Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Yet another quasi-nervous breakdown

Damn. Our fearless philosopher has had a tough week. Once again he finds himself questioning the nature, if not the being, of his own existence. This is not good. For if you are God, which every good pantheist is, to question your own existence is to put that very existence into question. Eeek! That would explain why I've been feeling so depressed lately. Premise: Thoughts are like thread. They can be (are) used to weave the tapestry of existence. That which you think, therefore, you become.


At 10:41 PM, Blogger Codesuidae said...

Well, I think I speak for all of mes when I say, please don't pick at the loose threads of the tapestry of existence unless your shuttlecock is near at hand.

Seriously though, I really think that questioning the nature of existance is going to be pretty fruitless. Philosophers have been wading in that mire for centuries, and I daresay the guys over in the particle physics department are making a heck of a lot more progress on that front. I think you would do better to simply accept existence as it appears and consider what you should be doing with it and why.

This perhaps is less glamorous than spelunking the dark roots of human preception and logic in search of buried jewels of Truth, but I believe you'll find it more rewarding to consider how one ought to act and why.

As some wise men discovered a few hundred years ago, while pure thought excels in the analysis of logical constructs such as mathmatics, when used alone is an abysmal tool with which to discover facts about the real world. It must be coupled with real experimental experience before one can pan the glittering flakes of Truth from the mountain stream of reality.

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Kyle Vernon said...

Okay, maybe I should have been clearer. I'm not questioning the nature of your existence. Or of some generic existence. Merely my existence. And I'm not questioning the 'being' of that existence, only the 'nature' of that existence, i.e. its character and structure. In other words, I had been doing exactly what you suggest, deciding what to do with my time and why. But to question what you do with your time and why is to question your own existence, which, I suggest is a very active form of self (ego) creation. That was the only purpose of my above post. To cast light on a principle premise of my version of pantheism. Not to suggest some nobility or non-futility of asking the so-called "Big Questions". However, I think that it is important to note that every thinker must first come to grips with some answer to those questions before he can move on to anything else. Whether you have decided on definitive answers for them or simply decided that you cannot know their answers, you still must cosider these "Big Questions" in any attempt at a coherent philosophy.

At 2:44 PM, Blogger Ravenna said...

now me, I knew what you were talking about.
however, I have no advice. only this, if it can be called such (which I doubt):
you will always wonder, it is in your nature. is that not why you are a philosopher in the first place? you will never stop being a philosopher, because you will always wonder!insatiable curiosity is what drives philosphy.therefore, questioning anything (even yourself) is an admirable pursuit.
I guess what I mean to say is:
the fact that you wonder whether or not you are meant to be a philosopher proves in itself that you cannot help but be a philosopher.
and if I believe anything, it is that you are what you are meant to be. (or perhaps, you cannot avoid being what you are meant to be; hope this helps -- Ravenna)

At 4:32 PM, Blogger Codesuidae said...

When I hear 'being of existence' I think 'wether one exists'. When I hear 'nature of existence' I think 'the mechanism by which things can exist'. I don't think these are the meanings you have in mind.

I'm having difficulty considering your writings due to what I see as atypical useage of 'nature of existence'. I don't know when you are talking about the mechanism of existence, or your own morality. Are you equating the two?

I'd agree that it is valid to consider metaphysical questions when considering morality, but not that it is necessary. Consider a purely contractual ethical system, wherein I behave according to a certain set of rules because I believe that others will do so as well, and because I believe that adherence to said set of rules will help me to attain my personal goals. The mechanism for my existance does not need to play a part in this system.

I personally find this stratification of knowledge domains an attractive idea. Just as a computer programmer does not need to understand the nature of a MOSFET in order to consider problems in the software domain, I do not believe it is necessary for a being such as ourselves to understand why we exist in order to solve problems in the ethical domain. This division of understanding into levels occurs in many ways, another example would be to understand the principle of gas pressure without an understanding of the atomic or quantum nature of matter.

This concept frees us of the need to grok everything underlying a principle before considering the principle itself. It doesn't matter if its 'turtles all the way down' when the rules we observe in the world do not depend on the nature of the turtles.

Regarding your premise about thought. Existence includes one's physical form. Because one's physical form existed prior to one's thoughts (NB), thoughts therefore cannot be said to be the mechanism behind one's existence.

(NB: this presumes that by 'thought' you refer to that which is normally considered thought, those internal whisperings that typically appear to emanate from inside one's head, and are commonly held to be one and the same with the functioning of relevant parts of the brain. As opposed to the dynamics of thought of a proposed omni-being responsible for the creation of all reality. If the latter, then continue building upon that foundation as you desire, but be wary of seismic disturbances.)

At 4:42 PM, Blogger Ravenna said...

so kyle -- what's your move?

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Kyle Vernon said...

