For those who are interested in philosophy or like pondering questions like “What is the meaning of life?” and ” What is reality?”
August 31, 2014 at 11:26 pm #3148Tal SpekParticipant
When I was younger, I was deeply troubled by the fact that Descarte used god, whom he has not proven to exist, to reach the conclusion that he is not mad and that the world does, in fact, exist.
Summed up, this is what he said (assuming I remember correctly):
1. I can prove math exists, because it stands independently on the basic axioms, and thus needs no proving.
2. I have no way to prove my hand, or anything that is anchored in the world or based on it, exists, as my senses may be playing tricks on me, maybe I am delusional.
3. I have no reason to say that I myself exist, as I am a part of our world.
4. I sense this world, however, or at least think I do, so in some deep level, I do exist, as I am aware of this (possibly fake) world.
(at around this point he started going mad, thinking he actually was delusional)
5. God exists, and he is kind, I know that from theology, as I am christian.
6. If god is good, he will not let me hallucinate all of this.
7. Therefore, the world exists.
Now, I may be wrong. If I am, please do correct me and I will edit this.
However, I wanted to ask – I have one interesting way of hedging this, but it is sort of cheating. If you ever thought about it, do you have an answer as to how we can prove that the world exists? This “incomplete” answer of mine has been nagging that it needs improvement.September 18, 2014 at 4:24 am #3340EmilyParticipant
Premise 3 is mistaken as Descartes was famous for saying “I think, therefore I am” which basically means that the only thing you can actually be certain of is that you exist because if you did not exist you would not be able to ask whether or not you existed.
As for his believing you know the world exists because of the existence of God, I can’t remember what his exact argument was, but I believe that it he had an argument for why God exists other than just his Christian belief. However, I believe that argument ended up being rather circular – he couldn’t support the idea that the world exists without God existing, but he couldn’t really support the argument that God exists with using evidence gain from the world, which wouldn’t work as evidence as without God existing you couldn’t know that the world exists.
When it comes to whether or not the World truly exists, I don’t believe that we can know. I tend to consider myself a Skeptic in that we cannot truly know whether or not anything truly exists or not. However, I believe that the important question is whether it matters if the world is real or not. I mean, if we were in the Matrix, for example (that movie is kinda considered to be based off of Descartes) we might consider breaking out into the real world, but what if that is impossible? What if we are stuck in the Matrix out entire lives without knowing it and with no chance of escape? Is everything we experience unimportant? I think that it is important, because our feeling are real and they matter. We may be the only things that exist in the universe, but we love and hate and fear and feel pain and those things matter. Even when we play video games they evoke emotions and reactions in us, although we know they are not real.
So basically my guide for living in a World that may not exist is this: Buildings may not actually exist, but it still hurts when you jump off them so don’t jump off them. Assume that other people exist because otherwise it would be lonely and there would be problems with morality. I might be able to come up with a logical reason why people must exist, but it would be difficult. I tend to just think that if we assume that people exist and everything else is questionable, then we can consider the world as being everything humans think the world may be and the important parts are all the parts that matter to humans. I could probably try to go more in depth with this idea, but I am not going to, at least not in this post.
So, basically, I am a Skeptic and do not believe we can know what truly exists, but I do believe that even if the World were not real it would still matter what we did in it because what we do in it affects are feeling and out feelings are real.September 18, 2014 at 12:18 pm #3342Hugh FreemanParticipant
Eh, arguments like Descartes’s only really fly if you strongly embrace the whole “mind-body” distinction. We know too much about neuroscience, having observed the intimate connection between the physical structure of the brain and personality/identity/etc., to maintain that the mind is a separate entity.
How do we prove the world exists? We don’t; we’re constantly experiencing it, hell, we’re even part of it. I suppose it could be the case that all of sensory information was being mislead, but we don’t really have a reason to entertain this idea. It’s logical, well-thought out, and comprehensible, but it has absolutely no bearing on anything actually happening in the world. As such, we throw it away with any other idea without evidence to support it.
I’m a Rorty fanboy, so I definitely lean neopragmatist when I have to interpret something.September 28, 2014 at 6:30 am #3416Tal SpekParticipant
That is interesting – both of your solutions are really close to mine, and I actually used Emily’s conclusion as a milestone to my view.
If the world does not exist externally, but I am still aware of it, it exists in my mind. Therefore, it exists. And I operate in this world, regardless of the medium it is in. When there will be evidence that it is only in my mind, and that I habe the option to leave it, only then will it be of any concern to me, and even then, the fact that I am dreaming it is inconsequential.September 28, 2014 at 11:29 am #3420JohnParticipant
I’m far from a Cartesian scholar, but wanted to note that the phenomenon of knowing only that our own mind exists is termed ‘solipsism.’ May or may not be much help, but if you’re actively studying this, well, sometimes keywords help.
By the way, I attended an agora years ago and heard a presenter dismiss Descartes’ Discourse on the Method as singularly purposed on justifying vivisection — that is, the dissection of live animals. They were most convincing, if not entirely fair.
That said, there are some who would say Heidegger’s work, especially Being and Time was merely justification for his erstwhile involvement in the Nazi Party. I know that to be a gross misrepresentation of Heidegger’s work, and yet, I can’t help believing the accusation against Descartes.
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