We are living in very peaceful times, I hope you are enjoying them.
My question for everyone this week is simple.
"What is real?"
What does it mean to say that something is the case? What is the difference between saying something is a certain way, as opposed to it merely seeming to be?
Is perfect certainty an option, or can we only get closer and closer to it? And what does it mean to get closer to the truth? Can we be sure that we aren't fooling ourselves?
It really seems that life necessarily entails uncertainty. It's possible we can never be sure in the deepest of ways.
If you are sure of something, are you sure that you are sure of it, and sure that you are sure that you are sure of it... ad infinitum?
Am I just playing word games?
Our Existential Circumstance
- We directly experience life. We call divide this experience into sights, sounds, sensations, thoughts and emotions
- Using thoughts which are a subset of experience, we infer the existence of a reality which our experience points to and create a model of that reality
Interestingly enough, in a dream we make this same inference of a world separate to our experience... and we are wrong!
One of the reasons I am writing a piece on epistemology — How we know what we know — is because I want to find out. I wanted to get to the bottom of this... but is there a bottom?
Rather than finding out answers, I am left with more questions. It's really fun.
Sometimes I wonder if we define reality out of existence...
"Real magic is the magic that's not real. While the magic that is real, that can actually be done, is not real magic."
I remember Daniel Dennett referring to this in one of his TED Talks.
If we cannot be sure of anything, then everything we do is revealed to be a gamble. Whatever it is you choose to do, you do because you think it will lead to a positive outcome. We bet on the activities we devote our attention to, much like betting on a horse in the Melbourne Cup.
There is one certainty I believe we can have. Our experience.
Not that what our experience implies is real, but that there is an experience at all.
That is to say, even if this was a dream, hallucination or simulation... there is the experience of having that. Even if there isn't a "real" behind the "seeming" there is still a "seeming". Does this make the seeming in some sense real?
All we have is the information that appears to us in experience. We only have the seeming to base what we view as real or unreal.
Perhaps every belief is ultimately a guess? Perhaps every action is ultimately a gambit? It seems to me like that there are better and worse chances to take. But is that just another guess?
By the way, I want to take this opportunity to thank you. If you are reading this and especially if you have been enjoying these emails, it is because of you that this writing has meaning.
Thank you for showing interest in my work.
Until next time,