Posts Tagged ‘Existence’

“To die will be an awfully big adventure” – or will it?

June 8, 2021

“To die will be an awfully big adventure.”  –  J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

I have never been quite sure if the quote from Barrie’s Peter Pan is terribly profound or utterly banal.

Not because Peter Pan is not a brilliant and captivating reflection on losing innocence and on timelessness and that Neverland – in one way or another – is not something that has been imagined, in some form, at some time, in everybody’s mind. But because I am not sure if death can actually be considered a state at all. Certainly it is not a state that can be observed by the subject. Equally, before birth is not a state that is observable by the subject in question.

The philosophical difficulty I have is in trying to equate negations; to equate different kinds of zeros. Can the not being before birth be equated to the not being after death. In fact, can not being be considered a state at all? The state of the world in 1900 will be some thing other than the state of the world in 2100. Neither of these two states of being will include me. However, in the second case an identity that once was me would be present in records or in memory. That suggests that my not being after my death is somewhat different to my not being before I was born. But they both need an observer – who is not me.

Why does the universe go from a (presumed) simple ground state to a much more complex condition? Not to be – it seems – must always be simpler (in energy and complexity) than to be. Non-existence must be more parsimonious in the scheme of things than existence. Is it time which is the great disruptor? Why existence rather than non-existence remains the greatest mystery of all. “I think therefore I am” may be an indicator of consciousness but it is silent about being. We get tangled between language and philosophy, between philosophy and metaphysics. Nothing or no thing causes problems of language and of metaphysics. A thing must first be defined for a state of no thing to be discerned. Not any thing is quite different – in language – to no thing. It is much wider and encompasses all things. But even not any thing is restricted by human cognition to just those things that can be imagined. What is beyond human comprehension cannot even be addressed. A thing presupposes existence. The state – if it is a state – of not being is equally dependent upon first having in place the concept of being. Shakespeare’s Hamlet was questioning living rather than not living, and the meaning of life. But his “To be or not to be? That is the question ..” is probably more profound than Shakespeare ever intended and is the most fundamental question of philosophy and metaphysics. Why existence at all? What could be the question that existence is the answer to?

The living are irrelevant to a person not yet born. They are equally irrelevant to the dead. But note the inherent contradictions in the use of language. A person not yet born, or a person who is dead, is not a person at all – a non-person. We cannot, logically, speak about relevance to a person who is a non-person. As we age, it is not the state of being dead that causes much concern. The state of others as a consequence may be of concern. The process of dying and the accompanying pain and indignities give concern to many. But being dead is both linguistic and metaphysical nonsense. Being dead translates logically to the self-contradictory being a not-being. Just as an after-life translates to a logically nonsensical life after the end of life. Just as before the beginning is not logically sustainable. A person being dead causes ripples and even large waves in the surrounding world and among other people, but is never of any concern to persons who do not exist.

To be born is indeed an adventure.

I am not sure that to die is any kind of anything.


Thinking oneself into existence

April 16, 2019

Cogito, ergo sum is a philosophical proposition by René Descartes usually translated into English as “I think, therefore I am”.

In no philosophy is thinking a prerequisite for existence. Of course, Descartes’ formulation is just tautology since it presupposes the “I” and the “think” and the “am”. Thinking is taken here as proof of existence, but is nothing more than an assertion of existence.

But what could prove existence?

That question in itself requires what constitutes “proof” to be defined and requires criteria specifying “existence”. An that leads only to circular arguments.

  • Existence refers to the ontological property of being.
  • “To be” does not require the capability of being observed or an observer with a consciousness.
  • “To exist” does not require proof of existence.
  • However “proof” of existence requires an observer and therefore no “proof” can be anything other than subjective to the observer.
  • Existence is not caused by an observers perception of proof.

I always end up with the case of the tree falling in the forest, creating a pressure wave and whether or not there is a brain to detect the pressure wave and perceive sound. A perception of existence is not the same as existence. The perception may be true or false. The perception requires an observer and a consciousness.

The real conundrum is the existence, not of a bunch of atoms which look like me but, of the “I” of me.

  • The “I” exists as long as – and only when – I think I think.
  • The existence of other things is not dependent upon my perception of proof of existence.

But I still cannot quite come to grips with what “thinking” is.


 

 


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