Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about (philosophical) idealism. I qualify it as philosophical to distinguish it from casual meaning of optimistic. In philosophy, idealism is a metaphysical view about the nature of reality — one that I’ve always seen as in contrast to realism.
What caught my eye in all the talk was that I couldn’t always tell if people were speaking of epistemological or ontological idealism. I agree, of course, with the former — one way or another, it’s the common understanding — but I’m not a fan of the various flavors of ontological idealism.
It seems downright Ptolemaic to me.
On the one hand, a main theme here is theories of consciousness. On the other hand, it’s been almost eight years blogging, and I’ve covered my views pretty well in numerous posts and comment threads. Our understanding of consciousness currently seems stuck pending new discoveries, either in answering hard questions, or in providing entirely new paths.
A while back I determined to step away from debates (even blogs) that center on topics with no resolution. Religion is a big one, but theories of mind is another. Your view depends on your axioms. Unless (or until) science provides objective answers, everyone is just guessing.
But it’s been three-and-a-half years, and, well,… I have some notes…
In debates (or even just discussions) people sometimes ask how we know the physical world is really there. A variation asks how we know that what we perceive as the real world is the same as what other people perceive. (One example of this is the inverted spectrum.)
The most accurate answer is: We don’t. Not for sure, anyway. There is at least one assumption built in, but it’s one we have to make to escape our own minds. According to ancient philosophical tradition, the only fact we know for sure is that we ourselves exist. (Although I think there’s an argument to be made about a priori knowledge.)
But, as with the excluded middle, accepting reality as an axiom seems almost necessary if we’re to move forward in any useful way.
The weather has been gorgeous the last couple days, so the idea of sitting at the computer hasn’t been appealing. Plus, it’s occurred to me that I’ve just ended 29 years of sitting at a computer. My original plan was to spend this first retirement month getting solidly back into blogging again, but my brain is rebelling. It would rather just putter around for a while, enjoying life.
I do try to do what the voices in my head tell me. They seem to know what they’re talking about (at least, they’re quite convincing). I have managed to post more this month than any month so far this year, so I’m off to a fine start.
But I’m not going to work at much more this month unless the muse strikes me.
I’m on a numeric kick with regard to Sidebands. Don’t worry, it can’t last past 13, because 14 and the numbers that follow are fairly uninspiring. Maybe #21 will be special (or not); Sidebands become adults or something. I’ll have to think about that.
I’ve also noticed that Sidebands have taken on more life than I intended. The plan was for them to be short and frequent, but some of them are pretty meaty. That’s okay, meaty words are the point here. And I’m still searching for my “voice” as I write. Many years of more formal writing, much of it technical, seem to push me away from the personal writing I wanted for this blog.
Well it’s a journey, isn’t it; a process.
In my first post I mentioned René Descartes and his seminal statement, “Cogito ergo sum.” I think, therefore I am. Because this statement and the ideas that spring from it lie at the heart of my philosophy and interests, it is a fitting topic for my second post. I also mentioned beginnings; these beginning posts explore such core topics as form my core and inform my mind.
And mind is the topic at hand. “I think, therefore I am,” concerns one of the most central, most personal, most mysterious, most fantastic aspects of our existence. It concerns something each of us shares every waking moment, but which remains–thus far–completely unknown.
That every moment mystery is that we think and we experience. Each of us has a voice inside their head; an «I» that is us. It’s the driver of the car that says, “I’m hungry,” or “I’m going to the library.”
It’s the sound track running in your head right now as you read this. It’s the basis of your thoughts and experience.
We have no idea what it actually is. Continue reading