From Merriam-Webster.com:

Main Entry: 1be·ing
Function: noun
1 a : the quality or state of having existence b (1) : something conceivable as existing (2) : something that actually exists (3) : the totality of existing things c : conscious existence : LIFE
2 : the qualities that constitute an existent thing : ESSENCE; especially : PERSONALITY
3 : a living thing; especially : PERSON

Main Entry: na·ture
Pronunciation: 'nA-ch&r
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin natura, from natus, past participle of nasci to be born -- more at NATION
1 a : the inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing : ESSENCE b : DISPOSITION, TEMPERAMENT
2 a : a creative and controlling force in the universe b : an inner force or the sum of such forces in an individual
3 : a kind or class usually distinguished by fundamental or essential characteristics [documents of a confidential nature] [acts of a ceremonial nature]
4 : the physical constitution or drives of an organism; especially : an excretory organ or function -- used in phrases like the call of nature
5 : a spontaneous attitude (as of generosity)
6 : the external world in its entirety
7 a : humankind's original or natural condition b : a simplified mode of life resembling this condition
8 : the genetically controlled qualities of an organism
9 : natural scenery
synonym see TYPE

For clarification, at any time any of these above meanings for the words 'nature' and 'being' are open for play. Typically, we use context to determine meaning. However, since these words loom large in any metaphysical discussion, and there is sometimes (as is evident from this thread) question as to what exactly is meant by them, it may be of some use to note which usage is meant when posting. So, for clarification, in my previous posts in this thread, by 'being' I primarily meant 1a, however, in actuality 1b and 1c are included as well simply as alternate perspectives on the same object of the word. Also, by 'nature' I was referring to meaning 1a.

As for the separateness of the 'why I exist' problem from the 'what should I do' problem, I disagree. Existence is in at least one sense, simply a series of choices with a known destination i.e. death. Given that the destination is known, the question becomes "what should I do" with the time that I have? In answering that question, you absolutely must address the question of purpose, or 'why I exist' because of the nature of doing. For every action, there is a purpose. That purpose may not be known consciously, but there is always and absolutely a purpose for every human action. To consider the 'what' without the 'why' is to presuppose the 'why'.

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Ravenna said...


At 8:54 AM, Blogger Kyle Vernon said...

One more thing. As to your premise that thought came after physical existence, I have to disagree, however, I don't really have an argument for why except that my experience has shown me otherwise. However, I can at least weaken your position a bit with the following:
It is at least possible that you were a thinking spirit before physical embodiment. Thus, your conclusion does not necessarily follow.

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Codesuidae said...

It is at least possible that you were a thinking spirit before physical embodiment. Thus, your conclusion does not necessarily follow.I do not feel that that weakens my position in any way, as it is given that pretty much anything is conceivable. (I do not say that 'anything is possible' because there are obviously impossible things such as square circles, massless masses and rational liberals).

Because the set of conceivable things is, in principle, unlimited, and because I desire to base my actions and beliefs on fact rather than fancy, it is necessary for me to have some methodology by which I can seperate the two.

The methodology that I think best accomplishes this is that of science. The essence of this is the gathering and analysis of sense information and, critically, the objective verification of conclusions against other verified observations. It is essential to my philosophy that I do not believe in things that are only conceivable, there must also be credible evidence for their existence.

I don't claim that the path of rationality is the 'best' philosophy for life, simply that it is the only one open to me. To accept another path would require changing core elements of my being that I believe are essential to my identity. Since I do not desire fundamental change to my identity, it is necessary to remain on this path. Not that I cannot conceive of or appreciate the value of other paths, but to attempt to tread one myself would be intellectual discordant.

Getting back to the question (although not necessarily the point), I believe that there is strong evidence that thought is dependent on the brain, and no evidence that there is thought where there is no brain (*NB). So, I choose to believe that for which there is what I consider to be credible evidence. Others, such as yourself, have other criteria for belief, and so may have differing views.

It is difficult for me to classify either position as 'right' or 'wrong' as that would require a viewpoint more omnicent than mine. I believe my reasons are better than yours, but I also suspect I have different goals.

My objections to the proposition that thought stem mostly from the belief that some portion of brain chemistry is thought. It is evident that changes to the physical structure of the brain are correlated with changes to thought patterns (e.g., changes in thought patterns as result of trauma, stroke, transcranial magnetic stimulation and etc. ), and that changes in thought patterns are correlated with changes in brain chemistry (as evidenced by EEG and PET scans). It is conceivable that the brain acts as a channel or conduit for thought, but I don't think the evidence warrants such an explanation. This is an application of the principle of Ockham's Razor. Requiring thought to originate seperately from the brain requires a seperate place for thought to exist and a mechanism by which it is linked to a brain. There is no observable evidence of such things, and it is simpler not to have them. This does not mean they do not exist, just that there is no evidence for them, and so no reason to believe in their existance. One may choose to postulate their existance, but I do not believe one would be justified in believing in them until experimental evidence (including peer review) supports the postulate.

(NB: This is not to say that I believe thought is limited to human brains. I believe that other animals here on Earth show clear evidence of thought (although not at the levels of complexity we have achieved), and I don't think that there is any reason to exclude the possability of intelligent, self-aware entities without brain-like matter.)


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