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Do we really exist?

 
 
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Jan, 2007 09:19 am
Ok, it's useless because nobody disagrees with it. Fair enough.

And you are right in that our ideas of "personal identity" are vastly different. But to be honest, my ideas are dynamic, since I have no illusons about being fully educated or learned. I must make allowances for adaptation to new ideas, and for the eventuality that what I think is just wrong.

So my definition of "personal identity" may vary from time to time, even though the core of the idea stays the same.
0 Replies
 
stuh505
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Jan, 2007 01:25 am
And I thought I was crazy!
0 Replies
 
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Jan, 2007 04:48 am
stuh

If you thought that you're probably not.. Smile
0 Replies
 
ThePonderer
 
  1  
Reply Sun 21 Feb, 2010 09:54 pm
@WarEagle,
i've been pondering the same question a lot lately...how do i know YOU aren't a figment of MY imagination?...or what if i'm simply a figment of your imagination. Or we might both be a figment of someone elses imagination. or perhaps we're nothing at all.
"At a given moment I open my eyes and exist. And before that, during all eternity, what was there? Nothing." Ugo Betti
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Feb, 2010 01:09 am
@ThePonderer,
Welcome to A2K.

You need to read the whole thread for some answers on this. In the interim, I would just point out that your ideas of "nothing" and "eternity" must still imply the existence of "yourself" which pictures them in its mind's eye. If you can understand that, it shifts the whole orientation of the enquiry.
0 Replies
 
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Feb, 2010 09:16 am
I tried to take an airplane once without any ID papers.
I went up to the counter and said my name. The woman there asked me for ID and I said I have none.
"Then how can I know that you are you?" the woman asked, to which the reply came before I could think; "But how can I know that I am me? Do you want to start an existential discussion?"
Amazingly, she let me pass and I could get on my plane, though in all fairness, who's to say that it was actually me getting on? Smile
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Feb, 2010 10:47 am
@Cyracuz,
Smile

In the UK, all you would have got is "the computer says no!"
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Feb, 2010 10:53 am
@fresco,
Ye, I think that's the way it's going here in Norway too. Lately, I even need documents for my guitar when I'm flying...
0 Replies
 
Foley
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Feb, 2010 02:37 pm
I am absolutely real. I would not be able to ponder the question were I not. My conscious thoughts are a totally subjective experience, but I can be sure they're happening, even if they are skewed. I could be a brain in a jar, or I could be plugged into the matrix, but in the end, I could not be having a conscious experience were I not real.

Are you real? I have to say yes. Suppose I wake up and I turn out to have been in the matrix and I had never met a real person in my whole life. I would still be stuck with the same question. Are any of the people in this new world real? I could still be in the matrix, just being led to believe I was out of it. Or I could have escaped a matrix embedded in a matrix. There is no way to test what is "real," so I am left to assume that what I have perceived, what I am perceiving, and what I expect to continue to perceive are all real experiences.

You might think this reasoning comes to close to the idea that everybody has their own reality. In truth, I don't think that's a good philosophy myself--I believe there is necessarily an underlying reality to everything, because I know I am real. But I can't test to see if I'm on drugs, or if I'm chemically imbalanced, so I can't know if I'm hallucinating.

Essentially the core of what I propose is this: There is a absolute fundamental reality. Our only means of testing this reality is our senses and logic.

So while logic may present the possibility of this all being an illusion, I can still always be sure that I myself exist and that I have no reason to doubt this reality unless I somehow find evidence of its nonexistence.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Feb, 2010 02:53 pm
@Foley,
Quote:
Essentially the core of what I propose is this: There is a absolute fundamental reality. Our only means of testing this reality is our senses and logic.


Two movements in philosophy seriously question this proposition.

1. Phenomenology questions access to any "reality" via the senses and is reflected by the scientific problem of observer involvement in "events".
2. Binary logic is a sub-branch of "logics" which are in turn a sub-section of semantics. Such considerations have caused modern philosophers of language to abandon the quest to explain "reality" by reference to logic.

In short the quest for "absolute fundamentals" may be more an aspect of "faith" rather than one of practicality.
Foley
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Feb, 2010 03:41 pm
@fresco,
I exactly agree with you. Sorry if I didn't make it clear. It's my intention to point out our own inability to test what is real in any way (as I attempted to illustrate with matrices within matrices), so we are left to assume that our senses and logic are correct, because it is impossible to contradict our only means of detecting the universe.

Edit- Actually I should elaborate further just in case.

I believe there is a fundamental, absolute reality because I exist. We all know that our individual self is real, whether the body is or not. To say your own consciousness doesn't exist would be something of a contradiction, because in order for such an illusion to exist, something would have to observe and misinterpret information--that is, even if everything else you believe is wrong, you MUST exist.

Our senses and logic are our only means of detecting this universe, though I do not say that they are in any way good at it. You can't know whether or not you're good at detecting reality, so it's pointless not to assume you are.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Feb, 2010 05:58 pm
@Foley,
The question is not whether "selves exist", but what the nature of "existence" is. If existence is relative rather than absolute, then "I" might exist simply as the complement of "not I". Indeed some say that "self awareness" only occurs as such, with the acquisition of language which is necessary for thoughts of "I". If this is valid, then "existence" lies essentially in the social/holistic domain rather than in a domain of individuals. (Holistic view of consciousness - references Bohm, Penrose etc).
Foley
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Feb, 2010 07:09 pm
@fresco,
fresco wrote:
Indeed some say that "self awareness" only occurs as such, with the acquisition of language which is necessary for thoughts of "I".

