What I love about my Philosophy classes is the realization that other people have thought about the same retarded things I have. It’s just a cool feeling. Like when I was a kid I used to think all these crazy thoughts. I would spend a lot of nights just thinking about God and eternity and infinity and I got scared. It’s really a scary concept, if you think about it. So there was like this struggle in me, I kind of felt if I kept thinking about it I’d get really depressed but I couldn’t help but think about it sometimes.
I used to think other things too. Like how I knew what colors were. I always had this weird idea that no one sees colors the same way. Like, we all know that physically, the process is the same, with certain wavelengths of the EM spectrum stimulating rods and cones in our optic nerve which in turn stimulates particular areas of the brain. But that says nothing about the experience of seeing colors. And I just had this idea that the way other people see things is not the way I do, it’s just that since all their life they’ve been accustomed to calling it a certain way, and we share that naming, so we call it the same thing, but we might not experience it the same way. Does this make sense? I guess the easiest way to visualize it would be like if someone saw colors in inverse, like a photographic negative. Then light would be dark, and vice versa, and in their experience, you can’t see unless there’s enough dark and stuff like that. Since that’s their life experience, that is what light and dark is, although it’s the inverse of our experience. But since we share the common names of phenomena, we can both call a color “red” although they are different experiences. So when I was a kid I used to think that when I went to heaven I would ask God if I could have the experience of being in someone else’s body, to see what things look like. Weird, huh?
The crazy thing is, this is like an idea that’s been brought up regarding the mind-body problem in philosophy. I thought I was all original but I wasn’t alone.
Another thing I used to think was how I knew that people existed. I guess even before Junior High I was a skeptic in the sense that I knew that I could not be sure that the things around me were real. I guess I didn’t know anything more formally, that I was basing my actions on inductive reasoning, which was probabilistic at best but perhaps not epistemically justified, but I just knew I couldn’t be sure. The current philosophical idea is that we can’t know whether we are brains in vats, being manipulated by evil scientists to have perceptual sensations but none of these are real. I guess being brought up in the church I used to have different ideas. I used to think that maybe my life is all an illusion, that none of the people or things around me are real. And what life really is, is just a test; maybe God just constructs this experience I think is my life, and my goal in life is to find the right way, and I’ll be rewarded or punished for it in the end. Regardless, though, the people and things around me would not be real. In fact, in my more skeptical moments, I wasn’t sure if anyone else existed period, that maybe I’m the only one who exists (which I must because I think) and after my life, if I’ve chosen correctly according to all that God has given me in terms of experience, I’ll move on to the next level. But in only semi-skeptical moments, I thought that maybe there are other people, but they don’t exist in my experience (since my experience is not real) but they are also undergoing experiences in which their mission is also to find the right way based on the experiences God gives them. That just seems more fair than the way life really is, right? Anyway, that was some of the stuff I thought.
That really influenced how I approached my faith then, when I was really young. Because I was afraid that I was always ruling out a possibility, that maybe I’ve chosen wrongly, and how I could be sure. Does that make sense? If “life” is just a test to see if you’ll choose the right thing based on your experience, you really want to make sure you’re choosing the right one, that you’ve explored all the possibilities, and that you haven’t unnecessarily ignored things. I’ve settled these issues, but that’s what I used to think.
One thing that bothers me with philosophy, well not philosophy in general but more theory of knowledge arguments that deal with skepticism based on the brain in a vat idea is how they’re so uncreative. I mean, as far as people go in skepticism is saying maybe we’re brains in vats. But I used to go way further. Like, why is it that we have to be brains? I mean, if our entire experience is made up, maybe it’s not real at all, and the way things really are, due to God or that evil scientist, is just totally totally different. Like maybe the laws of physics or the way we look, the way senses work, are just totally different, even beyond what we could comprehend. Isn’t that possible? Why even say we are brains in vats. Maybe the way reality is is we are auras, not physical, and impossible to explain according to the physics of this world. But that’s what we are, auras, manipulated by scientists who don’t sense through organs but through some other process. OK, now I’m getting too weird.
And so an idea I would sometimes have is that I’m just not real, but being manipulated by beings, and they are examining my response to see what I do given these situations.
Which is why I’m excited about this movie coming out. It’s called Truman and stars Jim Carrey. Anyway, the idea is, some TV station wanted to basically cover the life of a person totally from birth to death. So they carefully manipulate it so as soon as the baby is born, as long as it lives, every action is filmed, but the manipulation is the baby doesn’t know it. That is, his environment is totally artificial, but he doesn’t know. It seems almost a little bit evil, but it’s just totally fascinating to me. So they completely manipulate this guy’s input, everything he thinks he knows, everything that happens to him, is based on the ideas of the studio, and then they see how he responds. Fascinating.
The idea behind the movie is that there are some close calls with people getting into the studio and almost revealing things, but for the most part they are successful and the show becomes a world-wide phenomenon. The only thing they can’t manipulate is how the boy will turn out. And he turns out to be Jim Carrey. Anyway, the premise of the movie fascinates me. I gotta see it.