Why Philosophy Matters
Philosophy is probably the single most important thing you can understand. It’s what brought you here in the first place. Admit it, you want to read this stuff because something about the way the world works doesn’t sit right with you. You were taught to be good, and polite, to not hurt people and to help when you could, not to lie, not to cheat and not to steal. Yet the country in which you live kills so that it can steal resources which hurts people, all the while lying about it (and not too well). There is a disconnect.
The system of tools you use to figure out who you are is philosophy. They are the filters through which you judge the world. There are as many personal philosophies as there are people but only a very slim minority of people ever give thought to how they came to think the way they do.
For instance, hold your hands at arms length in front of your face. While looking at them, remember everything they’ve ever touched. Have you ever considered the vast amount of experience that has entered your mind through those hands? Hot things, cold things, slimy things, rough things, all experienced through your hands. The first time you pet a dog with your hands should be as vivid a memory as a first kiss, but people lose sight of that fact. Are you still thinking of things you’ve touched? It’s nearly impossible to remember them all, yet all of those experiences play a major part in who you are, and will continue to shape who you become.
There are two types of experience, and they make up the sum total of all knowledge. Science likes the nomothetic which are experiences or observations that do not change with respect to the observer. Science has a huge problem with the collection of experiences which change in relation to the observer known as ideographic. For instance, the first time you touched a dog, did it feel the same to you as it did to me? There is no way you can know. No scientific test can determine if the feeling was identical and if your senses interpreted it the same way mine did. Science deals in empirical evidence. Science hates the very concept of the ideograph.
The great thinkers of the world have tried, and mostly in vain, to solve the problems thinking generates. The way people work in a general sense is summed up in the “right brain vs. left brain” argument. Alan Watts, a Western philosopher who studied the Eastern traditions extensively, called the logical people “prickly” and the artistic people “gooey.” It makes the argument funny when you talk about the prickly people vs. the gooey people, but it also makes it memorable.
We, as human beings have a unique issue when it comes to thought. That is, we are the only beings we know of who can do it. Throw philosophy into the mix, thinking about thinking, and heads start to spin (sometimes literally). The important thing to realize about the ideographic experiences which shape you is, from a technical sense, none of them ever actually happened. Think about that while I explain it. At a molecular level, your hands have never “touched” anything. Your eyes have never “seen” anything, your ears have never “heard” anything. We “know” that signals are passed from the nerves in the sense organs to the brain where they are interpreted as experiences. When it comes to touch, however, the important thing to remember is, no two molecules ever come in contact. Not the ones outside you, but most importantly not the ones inside you.
Hopefully, you heard the sound of your logic circuits shorting out. What will really trip your noodle is, the only true statement based on the above paragraph, which can be made about anything is, “Everything you know is wrong.” When you can wrap your head around that statement, and realize that nothing you know is valid, then and only then will your mind be open to new things. When you “know” something, it causes a reaction in the mind. When you know, there is no reason for further study. Any scientist will tell you that there is no such thing as a “known.” There are only probabilities. Even the so-called laws of physics are not laws, but simply probabilities which have exhausted all the available means we have of disproving them.
The word “know” as we define it is a fallacy. There is nothing that can be known. Get ready for part two. If this didn’t really mess with your head, part two will…