Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Where Do We Stop?

The single biggest issue in academic philosophy is where we stop our quest for justification. While I don't think that some set of the population will ever quit, if for no other reason than to justify their paychecks from the university, it is time for us as a group to quit and move forward with some necessary assumptions.

I'll call this The Philosopher's Manifesto, for lack of a better title.

I got to thinking about this because of religious philosophy's attempt at undermining my confidence in my own beliefs so as to place it on the same, irrational level as religious belief. This question invariably results in absolute skepticism, negating everything, which just makes it stupid.

Basically, me believing my senses is foundational. Not foundational in the philosophical sense, since this doesn't indicate truth, but foundational in that if I reject my senses, I'm left with nothing. And if "truth" insofar as my senses are concerned results in consistent experiences, then that truth is as good as we can ever get.

I see the list of safe assumptions thusly:
  • My senses are reliable representations of themselves. As in, if I am seeing red, I know that I am seeing red.

  • There is a world "out there," and this world is "real."

  • Our senses are an imperfect representation of what the world truly is.

  • We can never determine what the world truly is. This is a metaphysical reality to which we have absolutely no access.

  • Philosophy is an attempt at determining the "real" nature of the world. This cannot be achieved, but much like absolute zero, we continue to try.

  • There is no homunculus. I do not have sensations, those sensations are literally a part of "me."

  • The assumption of the existence of other minds is reasonable, but dangerous. It can lead to overreaching assumptions about other people being like me.

  • With other minds assumed, I can rely on their testimony to add weight to my beliefs about my own sensations, since I assume that their sensations are similar to mine.

  • I now have to two forms of verification. Internal: I can look at a ball, see that it is red, put it away for a day, examine it again and see that it is still red. And external: I can look at a red ball, say "red ball," and see if others agree and say "red ball."

This seems like a pretty good foundation to go forward. Descartes' obsession with determining that the world isn't an illusion ultimately determined nothing. Even IF the world is an illusion, as long as it's consistent, we're fine. Remember, the reason why the Matrix wasn't good and real is precisely because it wasn't consistent. If it had been, we'd be totally fine living in it. And the "real" world, outside of the Matrix, was only real because it was consistent. How could they know that the "real" world wasn't another illusion?

Answer: They couldn't. So why bother?

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