Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Ruler of the Universe (Descartes), Midterm, Post 2

The True Ruler of the Universe

As is introduced by Douglas Adams in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

The Ruler of the Universe is a man living in a small shack on a world that can only be reached with a key to an unprobability field or use of an Infinite Improbability Drive. He does not want to rule the universe and tries not to whenever possible, and therefore is by far the ideal candidate for the job. He has an odd, solipsistic view of reality: he lives alone with his cat, which he has named "The Lord" even though he is not certain of its existence. He has a very dim view of the past, and he only believes in what he senses with his eyes and ears (and doesn't seem too certain of that, either): anything else is hearsay, so when executive-types visit to ask him what he thinks about certain matters, such as wars and the like, he tells them how he feels without considering consequences. As part of his refusal to accept that anything is true, or simply as another oddity, "he talked to his table for a week to see how it would react." He does sometimes admit that some things may be more likely than others – e.g. that he might like a glass of whiskey, which the visitors leave for him.

Quotes from the Ruler

"Fish come from far away, or so I'm told. Or so I imagine I'm told. When the men come, or when in my mind the men come in their six black shiny ships do they come in your mind too? What do you see, kitty? And when I hear their questions, all their many questions do you hear questions? Perhaps you just think they're singing songs to you. Perhaps they are singing songs to you and I just think they're asking me questions. Do you think they came today? I do. There's mud on the floor, cigarettes and whisky on my table, fish in your plate and a memory of them in my mind. And look what else they've left me. Crosswords, dictionaries and a calculator. I think I must be right in thinking they ask me questions. To come all that way and leave all these things just for the privilege of singing songs to you would be very strange behaviour. Or so it seems to me. Who can tell, who can tell."

Ruler:     Hello? 
Ford Prefect:    Er, excuse me, do you rule the Universe?
Ruler:     I try not to. Are you wet?
Ford Prefect:    Wet! Well, doesn't it look as if we're wet?
Ruler:    That's how it looks to me, but how you feel about it might be a different matter. If you find warmth makes you feel dry you'd better come in.

The Ruler of the Universe is an example of a Solipsist.

A Solipsist is someone who believes that that only one's own mind, alone, is sure to exist. Solipsism as an epistemological position holds that knowledge of anything outside one's own mind is unsure. The external world and other minds cannot be known, and might not exist outside the mind.

Zarniwoop:  But don't you see that people live or die on your word?
Ruler:    It's nothing to do with me, I am not involved with people. 
The Lord knows I am not a cruel man.
Zarniwoop:    Ah! You say . . . the Lord! You believe in . . .
Ruler:    My cat. I call him the Lord. I am kind to him.
Zarniwoop:  All right. How do you know he exists? How do you know he knows you to be kind, or enjoys what you think of as your kindness?
Ruler:    I don't. I have no idea. It merely pleases me to behave in a certain way to what appears to be a cat. What else do you do? Please I am tired.

This is an interesting view on the way the Universe works. ow do you know that anything else exists. You feel things only because your mind tells you you do. You experience things based on what your mind experiences.

Gorgias (of Leontini)

Solipsism is first recorded with the Greek pre-socratic sophist, Gorgias (c. 483–375 BC) who is quoted by the Roman skeptic Sextus Empiricus as having stated:
  1. Nothing exists;
  2. Even if something exists, nothing can be known about it; and
  3. Even if something could be known about it, knowledge about it can't be communicated to others.
Much of the point of the Sophists was to show that "objective" knowledge was a literal impossibility.

How do we know that the world we live in is not a manifestation of our minds, or that anyone else truly exists? 

The foundations of solipsism are in turn the foundations of the view that the individual's understanding of any and all psychological concepts (thinking, willing, perceiving, etc.) is accomplished by making analogy with his or her own mental states; i.e., by abstraction from inner experience. And this view, or some variant of it, has been influential in philosophy since Descartes elevated the search for incontrovertible certainty to the status of the primary goal of epistemology, whilst also elevating epistemology to "first philosophy".

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