Saturday, September 24, 2011

Just a Little Metaphysics

 Who are we? Are we at all? Why shouldn’t we lie, cheat, or kill? And of course, the ever elusive, “Why are we here?” It can take a surprising amount of courage to begin asking these questions, and even more to search for their answers, looking past predetermined worldviews that prescribe half-truths and often outright lies in short, convenient sound bytes. People have all sorts of reasons for avoiding the search for truth, whether fear, confusion, or lack of time; but without asking these fundamental questions, we can't be certain our lives and actions are meaningful. So, let’s start with, “Are we at all?”

The argument has been made that we can't know whether we exist, since we have no proof that the signals being sent to our brains are accurate, and therefore everything is meaningless. I disagree. It’s possible our empirical senses are flawed, but unlikely they’re entirely fabricated. Truth seekers must allow for any possibility, relying on humanity’s greatest attribute, reason, to distinguish that which is likely to be true from that which is not, always willing to change positions on any topic if adequate evidence to the contrary is provided.

I submit that there's no absolute truth we can be certain of; there are only varying degrees of likelihood. Sure, you can throw your hands in the air and give up out of refusal to play the odds, but that would be foolish. At any moment, an airplane could crash on our heads, but we shouldn’t live our lives as if that were the case, because the odds of such an occurrence are very, very low. Similarly, we shouldn’t act on the idea that our empirical senses are fabricated simply because there's a remote possibility they might be. We must look at the evidence, which stacks up in favor of our senses, confirmed by consistency in our own lives and corroborated by the shared experience of billions of other humans on the planet, along with thousands of years worth of recorded history.

I figured we could start with just a little metaphysics, since that’s really the beginning of the philosophical journey. When building a worldview, we have to start with a blank slate. Imagine you just came into existence, like a baby but without the messy birth process; then, try to analyze what you know of reality from the 5 senses. Once we’ve established that reality is perceivable, we can set out to discover the truth. The best part is, almost everyone agrees on this basic stuff. That is, most people believe that what we can see and touch is real. It’s the rest that we tend to disagree on.