I like to know what makes people tick, and it’s always interesting to me why people hold any particular opinion or belief, so I thought it might be fun to investigate various philosophical ideas to that end. I’ve never taken any classes in philosophy or anything but I’m hoping there are others like me who would like to share their ideas with regards to some of lifes big questions, and it seemed like a good place to start would be to see if we could in fact establish that we’re even here in the first place.
I haven’t read any Descartes yet but from what I’ve heard he seems to have been able to somehow prove his own existence. I could of course read all his thoughts on the matter to discover how he came to this conclusion (and I surely will at some point), and whether it holds water but in the meantime it seems like it would be much more fun to throw this out as the first of a series of informal exercises in philosophical thinking to those interested. I’m not sure I’d know how to go about proving that I exist, but I feel it’s important somehow to be able to do so, assuming it’s possible.
How would you set about proving your own existence?
I like philosophy, but I don’t think I have much to contribute to that question. (Btw, if I recall, Descartes wasn’t trying to prove his existence, but he was trying to determine what he could be certain of—and that was his existence—because he was thinking….erm, I’m probably messing this up. Carry on.)
Who was the joker who said, ‘Reality is that which still exists once you stop believing in it?’ Was the Philip K. Dick?
At any rate, my whole deal has been we can argue ‘Does the rock exist?’ ‘Yes because I can see it.’ ‘But how do you know you can see it?’ ‘Because you pointed it out?’ ‘Well how do you know I’m not part of the illusion too?’ but in the end if you’re not paying attention, you’ll trip over that rock and hurt yourself.
That sounds like the David Hume argument.
Yes, that was Philip K. Dick (my favourite author) who said ‘Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away’. I always liked that quote.
The interesting thing to me about Descartes (I’m sure it was him) was that from what I recall he was actually quite distressed at not being able to prove his own existence – to such an extent that he became suicidal – and decided to set all his faculties to the solving of the problem. Now if your life depended on you being able to conclude with some degree of certainty that you do in fact exist how could you prove to yourself that you exist? How’s that even possible? It’s like trying to prove to yourself that you’re not insane – how could a person suffering from insanity evaluate their own sanity?
Does the fact that I’m interacting with you and Jazz right now prove I exist? I don’t think so – not even close.
“he was trying to determine what he could be certain of—and that was his existence”
Technically, he was saying that one could be certain of the existence of one’s own consciousness. Essentially the idea was that one could doubt everything except one’s ability to doubt, and therein lies the “I”—the doubting consciousness that cannot doubt itself because to do so would require itself to exist in order to be able to doubt its own existence. .
Cogito ergo sum.
Zizek’s trilemma made me want to rewatch all early Soviet silent films.
Incognito ergo nihil?
Seems like not believing in anything other than consciousness itself is a bleak view, sort of like being stuck in “Johnny Got His Gun”. Only with senses. That one doubts.
You gotta start somewhere.
Oddly enough, I believe in everyone’s consciousness but my own. Go figure.
by Richard Wilbur
Kick at the rock, Sam Johnson, break your bones:
But cloudy, cloudy is the stuff of stones.
We milk the cow of the world, and as we do
We whisper in her ear, ‘You are not true.’
It’s difficult to make sense of much else if you deny that fact.
Matt has it. And of course, that was just the beginning.
I do not exist. Only my own illusion of myself exists.
(My pretentiousness, on the other hand, definitely exists. For realz.)
“I do not exist.”
“And of course, that was just the beginning.”
Right, it mearly gives you a foothold on the sheer face of ontology.
And since Greg has sent the precedent of posting poetry,
“A Man Said to the Universe”
by Stephen Crane
A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!"
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
“A sense of obligation.”
I exist. But only on mubi.
I’ve read that Stephen Crane poem before. It’s another piece that sparked recognition for my viewpoint on the matter.
Tie into it Stanislaw Lem’s Fiasco and the scene where the protagonist flies over a mineral planet and observes that the minerals have taken on formations almost organic; in fact that the idea of ‘organic’ vs. ‘mineral’ itself is somewhat false because, half-remembered quote, “Minerals themselves go through their own slow form of evolution over time,” weaker structures falling apart and more complex ones developing and all that.
So for me, another way of looking at the ‘Do I exist?’ question is simply to acknowledge that there are more profound physical phenomenon in the Universe than human life, so in relationship to existence we’re really not all that significant and thus it would be impractical to design any temporal illusion the strength of which could hold up our solipsism. In other words, whether you wanted to look at it like a God or The Matrix or a “I create my own reality” viewpoint, nevertheless all of them break down when you discover you’re just about as important to parts of the observable universe as a specific ant in one colony is as important to you.
Speaking of which, human beings don’t control nearly as much of the planet as ants do.
In case you were wondering.
“I do not exist.”
Doesn’t David Hume doubt the “I” in his bundle theory of the self, positing that all we can really be sure of is a continous stream of disparate images and sensations—perceptions but no proof of a perceiver?
If you can understand the reality of a metabolism you can understand the reality of a consciousness.
“Je pense donc je suis” ‘’ (cogito ero sum) only proves consciousness. What Hume was arguing was that there were only a bundle of sensations associated with “self.” But in order for their to be sensations, there has to be a consciousness that perceives these sensations, so it’s basically the same thing.
is there a non-existence?
It’s generally much harder to prove that something DOESN’T exist than to prove that it does exist.
So you reckon then, Matt, that I couldn’t prove that I don’t exist, but that I could prove that I do? That has the potential to blow my mind a little.
Right, there has to be some sort of “I” in order to pose the question. If there’s not “I” there’s not even a position from which to even express doubt about one’s own existence.
(of course, what that “I” is exactly is another set of complicated questions)
Has anybody here felt that they didn’t exist? Not understanding the possibility, but really feeling it?
I never have but I have felt serious solipsism and meaninglessness. Solipsism when I was younger because, even though I knew it was sort of absurd, I would feel that I was subconsciously controlling the universe like it was my creation. This was probably just a product of anxiously latching onto everything and finding patterns in my life that couldn’t be chance. Probably are, but my luck was unbelievably… lucky. I also considered predestination..! In response to that, probably, came the overwhelming and necessary sense of nihilism, a deep and terrifying realisation that not only are events determined by nothing significant, but that nothing can truly be anticipated or understood. Everybody knows this, but to be oppressed by the feeling is fucked up.
I know that maybe nothing exists even if I perceive things, but I’ve never lost sleep over that.
I think this informs my cinematic tastes.