Archives for posts with tag: existence

Is it enough for something to exist in order for that something to become real?

Existence = “The fact or state of living or having objective reality.”
Real = “Actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed.”

Ooops!

Do I sense a conundrum haunting these premises?

Which came first? Reality or ‘mere’ existence?

Descartes was the first who had introduced a ‘pecking order’ into this mess.

Dubito ergo cogito.
Cogito ergo sum.

You’re free to translate this any way you want.
Mine goes like this:

My existence is certified only by my doubts.

My existence as a human being, of course.
As a conscious human!

The ‘pecking order’ being, as far as I figure it out:

I need to exist, as an animal, in order to become conscious.
And I need to gain consciousness in order to learn about my existence.

Complicated?
Let me elaborate.

Our understanding of the world is incomplete.
First of all, there are so many things we don’t know about.

For example, we have no idea what goes on between Mars and Jupiter.
We think we know that there’s no major planet hidden in between those two orbits. No object with an important enough mass to disturb either Mars or Jupiter and no object with an albedo big enough to be noticed. To be noticed by us…
Other than that… we have no clue about what’s going on there.
In fact, we don’t know much about what’s going on in the middle of our own planet… or on the floor of ‘our’ oceans…

But the fact that we don’t know about their existence doesn’t preclude the actual existence of whatever ‘objects’ and/or organisms might happen to be there.

Secondly, there are so many things we don’t fully understand. Not yet, anyway. We are aware of their existence – because we’ve been confronted with some ‘consequences’ of the aforementioned things, but we haven’t yet figured out, exactly, how those consequences have been produced.
For example, we’re still learning about viruses. About their ability to bypass our defenses. About how they infect us. About how we might improve our chances of avoiding/surviving infection.

But the fact that we don’t fully understand them doesn’t preclude us – well, some of us, from believing those viruses to be real.

My point being that ‘existence’ is far wider than ‘reality’.
There’s no need for us to know about it for something to exist.
But for something to be considered ‘real’, by us, that something needs to exist first.

‘But aren’t you contradicting yourself?
In a previous post, you argued that ‘the Flat Earth’ was real?!?’

Confusing, isn’t it?
I’m sorry if I misled you.
All I was trying to say was that ‘the Flat Earth’, as a concept, is ‘real’. In the sense that so many people discussing it – either for or against, make it real. Those very discussions, a direct consequence of the concept’s very existence – albeit only in the virtual space, give consistency to its reality.
Don’t get me wrong. The Earth – as I ‘know’ it, continues to be round. The Earth – that we live on, is not ‘Flat’. The Earth doesn’t exist as a flat object.

We are confronted with two facts here.
1. All that we’ve so far learned about it leads us to the conclusion that the Earth is, more or less, round.
2. There still are people who believe – or pretend to, that the Earth is flat.

The second fact exists.
The belief which made it possible is false. As far as we know. As far as the scientific community is convinced.
Yet the fact still remains.
Those people believing in it provide it with ‘existence’.
Those people believing in it make it ‘real’.

Sort of, anyway.

The only real difference between us and the rest of the living world is our ability to make informed decisions.

Since this is a rather vast subject, I shall divide it into chapters.

  1. From feeling to sentiment.

Something prompts us into action. Always. No matter whether we are aware of it or not, there is an underlying cause for each of our actions.
And when we speak about actions which imply our awareness, those causes penetrate our conscience as feelings.

We, more or less automatically, pull back our hands when they touch a hot stove. That is a reaction. Caused by a feeling.

Most of us – the able bodied, of course, would consider going into fire to save a loved one. Or a stranger. Even if pursuing that line of action might get us burned.
‘Going into fire’ – compared to ‘pulling back our hands’, implies making a decision. Which action – ‘making a decision’, is caused by a sentiment.

Sentiment being a feeling which has penetrated not only our conscience but our self-awareness as well.
We not only feel a sentiment, we relate to it. We’re not only aware of it, we elaborate on it.

Hence the difference between a reaction and a decision.
For as long as we allow ourselves to be driven by feelings, we only react to what’s going on around us.
If, and only when, we successfully transform feelings into sentiments we are able to actually decide. To control, to a degree, what’s happening in/to our lives.

To add some meaning to our, otherwise ‘mere’, existence.

‘Things are not at all what they ‘really’ are but only what they seem to be.’

Confusing?

What we have here is the intersection between ‘reality’ – a.k.a. ‘absolute’ truth, and knowledge – a.k.a. logos or relative truth.

‘Things’, ‘existence’ and ‘reality’ are concepts.
Developed by us, conscious people, through the use of ‘logos’ and starting from two implicit premises.
That there must be something outside our consciousness – both the individual and collective ones.
And that our perceptions do have at least some correspondence in that ‘outside’.

By adding layers and layers of logos, collectively known as ‘culture’, upon our initial perceptions we’ve actually built an alternative reality. The one we call ‘civilization’.

The ‘thing’ being that this second reality is just as ‘outside’ our grasp as the original one was. And continues to be.
Because of our own consciousness, which both separates and connects us to ‘reality’.

What we are left with are our ‘perceptions’.
And with our understanding, for those who had reached it, that ‘perceptions’ are ‘real’ only in the sense that they do correspond to some segments of ‘reality’ but they are not necessarily similar to them.

Our concepts, not matter how gingerly refined and thoroughly revised, are only representations of ‘reality’.
‘Real’, in their own right: developing them produced, and continues to, its own set of consequences – a.k.a. ‘civilization’.
The downside being that some of those concepts have begotten rather unpleasant consequences.

‘Moral depravation’, ‘pollution’, ‘corruption’…

It doesn’t really matter how many of these consequences are the result of ‘direct’ action or unintended spin offs.

What matters is that we have to understand there will always be a distance between what we believe at some point and the object of our belief. That that distance may have enormous consequences. And that our only chance to avoid those consequences is transparency.

Heidegger was speaking about ‘unhiddenness’.
The limited nature of both our consciousness and rationality produces the distance between our concepts and their ‘real’ correspondents.
Only by openly, and respectfully, sharing what we know about ‘things’ we’ll be able to shorten that distance.
Otherwise, the limited nature of the reality we live in – the planet itself, will no longer be able to accommodate the hiatus between our concepts and the only reality we have at our disposal.

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