The Alchemist

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The Alchemist

Postby Twilight » Thu Nov 14, 2002 7:11 pm

hey everyone. I'm kinda new here and I was just wondering if you guys could post some messages about your views on solpsism and illusion. It's for something I'm collecting. There was this awesome post about how the dead man who is dying is actually awaking but I can't seem to find it again. Anything like that. I've read alot of the posts on here and you guys are unbelievable smart and I'm not just saying that. Anyone read the Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo? Best book ever, I recomend it. I could go into it but it would take pages and pages. Thanks everyone!!! :D

"Magic is the first and last religion of the world" Clive Barker
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Postby Magius » Fri Nov 15, 2002 5:57 am

Solipcism,
well since you read most of the posts on this board you probably happened upon my post of Phyro, no not the guy obsessed with fire, but the true solipcist. Well anyway, just in case I will reiterate it again, Phyro believed as all solipcists do that only he exists, what use to be his friends only ridiculed him. One of them challenged his view and said "Phyro, if you are so sure that only you exist then go sit on that road and when a horse carriage comes around the corner see what happens to you..." so he did. A horse and carriage went by, didn't see him sitting on the road, road over and killed Phyro. So ended the great view of solipcism. It is a dangerous topic, one that does more harm then good. Luckily Descartes was aware of the Phyro incident and treaded carefully through his conception of radical doubt, making sure not to step into the same bottomless pit.

On illusion,
hmmmmnnn...difficult elaboration. It is possible that everything is an illusion as the movie The Matrix illustrates beautifully. But there is always something that we need to hold onto, as our foundation, just as Descartes didn't doubt certain things in life so that he was not harmed by hunger, pain, society, etc. He left a foundation from which he could live and safely begin his four waves of doubt. Just as in Matrix, people were really living, just not physically. Their brain was always active. So their thought was real, it was real thought about a mistaken identity. A foundation. I believe all the senses can be lied to. I don't believe Descartes stating "if something can deceive you 1% of the time, it can deceive you 99% of the time" is a relevant point. Even though he may be right, there is no way we could live, just like Phyro if we doubted everything. If I doubted my hunger and seized to eat, I would die of starvation. If I doubted my instincts that I was on a high mountain over looking a 300 foot drop and decided to prove to myself it was an illusion, I would die. This doesn't render the idea that it is an illusion invalid, it just means that we have to be careful in proving what is an illusion and what isn't. But even then, we can never be certain. Nothing is perfect, not even math. We are doing the best with what we got so far. Which doesn't really mean a whole hell of a lot, but relates reality in the best way in my opinion.

What's your take?
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Postby JP » Sat Nov 16, 2002 5:54 pm

Luckily Descartes was aware of the Phyro incident and treaded carefully through his conception of radical doubt, making sure not to step into the same bottomless pit.


Yep, good point.

I think it's important to distinguish between the skepticism of Descartes (or even that of Hume) and the solipsism of the Greeks. Solopsism - correct me if my interpretation is wrong here - seems to take the doubt of Cartesian philosophy one step further, where instead of stopping at "the world may not exist" they seem to go on to assume that they can transform this epistemological doubt into a form of skeptical certainty: that the world, definitively, does not exist.

Of course, Descartes was saved from his skepticism through his faith in the benevolence of the Catholic God, but even if we end his meditations at the point where he postulates a "devil" may be controlling his mind (i.e. before he goes on to justify the existence of God) his skepticism simply amounts to the identification of those things which are epistemologically fallible. The solopsists, on the other hand, presumably reached the same skeptical depths as Descartes (in that it is impossible to prove that the real world exists) but instead of ending here and merely "doubting" the existence of the real world, or identifying how exactly the real world could be doubted (a la Descartes) they seem to use this doubt to breed a sort of certainty that the real world does not exist.

I hope my interpretation of solopsism is correct here, otherwise you may wish to discount what I just said. :)

It is possible that everything is an illusion as the movie The Matrix illustrates beautifully.


But who's to say the world of Morpheus et al isn't the illusory world? Perhaps the Matrix is the real world, but Neo merely suffers from schitzophrenic delusions that throw him into the futuristic world of robots and enslaved humanity. Come to think of it, that realisation would make a great ending to the third of the Matrix movies. :lol:

Anyway, my point is that the distinction between "reality" and "illusion" is quite blurred. One man's reality is another's illusion: how do we go about finding which subjective perspective is the more "true" perspective then?

I don't think we can say that there is a "greater" truth, that remains true in defiance of human experience (unless you're a deist of course). We cannot appeal to a perspective beyond our own: it's a sad fact of the human condition, that the human condition cannot be transcended. The fact is we cannot view the universe through the eyes of another being, we are doomed to uncover what is real for ourselves, whether that leads us down the path of extreme ontological doubt or not.

