this extreme? Quite so–but anything to save us from the clutches of a society functioning off of their semi-ossified heads! So Descartes said, but don’t source that…

One of the primary reasons for doubting everything we know is that what we know is based off our senses. Our senses are how we understand the world around us, but we can’t trust them. And so begins Descartes trust issues–and all of your trust issues. Because really, how can you tell you are in a dream? Perhaps what we are experiencing is a dream to a higher reality. What about color-blindness? The types of sight and sensing across animal species? Each experience the world in a different way, neither is true nor false. Our lack of perception shows that the world is not only what we perceive. Look at an insane person; their visions are real to them, but seem crazy to us. So Descartes finds that because we are deceived by our senses, we cannot accept reality to be absolutely positively true.

He also writes about the Evil Genius Argument– the idea that an Evil Genius whose control over everything is so absolute that he could be tricking us about reality. Because it is possibly that the Evil Genius exists, we must doubt everything else.

Except one thing.

Descartes comes up with the Cogito Argument. This essentially states that because he doubts, he IS. Cogito ergo sum: I think, therefore I am. Very tricky, Descartes. Very, very tricky. So Descartes now has this one thing that he can count on for his life span. Of course, this thought relies on the principle of non-contradiction. Although we cannot conceive of how something can be and yet not be, it is possible that an Evil Genius, for example, is deceiving us of some reality in which the principle of non-contridiciton does not hold. As long as there is this possibility, I cannot really accept Descartes’ argument. But I’ll go along with it for argument’s sake, just like everything in this world-non-world.

Descartes goes on with his yada yada and soon somehow proceeds to use cogito ergo sum as the basis of proving that God exists.

Yes. Yes, that did escalate quickly.

The main argument is that he clearly and distinctly perceives God, so God exists. Therefore he knows God exists as a non-deceiver, and so he knows that he clearly and distinctly perceives. This is what we call a Cartesian Circle, kids! When you see this shady individual, scream and get to an adult as quickly as you can! There is much more leading up to this argument from the Cogito, which I implore you to research if it wiggles your squiggly-bin–tickles your fancy, catches your interests–so to speak. Because the argument does crumble more than a metaphorical wall in a random hipster indie-song, I did not feel the need to delve into that argument.

So at last, we have come to the conclusion that we cannot trust anything (as if you didn’t already have enough reasons not to trust anything) with the help of our dear friend Descartes. I would like to end with a poem:

~A Completely Arbitrary and Facetious Poem About Descartes but More About Writing Whatever Will Rhyme~

Descartes, oh Descartes

How you make art

With your philosophical musings

and Cartesian coordinate system on chart.

Your reasoning fell apart,

Alas, we must part.

 

Circling Around the Circle: Plato’s World of Forms

You probably think that you have seen a circle. In fact, there is something on this screen right now that you think proves that you have seen a circle (ahem ahem– the WordPress logo). But alas, the circle and you were never meant to be–at least, not in this realm of existence.

You see, you and the circle have quite the Romeo-and-Juliet relationship; lovers fated to be apart, only able to reconcile their love beyond the veil. Admittedly, you may not have as strong of feelings for the circle as Romeo had for Juliet, but the tragic tale remains. You cannot be with the circle because it does not exist as you do; the only place where you too can be is in The World of Forms. Let me explain.

We see a pencil drawing of a circle and are comfortable calling it circle. But is it really?

A circle is a 2D object with an infinite number of points equidistant from the center. This causes two problems for our example. For one thing, it is impossible to have every point ¬†equidistant from the center. It may be a drawing looking like a potato or one in which there is only one atom off– in either case, that rendering of the circle is not a true and perfect circle. Now let’s think about the mark that was made to draw the circle. Let’s say someone used a pencil to draw it. How was it drawn? A layer of graphite–many layers of graphene– was put down to make that mark. ‘But’, you say, ‘a circle is 2D!’. And you are right on the money. That layer means that the “circle” (despite it not being perfectly round) is actually a cylinder, which is a 3D shape. Let’s get real; that thing may as well be power plant smoke pipe for how much of a 3D cylinder it is.

‘So, I’ve never seen a circle? How do I know about it then? How do I know it exists?’

Well, although we’ve never seen it, it definitely exists. The circle is the concept that is behind us calling things circular, drawing circles, studying circles. We just can’t bring it into our reality or form of existence in its pure form, much like how the resurrection stone from Harry Potter can never fully bring back someone from the dead. The perfect, pure circle exists in what Plato calls the World of Forms–something like a VIP section in a club for abstract forms. The real circles are perfect and get free drinks while the imitations of the circles–the things that we have seen–are still in line outside of the club.

So there you have it. The tragic tale of why you and the circle never were and never shall be. Plato goes on to give you more reasons why this could never work out, but I didn’t want to crush your spirits. If you feel up to it, take it up with Plato on what’s keeping you and your true love apart.

You’re probably wondering now what you can even trust in this world anymore. Don’t worry, we’ll go over that in the future. Maybe. If I’m still here. If I ever was here. If anything was here. If here exists. If existence exists.