duminică, 25 mai 2008

How do we know that we exist?


by Ryder Penn

Look at me! I am an essay! Wow! Look how well I am written! I am the best essay! I am eight pages long, double-spaced, with 12 point font. Or am I? My author believes in the law of existence, a crazy notion by Rene Descartes and will argue that I exist, but I, believe in Friedrich Nietzsche's nihilism, and will prove the essayist wrong. The author will start off by giving a philosophy, but I am going to state hard facts. It will be up to you, the reader to decide who is right, who is wrong.

The author argues: “This paper is real! Look at it! I can feel it and you can feel it! You are becoming an active part of this realism, and because you are using your faculties to read, all this becomes real. Descartes would say: “I think therefore I am,” this comes from his Discourse On Method. In addition, according to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, the word "exist" means, “To have actual being; be real.” To be real you have to be genuine and authentic, not artificial or spurious. These words are all authentic. My own hand formulates the words on this paper. They come out of my mind; these words do exist. If I were to push the delete button then the paper would not exist. If I were to run my finger along its edge, I would feel the pain of a paper cut. I would feel that wound for days.

The pragmatic view is what William Shakespeare states in his play called the Merchant of Venice: "If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?" Shakespeare's words live on today. His words inspire other writings; his words can make you cry, laugh, and marvel at the phenomenal writer he was. Shakespeare died almost 400 years ago; he had to exist to write. He had to be real to have thoughts; he had to have an imagination. Other philosophers beside Descartes argue for existence like Pete Mandik and Chris Eliasmith. The Metaphysics of Science by philosopher Craig Dilworth says:

Briefly, a realist about x holds that x enjoys mind-independent existence, that is, x exists regardless of whether anyone thinks, hopes or fears that x exists. It may sound odd to demand of minds and other things mental that they have mind independent existence, but the claim, for instance, that my mind is mind independent just means that I have a mind regardless of whether anyone thinks, hopes, or fears that I do. As well, a realist insists on there being explanations of the empirical world (including minds) in terms of the real world. Thus, a complete theory of the mind should explain the existence and functioning of minds in terms of the reality lying behind their empirically testable properties. This expectation strongly contrasts with the strictly empiricist position of phenomalists.

Hold on! Hold on! I have to interrupt. I mean this author is rambling on and on, sighting this example, then another, but is utterly failing to prove existence. The writer, comments about existence, even giving a definition, but she fails to site the definition of realism. Basically the author gives circular logic stating: "the meaning of real is to exist." This circular reasoning gives me room to wonder where this logic is coming from. Does the argument give hard facts? No, the rational isn't factual, how can you argue using examples from nonexistent playwrights and nonexistent philosophers?1

In fact, there is nothing that can be proven without some doubt, which means nothing at all and that existence is futile belief. I could be a great wonderful dream an Ethics teacher was having one night. You, the reader could be a brain in a jar, being stimulated by probes, I was a part of that mental stimuli. There is no logic in saying that feelings prove existence.

Moreover, that can also be said for pain, perception and my list can go on and on, but I, unlike the author, won't bore you with trivialities. I am no more real then the air you breathe; that isn't real either. I cannot feel the air, nor touch it, but you say it exists? Does air cause you pain to breath it? Does it give you any feelings of any kind? No it doesn't! That is the author's whole logic! I hope you are reading this. Simply because you touch something doesn't mean it's there. It means only that your brain was fed a signal that understands it to mean something is there. In reality, all you really know is that you are somehow being fed simultaneous impulses that seem to be the movement of your eyes, arms, etc. How can you confirm that your arms and legs actually exist?

In other words, have you ever had a dream that seemed completely real? Had a dream where you did things, said things, ate things, experienced things that seemed absolutely real? Well, here's the thing -- you had that dream while lying flat in a bed with your eyes closed. You didn't actually see or hear or touch or experience anything, but your brain was being fed impulses that it processed into the dream experience you had. We dream in the REM stage of sleep, yet those dreams are not real, how can one know for certain that we are not dreaming all the time?