Perhaps the "real world" is, by some definition of the world, "illusory" but even to this extent it is the only reality we are privy to. I may be dreaming my entire existence, or I may be the puppet of some grand devil, but I don't think that these possibilities make my existence, or my conception of existence in itself (dasein) any less "real". Once again, if there is a grander truth than the one I immediately perceive, and I do not know it, it does not make that "grander truth" real and my "immediate truth" unreal, they merely mark two seperate realities, or, perhaps, two separate conceptions of the same reality.

I don't know, really. Just my thoughts on the matter.

But there is always something that we need to hold onto, as our foundation, just as Descartes didn't doubt certain things in life so that he was not harmed by hunger, pain, society, etc. He left a foundation from which he could live and safely begin his four waves of doubt.


And I suppose that where this foundation is created depends on the individual in question.

I suppose I am Cartesian in the sense that I believe that the foundation of truth is found within - that we would do best to look inwards to uncover our ontic foundation, our justification for our own existence - where as many decide to look outwards, on what they see as a far "greater", more certain foundation than the human condition. I'm thinking specifically about God here, and how people use him to find truth and meaning in their lives (where I instead would prefer to look inwards I should like to think) though in an age of increasing religious apathy (particularly in the west) I think people are starting to look elsewhere for the "foundations" of their existence. Through family, friends, herritage, a-deistic spirituality and - if I can get political - "material possessions" for instance. Buddhism is becoming increasingly popular in the west (perhaps arising as the Hegelian antithesis to capitalistic materialism), and while it actively encourages introspection, it still allows people to filter their potential for self-honesty and self-discovery through a mystical spirituality, that drives people as much away from themselves as it compels them inwards. While I understand that much of the western take on Buddhism involves the incorporation of otherwise unrelated "new-age" practices, Buddhist metaphysics - from my understanding of "orthodox" buddhism - still seems to compel people towards the belief that truth and enlightenment are concepts to be tapped into from "beyond" oneself, much as though truth were an invisible radio wave, and the meditating human an FM radio. In so far as people continue to believe that truth is something that exists in a concrete form beyond their own minds, we will see people consistently either be driven towards existential angst, or towards religion or to some other foundation that is similarly imperminent. In my humble, oh too human opinion, we are not ready to discover the universe until we have gone some way to discovering ourselves.

I think that is why we must be compelled towards the Cartesian conception of the cognito as the basis for all epistemological and ontological enquiry, rather than towards some external source, or - even worse - convince ourselves that there can be no concrete foundation for epistemological enquiry at all, as the solopsists would have us believe. I'm sure I speak for us all when I say "we think. Therefore, we is." 8)

(By the way, I'm listening to Pink Floyd at the moment, so if the post seems a little intense then that's probably the reason why).
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Postby Magius » Sat Nov 16, 2002 8:41 pm

JP stated:
We cannot appeal to a perspective beyond our own: it's a sad fact of the human condition, that the human condition cannot be transcended. The fact is we cannot view the universe through the eyes of another being, we are doomed to uncover what is real for ourselves, whether that leads us down the path of extreme ontological doubt or not.


This resonated very well with me. A long time ago I came up with a philosophy of my own about how there is nothing we can truly know better than those things we come to know ourselves, hence PERSONAL TRUTH is the highest truth whether it is right or wrong. Very much along the same lines as Descartes and Spinoza (well Spinoza thought he could know God even better than himself). Your example of not being able to see things through the eyes of another being reminds of Thomas Nagel's famous "What it's like to be a bat" philosophy. I came to believe this PERSONAL TRUTH to such a degree that I began drawing an outline of a medieval castle wall, onto one of my room walls, with a plaque saying 'PERSONAL TRUTH' in slovak 'Svoja Pravda', my birth tongue. Similarily, Temet Nosce (know thyself) hit home with me when I first saw Matrix.

JP stated:
we are not ready to discover the universe until we have gone some way to discovering ourselves.


Very well said [applause].

JP stated:
I think that is why we must be compelled towards the Cartesian conception of the cognito as the basis for all epistemological and ontological enquiry, rather than towards some external source, or - even worse - convince ourselves that there can be no concrete foundation for epistemological enquiry at all, as the solopsists would have us believe. I'm sure I speak for us all when I say "we think. Therefore, we is."


