Posts Tagged ‘Knowledge’

h1

The Great Gig in the Sky

June 9, 2009

“I think its time we compiled a list of places that we shouldn’t go.” – Maximo Park.

So here I sit, listening to Pink Floyd and Jazz music. I mindlessly go from thought to thought, and occasionally write. Yet as each thought rises from my mind it becomes too vague to exist outside me, and it dissipates. To grasp at it, is to destroy it outright, to let it go, is to let it drift away into the abyss of the physical world. I am here again, at the point I always come to, the point of reflecting on the mirror’s surface, the knowledge of knowledge, the knowledge of self.

In the name of unquenchable desire for knowledge many realms of thought have been explored and perhaps invented using this vague ancient defense as validation. Yet, as we focus our telescopes on the sky and trail our microscopes across strange alien fungi, we forget where knowledge comes from, to where it goes, and why we desire it to begin with.

We desire knowledge because we desire things like us – we desire ourselves. This is why we cherish such qualities as freedom and equality – the ability to make one’s self and to make others be like you. The greatest scientific discoveries in the world have always been immediately followed with questions that escape the realm of science. Until recently, this was a shame to even scientists.

Yet, this post is not an attack on science (like most of my others), it is instead an attack on everything – perhaps out of some metaphysical angst that must manifest itself as anger in order to make my feeble flawed soul feel empowered like some ancient Greek warrior. But none the less, I lash out violently at the entirety of my generation, in the process scourging myself.

How oft I failed to stop and understand my own argumentation. How oft have I walked the tight-rope between logic and emotion claiming clemency from either attack on the basis of its counter point. I am, after all, a lingual illusionist. The David Blaine of philosophers. The Criss Angel of poetics. Have I garnered anything but applause from my audience, who seeing the trick are convinced of magic, yet go home knowing that it can’t be true – despite any emotional response.

Just like everyone else when I finally settle back upon myself I cannot put a finger on where I am. (Anyone who tells you differently is one of two things. A liar, or an idiot). Yet, like most people I still claim a ‘selfhood’ to which I am obligated to be ‘genuine’. The tension between these two ideas gives the birth of such beautiful concepts as freedom, free will, and choice. I am concrete that changes. The result is the amazing ability to stroke the passions regardless of logic, and then collapse back into a world of 1+1 justifications. Proof. Poof.

The greatest pleasures arise from this tension and furthermore by this tension is magnified like an echo chamber. This equality of opposites within our souls allows the passions to win just often enough to make us miss it when its gone. Then in its victorious return it is all the more glorious. Furthermore, I am not entirely sure that this is a necessarily bad thing, but rather a misdirected good. Part of me wants to embrace this passionate side and perfect its music – while another part, the equality of reason, demands I embrace something “higher” – an emotion that is not without its own pleasure.

The result of continued friction and tension is, of course, orgasm. The release of the self in favor of one or the other. In the release there is always simultaneous guilt and pleasure, immortality and death, love and hate. The person is either truest or most false in the midst of this orgasm wherein the ‘pure’ form of the two sides is most dominant. But in so doing, in so stepping into purity, we have betrayed the things that got us there – the tension of two opposites. So have we become more pure by dissolving one side in favor of the other – or have we become less human because we have too much clarity. Perhaps we add this to the list of places we shouldn’t go. Perhaps we draw a map and mark it with an x. Perhaps we just sit here and listen to The Great Gig in the Sky.

Advertisements
h1

What I Know Part VI – Gettin’ Organizized

December 23, 2008

Organization, so far as I can tell, is the way of determining the order of things. “Good” organization or rather “properly functioning” organization would be good order. Yet such ethical implications are far from absolute knowledge at this point. By ‘good’ I must measure something important to me, and me alone, at the moment. ‘Good’ organization should provide ‘good’ order and ‘good’ order is determined by the level of relationship I can have with that thing. Organization then, so far as it can fit into the ontology I have developed, is related to relationship and the ordering therein.

My early understanding of things left out a very important possibility – the existence of indivisible wholes. A whole that is not parts but merely a whole is not a product of itself, its parts, and its organization – it is merely what it is since it has no parts to be organized. We can see that this is logically imperative because eventually a part can only be composed of itself – think of prime numbers, zero, and electrons. The existence of such structures adds a nuance to this entire unfolding philosophy.