The author is pushing me out of the way, so the propagation of the writer's argument continues. Be careful! Her logic is very random and vague. The author says: “How is haphazard logic such as a brain in the jar proving anything? Goodness! The paper even goes so far as to site dreaming as an example! Those are its' "hard facts?" Who does it quote from? Where are its scientific facts? The paper raises too many questions and so few answers. Therefore it is my belief that relativism holds truth and value are relative to an observer or group of observers. We are all observers. There is no way to explain the truth behind the fact that millions of Americans watched the destruction of the twin towers in New York. That event existed along with countless others throughout history. The mere fact is that by me, the author, creating this essay, it will be read by many and will by that fact live on.

Let ME interject! There is no ME! I am just paper! I cannot breathe! I do not have an essence! I do not have the power to debate! The only reason I am debating is because my author has created me to do so. I have no soul. This is a mere paper in which if there were no trees, there would be no me. If I was real; paper, and papers come from trees. Trees are predominately in the forest then I must be in a forest. To put it another way “Man's life is but a jest, /A dream, a shadow, bubble, air, a vapor at the best.” George Walter Thornbury, The Jester's Sermon. Or better shown is the passage in A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In which he says: “Tell me not, in mournful numbers, / Life is but an empty dream! /For the soul is dead that slumbers, /and things are not what they seem.”

I laugh at the paper! Did the paper not say that quoting from "unreal, nonexistent" authors was futile? In this last argument the paper hypocrisy of deceit finally plays itself out. However, I believe what Descartes said:

Reason instructs us that all our ideas must have some foundation of truth, for it could not be that the All-Perfect and the All-True should otherwise have put them into us; and because our reasonings are never so evident or so complete when we sleep as when we wake, although sometimes during sleep our imagination may be more vivid and positive, it also instructs us that such truth as our thoughts have will be in our waking thoughts rather than in our dreams.

It is only with our belief in God that we are able to live and be. Without God, life is not worth knowing. Also only from God we have eternal knowledge and know-how. Our life, power, all our know-how comes from Him.

WHOA! Hold on, the author is now pulling god in this discussion! Does the writer suggest that in order to prove existence there has to be a god? What a joke! It is based on this "god" joke that her argument will now fail. God is an invisible friend for grown-ups; he is non-existent and senseless being. For this god is a conclusion someone made up one day to explain the universe. In actuality the universe doesn't exist any more then I do. Sure, the author will debate that pictures and telescopes show the magnificence of god's creation, but nothing can be proven with certainty. Even the fact that I am arguing is senseless and meaningless, for isn't the author stimulating all these arguments? If I am just a complex puppet being typed on a page, then why wouldn't the author also be a pawn masquerading by stimuli? How can the author prove otherwise?

Stop! These crazy ramblings by the paper! The paper is now reverting back to previous arguments and going nowhere with them. Lets say for a minute that the paper is right and we are puppets being pulled by strings, then someone has to pull those strings, right? The paper just proved that God exists! There has to be a master puppeteer, and creator of the puppets; that is God. Again if the paper does not exist, then why does it waste time by arguing at all? For doesn't the meaning of nihilism come from the Latin nil which means: nothing? Would the paper say… anything?

Outside Descartes and Nietzsche realms of the mind, what is real? What is imagined? Can we truly ever really know? As a sentient being, I have argued with Descartes for existence, but I failed to prove it! As a forced character, the paper tried to prove Nietzsche's nihilism, but failed in that respect. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Hamlet says: “yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?” Philosophers all alike follow the labyrinth of the quagmire of humanity. However, it is my opinion, the answer of existence lies in-between. There is no god, no imaginary friend, but existence, that belief is held by most of humanity and because so many people believe it, it is true. Existence will fail if enough people believe it doesn't exist. Even this paper exists because you and I deem that it is there, but is it? If we stopped our fallible belief, then it would be nil.

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