Friday, July 23, 2010

Subjectivity and the Unconfirmed World

Let's talk about existence! It can be a boring thing to debate, often left to the dusty old philosophy professors with nothing better to do. It's a futile argument, because nobody can really prove, to the satisfaction of anyone else, the veracity of any one viewpoint. The debate about our existence, the reasons for it, the hows and whatfors of it, will probably go on as long as humanity does. Is there any point to it, though?

I would argue that there is not. Now, this is hardly a unique view, but hear me out. The reason that the debate really doesn't matter is because the debate itself might not actually exist. Same for those dusty philosophy professors, same for you and me. There is no proof that any of it exists. The problem with anything that claims otherwise is that it is all subjective, and therefore subject to the whims, inclinations, and instincts of the person who thinks it. Obviously, for those of you who believe in it, there is science in its many forms, which purports to tell us about the nature of the universe. Unfortunately, that noble discipline which we would all like to believe is objective is, in fact, as subjective as everything else--which is to say, quite so. Sure, you can read the latest scientific journal and read the direct observations made about an experiment, but you're seeing this information through double-lenses of subjectivity. First, there is the scientist, or group of scientists, that performs the experiment. Of course they are trained to give their honest, "objective" view, but in the end the observations they make are just that: observations. Observations made by malleable, subjective human beings, interpreted through the senses of human beings, which almost never overlap nicely with the senses of other human beings. For instance, I am "color-blind", which means that I don't see the same colors others see. Sensory perception is different for each person, which makes any observations made by someone other than you instantly suspect. Then, of course, there is the fact that you, as the person reading the scientific journal, are using your notoriously subjective sensory perception to observe the words on the page. And then you are interpreting them, using your knowledge and world experiences, including your conception of the language you are reading in.

Beyond that, however, there is the further problem of the world you are reading that scientific journal in. See, as I've already discussed, the very senses with which you perceive the world are inherently subjective, and therefore any conclusions you draw from the can only be held as objective truth for you. Think about it this way, if it helps: each person has their own universe, defined by their sensory perception of the world, which is different from everyone else's. Because everyone's worldview is equally subjective, there is no way of knowing who's is right, or indeed if there is a correct way of seeing the world.

"But, Philip!" you might say, were you still following me in this ridiculous enterprise, "This is a ridiculous enterprise! Other people see things the same way as me, or damn near the same way. I've interacted with them!" To which I say "Pshaw!" And also, "No, you haven't." What you've done, you see, is believed that you've interacted with them. You're subjective worldview tells you that you have. For all you know, everyone else is a figment of your imagination. And for all I know, you are a figment of mine.

What's the point of all this? I'm not sure. But here's what I want you to take away: whenever someone tells you something is an absolute truth, run screaming. Because he or she is a crazy person.

((I just said something as an absolute. AAAAAHHH.))

Da Baron