So what then of organization in terms of my ‘self’? Organization is the principle that my internal relationships are said to exist in. It is the order and proportion of body, its parts, and the organization of those parts into the whole. Yet, this structure does not appear to fully embody my person. My arms being joined to the greater whole does not allow me to understand the main impetus for my being in the world – thought.

Once again we return to perception. I know my body through the perceptions that it appears within. I do not know it’s existence absolutely, like my mind, but rather through perceptions that can, and have been, easily manipulate, confused, and distorted. It, my body, does fall under the category of the organization layed forth for it has itself, parts, and a whole which comprises all parts but it still seems distant to me, confusing, and even foreign at  times – being in contradiction to my will.

So let us back away from the issue momentarily. A whole is either composed of parts or is a simple whole. Some parts are a whole that is composed of parts. Some parts are simply wholes. There is at least one whole that does not become a part of any greater whole – that whole can be titled truth, God, meaning, purpose, universe but for this collection of thoughts at this time, it will be called Being.

In the world of parts and wholes two extremes become evident. The universe at its base is composed of indivisible wholes that then become parts to form wholes that are composed of parts. Eventually all parts and wholes assemble what can be called being. Those parts and wholes could be finite or infinite, great number or simply one thing, but the key is that the world of Others appears to me this way.

Somewhere in this spectrum is me since I am not everything (my perception tells me this) and hence cannot be the one whole of Being, nor am I a simple whole (at least according to my perception) so I cannot be at the opposite end. Hence I am most likely composed of parts some of which might be wholes, and I also contribute to a greater Being (at this point merely defined as Self and Other).

The list of parts that is evident to me so far in this evaluation are: my body; its parts, its organization; my mind: perceptions, its thoughts, and the relationship between thoughts and perceptions: and my ‘self’ who is best described as the summation and interplay of my body and mind. This ‘self’ is mostly known through desires, fears, and certain urges that appear neither immediately rational nor bodily – the desire to name and categorize being one already discussed.

My body, like all other material objects that appear to exist around me, is a whole composed of parts with an organization. Organization on the other had has no parts to be organized but is rather a principle and is a whole within itself.

My mind also seems composed of many things and is not a simple whole. It, for instance, can doubt. Doubting is a sign that internal cohesiveness is not a simple unity but rather interplay of at least two parts (one which believes, and one which doubts). My mind also seems to be that which perceives, that which analyzes, and then that which either believes or doesn’t and then doubts those decisions. Already our understanding of the mind requires further explanation, but such will be set aside for later. For now it is important to note its many parts and what such a whole it is despite these parts.

Then there is this third thing that until this point has only be talked about loosely. It is imperative that I reiterate that I am not outlining a system of belief for everyone but rather for my ‘self’ – such a desire to write, to think, or to do this rather than that is the precise quality I am talking about. My ‘self’ is that which I consider me – opposed to the concept that I own my thoughts, own my body, but I AM me. This thing, as far as its composition, is elusive to say the best. It is the least doubtable because it is at least composed of my doubts – and therefore exists. Yet they are not me, they are MY doubts, and I can distance myself from them even contradict them and even, despite there persuasive powers, I can choose to believe regardless. Such an investigation, one that defines my ‘self’, I feel is impossible since I have no desire to ‘prove’ my ‘self’ to anyone I will merely continuing studying the phenomena that surround it.

So we return to this world: Being is relationship between (at least) Self and Other in terms of my existence. As a self I am fairly aware that I have a mind that thinks, perceives, analyzes, believes (or not), and finally doubts those beliefs. I also have a body. This body seems to impose upon me a list of needs; it also appears to affect my thoughts, perceptions, analysis, and beliefs. Though it is still doubtable that such an object actually exists – it still certainly persists in the illusion. These two parts (which appeared to part of me) seem to relate to the point where they affect each other. They too also seem to be composed of parts that affect them. This relationship between parts and wholes seems to resonate throughout the entire universe in everything I think or I think I see. So much so that even Being can said to be a relationship of Self and Other. The above thoughts I consider impossible to doubt for they all generate from knowable preconditions AND find external confirmation AS WELL as remain internally consistent to this point. Such may not be your definition of doubt… but such is mine and like all philosophic quests into this region one must begin with certain axioms.

h1

What I Know Part IV – Restatement

December 11, 2008

Thus again I return to the subject of relationship. I know through relationship. They affect me and therefor must be ‘real’ is some way. Whether they are illusion, dreams, fictions, or merely misunderstandings matters very little because they affect me. I know they are outside me, they affect me, and they operate outside my will on occasions.