I do agree with your first LONG sentence, I must say that I find it just as important to look to the external world to find out about oneself. Introspection is great, but it's worthless without knowledge of the external world. Ie. I doubt that a baby newly born with no sensory input from the external world would ever introspect if it were put in a vacuum and somehow kept alive, but had no sensory input. See that is why I believe in personal truth, cause if the external world were so demarcated from us and so objective, as it sounds to be from what you say, then we would all see things the same way exterior to us, and the only thing we wouldn't have a consensus on is feelings which are internal. Furthermore, I believe it is also beneficial to take information from the external world and have it help you to introspect. Lastly, you say "we think, therefore we is" - nice play on words, very creative. But, I'm not sure if you have read that most scholars of Descartes disagree with Descartes notion of "I think therefore, I am" - because looking over Descartes proofs, we can only infer "there is thought, therefore thought exists", but the "I" is something that Descartes didn't prove, atleast not thoroughly. It is normal for each human being to think their thoughts are independant from all others, but Spinoza would say that every thought you have is a part of God, everyones thought is a part of God, so it is all part of the same thing (substance). Furthermore, there is the 'bundle theory' of Buddhism, which you probably heard of, which postulates that there is no "I", each human being is a collection of streams (or strings) that make up the universe. We are all one and the same. Sometimes more strings get tangled up together and some of them get unravelled. Some people have actually advocated the bundle theory as similar to Einsteins theory of the universe being a flat plane. Imagine this plane as a plane made up of strings. The strings are infinitely long, and at certain points overlap or get tangled together.

What's your take?
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Postby Twilight » Sun Nov 17, 2002 12:18 am

"We cannot appeal to a perspective beyond our own"

I definelty agree with JP on that. Each human has a different version of what the truth is (their perspective on life and maybe the meaning of life) and that everyone is correct. Magius I speak Bosnian which is also a Slavik language, are u from Slovakia?

Thanks for your posts
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Postby Magius » Sun Nov 17, 2002 2:09 am

Yes!
Hey, I take it you understood 'Svoja Pravda'. Kewl. I have met many people from Slavik Countries in my life, I find that I can understand almost all of Polish, much of Ukranian, and some of Yugoslavian.
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Postby Twilight » Sun Nov 17, 2002 2:17 am

hey! yeah i can understand that..sovoja means yous in bosnian too..pravda sounds like truth or maybe the real thing. something like that. polish is very semiliar to slovakian and bosnian.. counting is the same too..jedan dva tri cetri pet ses..the accents are missing. do you live there now?
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Postby Magius » Mon Nov 18, 2002 4:48 am

No, I am living happily in Canada. I feel bad about all the floods that have been going on there. Too much poverty from what I hear. High crime. Etc.
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Postby JP » Mon Nov 18, 2002 6:35 am

Magius:

I don't have time to address everything you posted, but just quickly:

Introspection is great, but it's worthless without knowledge of the external world. Ie. I doubt that a baby newly born with no sensory input from the external world would ever introspect if it were put in a vacuum and somehow kept alive, but had no sensory input.


Yep, I agree entirely, and I should have gone to more effort to point that out.

My post was about discovering where we may find our "epistemic foundation", that is, the point from which all epistemological enquiry may begin. I was certaintly not attempting to prespcribe a method via which all truth may be uncovered.

I agree, that introspection on its own will lead to a fairly poorly developed individual. I also agree with your baby analogy, that any human being - deprived of any sensory input whatsoever - will fail to attain any semblance of consciousness. I think that consciousness is "relational" in this sense, that often the only way to be self-aware is through the awareness of some other being or entity.

My point about introspection was that it creates a foundation that allows us to better understand what is true and what is not, though, to be certain, it is not a terrific source of truth in itself.

See that is why I believe in personal truth, cause if the external world were so demarcated from us and so objective, as it sounds to be from what you say, then we would all see things the same way exterior to us, and the only thing we wouldn't have a consensus on is feelings which are internal.


Yep, exactly.

And I think it's this realisation that can only come from introspection. By establishing the cognito as the epistemic foundation, we come to realise that there are as many different ways of viewing the world as there are people. If every human being could properly grasp this point, then I'm sure all the conflicts we see on a grand scale (i.e. war) and even on a day-to-day scale (arguments/fights with others), would disappear. Searching "without" for our epistemic foundation leads, as you say, to a perspective of our universe as static and certain, where we can doubt nothing easily. It seems so ordered, so regimented: yet is that a property of the universe in-itself, or is it a property we give to it in our own mind's eye? By understanding that truth is merely what we make of it - while it doesn't entirely do away with any possibility of "objective" truth - does make us aware of the fallibility of our own perspective, and gives us a greater chance of comprehending what is most likely true, and that which may well be false.

If we take God as our epistemic foundation, on the other hand, then all is certain. The world is as it seems, therefore anyone whose perspective differs with this "certain" conception of the universe is, by default, wrong. We can justifiably go to war with them to protect the one and only truth - or am I taking the issue too far now?

Regardless, I agree with what you're saying. It's all subjective.