If self awareness only occurs through the acquisition of language (and thereby a word for oneself), then someone, somewhere would have had to arrive at self-awareness by a different route in order to invent the word "I." Or am I misunderstanding?
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 12:46 am
@Foley,
It is a question of what is considered a priori. Just as an individual blood cell has no significance except with respect to "the body" it may be that an individual person has no significance except with respect to "the group". And language is a group dynamic, one of whose sophisticated products is "logic". Thus Descartes cogito (I think therefore, I am) fails to acknowledge the maturational process within a social system by which "I" is eventually established, and by which "therefore" and "am" have significance.
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 01:48 am
@Foley,
I should perhaps have added that according to this view words are not "invented" as representations of "reality", rather they evolve as an aspect of group dynamics. (Perhaps like chemical signals in an insect colony). Consider as support for this view the use of names instead of pronouns during the acquisition process when speaking to a child..."Give it to Daddy" (says Daddy) rather than "Give it to me".
Foley
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 01:18 pm
@fresco,
All this in mind, I still have a few problems with the theory.

What would spur the evolution of the use of the word I instead of always speaking of oneself in the third person? Without self awareness the mental schema of "me" is indistinguishable from the schema for "this" or "him." (Note I am not saying you wouldn't be able to distinguish yourself from someone else, you just wouldn't recognize yourself as your self, just another person.)

fresco wrote:
Just as an individual blood cell has no significance except with respect to "the body" it may be that an individual person has no significance except with respect to "the group".


You are starting from the presupposition that an individual blood cell has no significance in itself. From our perspective, a blood cell is useless outside of the group, but that's because we assume it exists purely for our sakes. I would actually make the complete reverse argument you're making--rather than say that we should be viewed in a utilitarian way like our individual cells, I would say we should view individual cells in a more individualistic way, as we commonly view ourselves. This is straying into a more divergent conversation though.

As far as whether or not we "exist," even supposing that my self awareness arises only because of the application of language, I--at least my physical self--has to exist before it can become self aware. So if my self awareness is not an intrinsic characteristic of myself, I can still be sure that I exist because you couldn't make "nothing" self aware.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 04:52 pm
@Foley,
I think we differ in as much that I am arguing against your quest for "fundamentals". For example, it seems valid to argue say that the brain is necessary for "self awareness", but not that it is sufficient for self awareness, hence fundamentality is not achieved by that argument. My position is one of anti-reductionism/anti- deterministism and is anti-axiomatic with respect to "existence" itself. As such, I see the "existence of selves" as a sub-issue, not a starting point.

A counter-claim to my position might be illustrated by Heidegger's concept that only Dasein (being) has Existenz (existence), in as much that for him the essence of existence is self-contemplation. But we also need to take on board that for him such moments of contemplation/existence are fleeting episodes within the praxis of living. (i.e. "selves" are not evoked most of the time). However we might also note that the later Heidegger (post 1947) turned away from the fundamentality of Dasein to the fundamentality of language. ("Language speaks the man").

So, I would sum up my position as one which takes relationship/communication to be a priori to "self" or even "existence". Following Wittgenstein, I would say that the meaning of "existence" in general, and "self existence" in particular is a function of particular contextual two-way interactions between observer and observed. I would merely embellish that idea by pointing to the particular contexts such as those we call "mitigation" in which the phrase "he was not himself that day" depends on such contexts. In short the significance of the word "self" depends on context, not ontology.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 05:15 pm
@Foley,
And one more point...we generally take "existence" to imply some sort of enduring unity over time. It is the view of some that the unity of "self" is an illusion perhaps attributable to the abstract persistence of words themselves. Indeed it may be chiefly our name which perpetuates that illusion in as much as acts as a node of "social responsibility". (P. D. Ouspensky said "we spend most of our lives fulfilling promises made by "somebody else"").
0 Replies
 
Foley
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 05:17 pm
@fresco,
fresco wrote:
My position is one of anti-reductionism/anti- deterministism and is anti-axiomatic with respect to "existence" itself

Wow. You could not possibly be more opposite to me in thinking. Very Happy

fresco wrote:
Following Wittgenstein, I would say that the meaning of "existence" in general, and "self existence" in particular is a function of particular contextual two-way interactions between observer and observed.

This bothers me. Perhaps we are differing in what exactly we mean by existence, but I see a real paradox here. Saying existence is a function of two things interacting feels oxymoronic to be, as "things" (or in this case observer and obvserved) cannot precede existence- in other words, they have to exist even to begin interacting. I could see an argument that all things that exist are necessarily in interaction, but that is more a property of existence rather than an explanation.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 05:25 pm
@Foley,
I suggest that what you mean by "explanation" involves prediction and control as in scientific reasoning from axioms. This is only one aspect of "explanation" and may merely reflect a dominant characteristic of human cognition. In general it is almost impossible to separate epistemology (theories of knowledge) from ontology (theories of existence). Observers and and observed (thingers and things may be co-existent and co-extensive.
 

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