I also know that I am in relationship with myself. I know my conciousness absolutely, I know my body partially, and I know those things outside me only via the external relation above. Though I know my conciousness absolutely and my body only paritally I do know the affect my body has on my conciousness absolutely. Such affects as hunger, exhaustion, thirst, and pain are totally real. There causal relation to my body is suspect but they seem to be connected and they are definetly real. Thus even as I relate to the things around me I also relate to myself. This ontology of relationship cannot be understated if we are to progress.

The primary mode of my understanding is conciousness but it can only truely know itself. My secondary mode of understanding is not logic (as some have proposed) but relationship. The ability for things to affect my conciousness that are outside of my conciousness or my will is absolutely knowable and is a sign that there are things outside of me that can nevertheless relate to me. These affects are also absolutely knowable for they alter all other things I perceive and think.

It isn’t until the third mode of understanding that things move from an absolute frame to a subjective frame. This is the introduction of reason as a mode of understanding. Reason, in so much as it is part of my absolute conciousness has always been naturally with me since the beginning and as such is a clear tool for understanding – though it can still be doubted.

Thus the construction of the world I know must start within myself, then through my relationship with others, and finally what we arrive at must be rationally coherent but no completely reasonable (if that makes sense). Since reason is my third mode of understanding and of the three so far presented the only doubtable one it must be subject to the first two modes.

Thus our next conceivable step is to apply relationship to logical understanding and to see wherein we arrive.

h1

What I know – Part III – I Am Not Whole

December 8, 2008

There are two types of knowing. (I know myself absolutely because I am inside myself. I know the Other through perception, among other things, and this seems to be more disconnected. These two types of knowledge account for one hundred percent of my reality.)

Two different types of knowledge means two different worlds. (The fact that I know these two things in different ways means they are ontologically different for some reason. In this case I will draw the line at mind and body; for even my body is part of this Other in so much everything I know about my body is through the senses. However the ‘body’ aspect also extends to all bodies outside my mind that present themselves to my mind.)

There is a separation between the body I associate with me, and other bodies. I am closer to my own body and know it more than other bodies though they share the same concealed nature.

Despite these different types of knowledge my mind constantly wants to associate my body with it. Likewise it also wants to associate my surroundings with it. (The natural impetus to recoil from fright, or to laugh when tickled, or to move out of the way of a speeding train. All of these things our mind demands out of its association with the body and association with bodies outside my body.)

Thus when I say ‘me’ what I mean is two things. I mean primarily my mind but in so much as I am my mind I cannot doubt that my body (which gives the appearance of being attached to my mind) must also be part of me. Even if it is a fiction, an illusion, or a deception its affects on my mind must be weighed and measured as a ‘thing’ for all intents and purposes. Thus, we come to a mind \ body separation all too familiar.

Yet there is a third thing which arises necessarily from these two things. I cannot fathom, and therefore cannot postulate, being myself without having a body. I pretend to, but in reality I do not know. Likewise I cannot imagine being in a body and not feeling the contradiction that my mind imposes about reality as it appears and reality as it is. Though I see bodies all the time that do not posses this knowledge of contradiction (seemingly) and I find no mind in a dead body, yet see no reason why immaterial things would cease to be. Thus I arrive at a threefold me. I am a mind (soul), I am a body, and I am a combination of the two. Sometimes I feel more me in the mind, sometimes in the body (even if it is an illusion), and lastly sometimes I feel the most me when these things are in union.

Disclaimer: The argument of thought as a process does not enter into this debate. It is important that the project I am undergoing be untainted by spiritual, scientific, or philosophic dispositions. Since we are starting from foundations of experience and knowledge I cannot apply such a concept at the moment for it is truly a mystery to me even in the fullness of mind to think that thinking could be a mere process occurring from completely dead matter. It’s possible, like all things, but asserting it at this point of the argument would serve no purpose of investigation other than to support an already established world-view rather than achieve a new understanding.

h1

What I know – Part I – Epistemological Basis.

