Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Kristopher Rollins: The Metaphysics of Reality with Concepts by Kant, Schopenhauer, and Hegel.


On one particularly spooky Halloween night, I experienced a terror both pure and real. Faced with the very real possibility of losing my loved one, I lived several hours in an alternate reality. Today, my reality is that she lived. That night I lived in a nightmare realm where she died. It was not the actual reality, but the pain was real. My sadness felt real. So, if my feelings cannot be trusted, what can I do to prove reality?

Firstly, I chose to survey the class about reality. I asked questions about creatures, colors, God, and even the dwarf planet Pluto. The results did not provide a concrete reality, and in fact, suggested that there may be no reality. This clashed with much of what I assumed to be true, and so I turned to greater minds than my own. Minds that didn't have Playstation 4s to distract them from the big questions in life.

Immanuel Kant - http://www.iep.utm.edu/kantmeta/
And the Philosophy Bites YouTube Video: http://youtu.be/wVGyjnnb0aQ

Using the most popular metaphor regarding Kant's works on Metaphysics, we experience the world through our spectacles, a kind of mental structuring. Since we cannot remove these spectacles, we cannot ever experience reality; we can only experience our perception of reality. As such, it becomes easier to imagine the variety of answers found in the surveys. If none of us can experience the color of a shirt but only our perception of the color of the shirt, it makes perfect sense for multiple people to experience the perception of a different color. Can our spectacles be damaged? Can they change forever? What color is that shirt, really? As Kant said, “what things may be in themselves, I know not, and need not know because a thing is never presented to me otherwise than as a phenomena.” He would argue that it does not matter what color the shirt really is; we'll never see the shirt anyway, nor will we ever be able to show the real color of the shirt to any one else.

The idea that we only experience our perceptions of reality doesn't remove the possibility of a reality, though. We can be sure there is a distinction between our perceptions and reality, but we can also be certain that reality does exist some how some where.

Arthur Schopenhauer - http://youtu.be/zNDw9lO8uKg

When considering the reality on which all of our perceptions are based, Schopenhauer claims that we cannot gain objective knowledge. “...on the path of objective knowledge, thus starting from the representation, we shall never get beyond the representation, i.e. the phenomenon. We shall therefore remain at the outside of things: we shall never be able to penetrate into their inner nature, and investigate what they are in themselves, in other words, what they may be by themselves.” This sounds pretty crazy, but given our inability to experience the objective world, makes sense eventually. However, that closes the door on ever figuring out what color that shirt is.

Schopenhauer does, however, come to a possible solution. “Consequently, a way from within stands open to us to that real inner nature of things to which we cannot penetrate from without. It is, so to speak, a subterranean passage, a secret alliance, which, as if by treachery, places us all at once in the fortress that cannot be taken by attack from without.” We can't ever really know what the objective world is like because we are separate from it. We can, however, know what we are like, because we exist within ourselves.

If we can conclude anything about ourselves exists objectively, then it is fair to conclude that it exists for all living things. Schopenhauer claims that the thing that exists objectively within all things is the desire for life and explains, “Everything presses and strives towards existence... Let any one consider this universal desire for life, let him see the infinite willingness, facility, and exuberance with which the will to live presses impetuously into existence under a million forms everywhere and at every moment... In such phenomena, then, it becomes visible that I am right in declaring that the will to live is that which cannot be further explained, but lies at the foundation of all explanation.” If all living things are an expression of the desire for life, then all our perceptions are based on this same desire for life. I believe this explains the different answers given about best pet/transportation. Our perception of each being as the best is a reflection of our will to live and our desire for life. Furthermore, each of these creatures is represented in the world due to its own desire for life, even if it is a fictional creation of another mind also striving with the will to live. Since all things are an expression of the desire for life, and all of our perceptions are based on that same desire for life, we can assume that our perceptions of reality are mostly accurate. As each of our lives have been lead by this same desire, we should expect no different.

Hegel - http://philosophybites.com/2010/04/robert-stern-on-hegel-on-dialectic.html

While Hegel did not use the terms thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, they seem to be pretty popular, and I think we'll just keep right on using them. Hegel tells us that the from the contradiction of the thesis and the antithesis, we can find a synthesis, which we can hope is the truth. If we accept that our experience of our perceptions of the objective world are fairly correct, then Hegel offers a solution for understanding different perceptions of the same objects. While many people may claim that the shirt is blue, many other people conflict this by claiming the shirt is dark blue. By examining that both claims can be equally correct, we form a synthesis that the shirt is blue, but not bright blue. Our desire to live may drive each of us to restructure our spectacles in such a way as to avoid conflict, rendering the observation of the shirt similar to the group. Thus we have found some truth as to the color of the shirt, so long as no antithesis exists. If one does, we can hope, as Hegel would, to find a further synthesis.

So, it would seem that our individual realities are the subjective experience of the unknowable objective world that we all assume we agree upon until someone suggests otherwise based on their own perceptions caused by their will to live. Then, through conflict or compromise, we must form a new subjective perception of the experience that is the objective world.



Now rest. 
               Think no more on metaphysics.
                                                                 Insanity lies down that road.

1 comment:

  1. Rather than abandon the concept of a singular reality, I'd prefer to put it this way: there are endlessly-multiple embodied perspectives and interpretations of reality, each of which latches onto a small portion thereof; reality just is the composite, inclusive set of all those (actual and possible) perspectives. We'll likely never achieve total unanimity of agreement concerning the whole of reality, but it remains possible (or at least plausible and worth seeking) to carve out areas of inter-subjective agreement. Thus, in addition to the old familiar categories of objectivity and subjectivity, let us add inter-subjectivity as the crucial sanity-saving alternative to both. Metaphysics doesn't have to make you crazy.

    Enjoyed your survey and presentation, even though I don't agree that it demonstrated the disappearance of reality!

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