Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Philosophical Bent

"I can't believe that!" said Alice.

"Can't you?" the queen said in a pitying tone. "Try again, draw a long breath, and shut your eyes."

Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said. "One can't believe impossible things."

"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

There is an interesting tidbit of information that blew my mind when I first heard it: "you can't measure anything without changing it." I recently read a book called The Mysterious Flame, in which Colin McGinn postulates that we will never know the mystery of consciousness. That we as humans do not have the mental capacity — or more importantly the concepts — to conceive of the manner in which our brain matter attains consciousness. I have a book on my “to buy” shelf called Ignorance that sides with Descartes theory that the only fact we can truly know is that we are conscious: I am a thinking thing that thinks. Whether life is just a dream, or that I’m really Keanu Reeves plugged into the matrix cannot be known for sure. What can we truly know? All I can know for sure is that I am thinking these thoughts. I may awake one day to find that I’m a leopard slug in the rain, who has just awoken from a very weird dream

Who bothers to think about these things? Philosophers. Thinkers that think. In Buddhism one is trying to attain a silence of mind during meditation. A state of non-thinking. In philosophy, one ponders the Big questions, and ends up in a non-thinking state. Questions like: Does God exist? Is there life after death? How do the mind and body work together? Am I (as in my personal identity) just a collection of electrical pulses, and chemical reactions? Human beings have been hashing and rehashing these ideas for thousands of years. I would be so bold as to state that we are not any closer to answering these basic questions than when they were first posed.

Some claim the power of faith. The idea that one believes in an idea, because their gut tells them to; or because people of their ilk have believed the same thing for thousands of years. Maybe they believe certain things because the evidence persuades them. It may not be peer-reviewed, double-blind evidence, but it persuades them nonetheless. As I heard Bill O’Reilly say to Richard Dawkins about the creation mythology: “It’s true for me.” Can something only be true for you? I have always believed that there’s me…there’s you…and then there’s the cold hard truth. But then what is truth?

When I’m in a particularly good mood (as I was today) food tastes better. Colors are more vibrant. The driving rain seems like a good thing! Hell, I may even glance in the mirror on a day like today and think that I’m handsome, in a worn and unrefined kind of way. On a day when my mood is as dark as a midwinter day in Seattle, then everything else takes on that gray hue. My perception changes based on my inner state of mind. If I’m happy, healthy and horny then life is good, and the world seems bright and shiny. If it’s a down day I start to think that Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh have a persuasive influence beyond a few brain-damaged yahoos living in their mother’s basement.

So, those are my random thoughts for the evening. My post-work, write-to-relax, blog entry. To celebrate my good humor, here is something humorous:

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