But, I'm not sure if you have read that most scholars of Descartes disagree with Descartes notion of "I think therefore, I am" - because looking over Descartes proofs, we can only infer "there is thought, therefore thought exists"


Hmmmm.... interesting point, and not one that I've read/considered.

Still, I suppose it all comes down to how you define the "I". If the "I" amounts to the sum total of all our thoughts, memories and so on (the mind we could say), then I think that Descartes' original statement still rings true, in that thought - in itself - is enough to define one into existence. However, if the "I" goes beyond this internal aspect, then I agree, perhaps the Cartesian cogito is not as self-evident as we may be inclined to think.

Still, I think that in identifying thought as an epistemological certainty, Descartes has still provided a solid foundation to work from. He may not have definitively proved the totality of human experience, but he has still defined the essential part of "being" that cannot be defined out of existence. If it's the only certainty I'm privy to, then I'll take it, regardless of how incomplete it may be. ;)
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Postby Skeptic » Mon Nov 18, 2002 6:37 am

I feel very much enlightened after reading through both of your thoughts(JP's and Magius'). In fact, I am a little upset about having the end of the Matrix series ruined for me. :D (I hadn't thought of that as a possible ending but now that you mention it, it seems inevitable)

But who's to say the world of Morpheus et al isn't the illusory world? Perhaps the Matrix is the real world, but Neo merely suffers from schitzophrenic delusions that throw him into the futuristic world of robots and enslaved humanity. Come to think of it, that realisation would make a great ending to the third of the Matrix movies.


Here are a few of my thoughts that transpired from your discussion. JP makes an argument of introspection while Magius makes an argument towards both introspection and observation of our outer perception. I think that you would both agree that both are necessary for increased enlightenment, but my question is can either or both bring us to a point of perception that excedes that of our natural existential perception? I mean you can only perceive inward so far and you can only perceive outward so far. So what is it exactly that this introspection or outward inspection will ever bring us to? Will you get any further than someone who seeks the greater truth by a different method or are we all left in the same boat of limited perception? and Magius I somewhat agree with your "personal truth" concept but are you suggesting that there is no greater truth than that which you can percieve or are you just suggesting that there is nothing greater that we can perceive than that which we personally perceive?

(You guys are making me think to hard!) :x
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Postby Magius » Tue Nov 19, 2002 5:47 am

Skeptic stated:
Magius I somewhat agree with your "personal truth" concept but are you suggesting that there is no greater truth than that which you can percieve or are you just suggesting that there is nothing greater that we can perceive than that which we personally perceive?


I am not suggesting either. Your error in understanding me is that you have entered "nothing greater". I am simply saying that people who believe their belief or opinion to be 'objective' in some kind of non-spatial and non-temporal realm outside of the universe, like Plato's forms, are ill advised to continue doing so. Each person can only say "I am doing the best with what I got" - and even that is a long shot, cause we can never prove just how much or how little a person is capable of. In the end there is only your personal truth. YOU accept what arguments you want to accept as true, YOU choose to not believe in whatever evidence is presented to you that you don't want to accept. Even if I was to force an idea into you, it would still be your idea from the way you understand the concept. Many may argue that there are simple concepts that everyone on the planet understands in the same way, ie. 1+1=2. Without getting into a long debate about that, I will say that the statement is false. People do have difference conceptions of even the most basic facts, like 1+1=2.
Now, whether there is a greater truth within a rock, or within us yet to come out, or in aliens, or in planets, or in sun - I can't say, cause I don't know, and I can only speculate. So far, as I see it, each one of us has nothing but our own personal truth.

JP stated:
By understanding that truth is merely what we make of it - while it doesn't entirely do away with any possibility of "objective" truth - does make us aware of the fallibility of our own perspective, and gives us a greater chance of comprehending what is most likely true, and that which may well be false.

If we take God as our epistemic foundation, on the other hand, then all is certain. The world is as it seems, therefore anyone whose perspective differs with this "certain" conception of the universe is, by default, wrong. We can justifiably go to war with them to protect the one and only truth - or am I taking the issue too far now?


Your not taking the issue too far, actually I wish you would go further, I would be interested in where the logic will lead you. I agree with your first paragraph. But don't you find it funny, I know I do, just how much of our said to be knowledge is based on GOD? Ie. Look to your constitution and see what it says at the very beginning. Depending on what country you are from, the wording may differ slightly, but generally they all say that they are taking it as an assumption that God exists and is the supreme ruler. For instance, I am currently living in Canada, and the Canadian constitution has as its first statement the following:

"Where Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God as the rule of law:"

I have spent much time around legal policies, some time in courts, and I even worked in a law firm. If there is one thing evident, it is that the whole system works on the intuition of judges and jury, and nothing close to resembling some kind of virtuous system for code of conduct based upon any God.

What's your take?
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