Saturday, September 22, 2012

The great illusions of Truth and Reason:

"I've no idea what you are talking about. I'm trapped in this body and can't get out." -RadioHead

The old school will tell you that humans are the only animals with the gift of "rationality." Scientists use this supernal virtue to hypothesize and theorize. Lawyers are on a quest to find the "Reasonable Person." Ayn Rand calls it "Man's basic virtue," the source of all his other virtues. 

But I propose the antithesis: that humans are the only irrational form of life on the planet. All other life forms appear to function with efficient purpose to fulfill the necessities of existence. But we need more than necessities. It is this irrationality that guides us, shapes our perceptions, and pushes our species forward or backwards; reason is a farce, a grand illusion constructed by pompous megalomaniacs.

We find that humans are only able to absorb input through their senses and limited to expressing ideas through verbal and physical communication. We are all trapped in our bodies, and checked by the competencies of our senses. All the knowledge and awareness of reality that we possess comes to us through vibrations in the air funneled through our ears; taste bud receptors reacting to chemicals in our food and drink; reflections in the light spectrum absorbed by our eyes; textures felt by our hands. All of these elements come together to be processed in our brain. This idea is called SolipsismEssentially, it acknowledges that we reside in mutually exclusive universes only interacting with each other through superficial verbal and physical contact, which in itself are inputs processed and filtered through our individual senses. According to Solipsists, this process is the only thing we can be sure of that truly exists. 

Philosopher, Thomas Baldwin explains that, “states of consciousness are in fact, and not only in possibility, the only things which exist absolutely.” This egocentric perspective accepts that humans are constantly bombarded by the inputs of their environment, but it presumes that the individual self is in control of processing and reacting to these inputs with objective rationality derived completely from the self. To the extreme, we consider the Cartesian proposal that the inputs of the environment could potentially be mere constructions of our own minds, and that there is no physical reality at all. 

But this idea certainly doesn't conform to my rationality. If all of reality is derived from the self then why can't I control it like I do in my dreams? Why can't I fly, or shoot laser beams from my ass, or be as rich as Mitt Romney? I am but a victim of fate, locked up in a cosmic chain reaction. I can't move the world. I am just a small creature inhabiting it.

I concede, we are constructing reality through our individual thought process, but the inputs we are given to process are supplied by our environment. Because we are humans and thus, social learners. Our knowledge comes from society. Society gives us words and symbols to decipher. If our perception of reality is constructed on an individual basis and derived from our senses then our interpretations regarding the exact definitions of words are equally individualized.

With a degree of separation, our understanding of reality - of the entire universe - is completely reliant on these compressions, called words. We describe and understand our world with these labels. But we all see them a little bit differently. 

"Words are but the skin of a living thought." Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

That is why most arguments usually boil down to definition. What does it mean when one says God? or Liberal? or Freedom? Words do not function alone; they are built up with context, and the context is supplied by the society we inhabit, but yet again we are left to individually decipher that context. 

That is why most of the time, objectivity is a forced effort, an unreachable horizon. I cannot escape the cultural constructions in my brain. My ethno and egocentrisms. As much as I would like to admit that I'm not a racist or a homophobe, or a chauvinist, or a war monger, or a consumerist, or just an asshole in general, I am a product of my environment. I'm stuck being human and with all the shortcomings that come with it. I was born into a society with a history and a value system. So, how do we abandon the primitive ideas?

But therein lies another question, If I am a mere product of the societal values of my inhabitance. Is there any universal truth? Is there such a thing as human nature? Or is this just another ideological illusion created by the discourse of society? And if so, couldn't the paragons of evil in our so called nature be abandoned just as easily as they were acquired?

I accept that my perceptions of reality are shaped by the ideologues of my society, but how did society develop these ideologues to begin with? Where do the stories come from - the tropes, the archetypes, and the narratives? What is the process of etymology? How does it occur? 

The stories that shape our ideologues seem to come from individuals wrestling with their own current place in their own current society - an individual's own rationalization of the stories they have been force fed throughout their lives. So, as each former generation grapples with the issues of their time they create a new discourse for the following generation to grapple with and this process continues forcing the evolution of the human intellect. 

Yet, I must consider that if all my beliefs are mere ideologues and constructions from the past, maybe they developed with reason. Maybe religion, gender roles, and economic systems developed for reasons and purposes that I will never fully understand. Comparatively to the extent that I could never understand time beyond concepts of moments and decades.

This is the never-ending struggle of the writer: the endless task of explaining yourself - explaining or defending your vantage point of reality. 

Here I am now, and this is how I currently see things. 9-22-12 -Jerrod

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