December 3, 2008

I exist. (you’ll have to trust me on this one)

Something outside me exists. (I know this because even as things happen around me, they happen out of my control. These things are not necessarily as they appear, nor do they necessarily have any ‘being’ attached to them, but they do assert themselves somehow rather forcefully onto my perception.)

The things outside me interact with me somehow. (Despite their truest nature the things around me impose upon me feelings that are more controlled by their presence than by my mind which is a sign that they are not of me but rather outside me and interacting with me. Often these feelings can be ignored, processed, or even overcome but that such feats must be performed in order to subvert these inputs is a sign of their existence outside me.)

Relationship exists as an ontology. (Being in relation to other things is a way of being in the world. Specifically it is my way of being in the world. It says something rather important about each thing now called the self and the other. By some power within each they can expand, confront, or relate to others.)

The Other seems broken into separate others. (Not everything outside of me has the same effect or relation to me)

Of the others there are some more like me, less like me, and not like me at all. Within my power I have the ability to recognize this and define these things by giving names to them. Not only does this seem natural but important. (Of the others around me some seem to have will while others seem inactive. Some make noises while others do not. This of course is our inward most understanding of life outside of us.)

There is life outside of us. Though our understanding of it is not the same as its understanding of itself. (Of the others there is a class that seems to interact with the others in similar ways as me. The things I notice about myself as embodied seem to also be true about them. To this class of thing we give the term ‘life’ as either a determinate class or as a class with various levels.)

Of the living things there are those more like me than others and some that I can even communicate with. (There are others that seem to speak in the same language that I use in my head, or can relate to me using the images in my head, or that can affect my emotions because they understand the same emotion. To these living things I give the name family, tribe, or even human in general.)

Through the shared experience with these others I come to understand them as selves that stand outside me. (They seem to share what I experience so intimately while simultaneously so differently that I cannot doubt they too have what is inside me and hence I understand them as a self as I do my ‘self’.)

Relationship between my ‘self’ and a living being is fundamentally different when it is a relationship between my ‘self’ and a non-living thing. (As much as I can perceive my relation to a desk is different than another living thing, is different than another human.)

Thus when a living thing becomes a non-living thing it is noticed by my ‘self’ as an ontologically different relationship. (When I am near a corpse I eventually come to learn that its being, so much as to say that which presents itself to me through my senses as the ‘other’, is different without changing its material.)

h1

We, too, know how to split ourselves but only into the flesh and a broken whisper.

March 31, 2008

Questions take two forms: those which aim to destroy and those which aim to create. They both claim to love wisdom, but only one does. Man, on the other hand can love one but not both. If he even claims to be a lover of both then he must be revealed as a simpleton whose hopes outweigh his ability to understand reality. This is the paradigm which our children are raised – to believe that all questions have the same purpose and can be loved equally is to fail to understand the basic human instincts which first made us speak – the ability which eventually led us to questions and our love of them. Questions like all things are motivated by desire, and those desires taint, shape, and distort the form and answers of any questions. Hence we have armed the next generation with a blissful ignorance about the inherent unity of language – a unity that doesn’t exist outside the theoretical imaginations of bookworms and academics.

h1

For In Sleep What Dreams May Come: The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

February 5, 2008

“You see, though nothing mattered to me, I could feel pain, for instance. If anyone had struck me it would have hurt me. It was the same morally: if anything very pathetic happened, I should have felt pity just as I used to do in old days when there were things in life that did matter to me.” The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, Fyodor Dostoevsky.

The Dream of a Ridiculous Man is a story about a man who, while on his way to commit suicide, comes across a young girl who pleads with him to save her mother, who is dying. The unnamed narrator disregards the girl because of his terminal decision and returns to his apartment to commit suicide. However, his suicide is preempted by confusing thoughts caused by this moral and ethical decision. His inevitable suicide becomes questionable: “And no doubt I should have shot myself if it had not been for that little girl”

The narrator’s original thoughts revolved around nihilism and the inevitable return to nothingness. For the narrator, death is nothingness, and his suicide will return him to that state in roughly two hours. If such were the case, then what impulse would make him care about this girl? Or her mother? When in two hours he would be nothing.

The question at stake is the ethical ramification of a lack of metaphysics. In reality there is nothing different between the narrator’s suicide, in two hours, and his death in several years. Furthermore, he could’ve been struck dead on the way to his apartment. The only thing that changes is his choice in the matter. Nihilism removes the differences between suicide and natural death except for choice. Hence we shouldn’t concentrate on his suicide, but rather what death looks like under this condition. If we do not have a metaphysics understanding then an ethical understanding is impossible, according to the narrator.

“The question was an idle one, but I was vexed. I was vexed at the reflection that if I were going to make an end to myself that night, nothing in life ought to have mattered to me”. Here the narrator uses the word ought implying a certain expectation. If you ought to do something, then there must be a reason by which it is said that you ought rather than simply could. In other words, according to some preset standard the narrator makes the claim if A then B ought to be. If life were to end, and so with it all of existence then it ought to be true that nothing should matter to him. Unfortunately for the narrator, it does matter, and hence he must rethink his nihilism, his death, and the existence of the afterlife on the grounds that blunt human experience travels against it.

“I stamped and shouted at the unhappy child as though to say – not only do I feel no pity, but even if I behave inhumanly and contemptibly, I am free to, for in another two hours everything will be extinguished”. Finally we enter onto the issue of freedom and responsibility. Under such a strange proposition it is even confusing to try to grasp what ‘inhumanly’ means, doesn’t such a claim imply that there is something beyond man than sheer freedoms toward which his behavior ought to be aimed? We know this for the simple fact that narrator says that he is free to act inhumanly BECAUSE everything will be extinguished – there will be nothing to find him responsible. Therefore, despite the narrator’s claim to meaninglessness he still makes ethical claims, like ought, or ‘inhumanly’ although he finds no reason to NOT do them if all will be extinguished. Here the narrator reveals the ethical imperative of responsibility. It is all well and good to speak of fine and noble things but if there is no responsibility then man is ‘free to’ commit whatever act. And since no responsibility on earth can chase one after he is dead, then an idea of a metaphysical reasonability is required for an ethical system under extreme conditions – such as murder suicide.

The narrator reveals the ethical question of modernity – what, why, and most importantly how do we know that we are ethically responsible to anyone but ourselves? Since all knowledge filters through perception, then, on what grounds can we make any ethical claim about any entity outside of us? Furthermore, if all will be perish, then on what grounds does any life form say that it should or ought to act in any particular way – if such actions have no reward or punishment through eternity? The narrator lays out the paradox of the man on the moon:

 “For instance, a strange reflection suddenly occurred to me, that if I had lived before on the moon or on Mars and there had committed the most disgraceful and dishonorable action and had there been put to such shame and ignominy as one can only conceive and realize in dreams, in nightmares, and if, finding myself afterwards on earth, I were able to retain the memory of what I had done on the other planet and at the same time knew that I should never, under any circumstances, return there, then looking from the earth to the moon – should I care or not?” 

Although the narrator phrases this as a concern for conscious rather than strictly an ethical concern, it is my belief he equates the two. It is, after all, the uncontrollable pity he feels for the girl that he didn’t help that thrusts him into this paradox. It is his feelings of guilt that bring forward the question of guilt in his mind. The only reason to question the axiom of ‘I ought not to care if my existence is to end’ is the real fact that he somehow feels bad despite his ‘knowledge’ to the contrary.

This realization brings back the understanding of the word ‘human’: “I saw clearly that so long as I was still a human being and not nothingness, I was alive and so could suffer, be angry and feel shame at my actions”. Or in other words: being human means not being ethically neutral. Shame, if natural, implies a natural ethic because it means feeling as though one’s actions were bad despite good consequence: like beating up a fifth grader for his lunch money – when you’re 35. Or when you spit on an old person for no reason. These are shameful acts – by nature; if shame can be said to be natural.

Emotions know things reason cannot. Emotions also misunderstand things that reason understand very well – they are not the only source of ethics, but they are one of many. This, we will find, is linked with man’s political nature which ultimately points to a higher being outside of mankind which puts all ethical decisions into an eternal and endless context, thus solving the paradox of the ridiculous man. We will find that such a conclusion is hinted at through the nature of man especially in light of his fellow mammals, and finally, we will also see how this understanding is denied inherently by the modern democratic movement and why this may lead to a ‘bad culture or bad people’. But first we enter into the actual dream of the ridiculous man, our narrator. For as he lies and contemplates the questions of ethics, humanity, and metaphysical ontology he falls into a deep slumber…

To be continued.