Preface (1) – The Apprehension of Reality

Understanding the world is a complex task. One must examine the philosophical underpinnings of knowledge, as well as what the meta-philosophical abstractions sublate. The fact of our reliance on our apprehension of reality, and how they bias our way of looking at the world, has dire implications for peace, and the threat to future habitation of our planet.

Our way of looking at the world is determined by this bias. Bias can manifest itself in many forms. One may see, for example, through the lens of individualism, where the world becomes little more than an objectivised plaything. People might see the world as a concrete jungle, where all must compete. Others might see it as a place where, through cooperative labor, the community can thrive. Or one may make judgements about others simply based on physical characteristics.

All people have biases. It can be argued that these biases are innate, where the mind categorizes the world to make sense of it. Yet many of these biases can and do go awry. Some of these biases include the isms: racism, classism, sexism, speciesism (among others). Certain biases are fundamental in our beliefs, and distort our way of understanding the world. These biases are of other “objectivised” groups that can result in misunderstandings: animosity, hatred, antagonism, condescension, dogmatism. Yet sometimes it can seem like biases add a sort of equilibrium and permanence to the world, which is in a constant state of flux or even chaos.

When evaluating the peccadillos of human behavior, it can be found that many attitudes about others, and their concomitant self-justifications, are not justifications at all when looked at objectively. Humans find their attitudes in a constant state of flux. That which is considered true immutably, later on may be thought to be flawed and changeable. One’s dogma, that which one takes for granted, often later on changes to be a discarded and eschewed belief.

Life seems to be in a state of flux. Not only are our belief systems pliable, but the world around us is always changing. We are moving from birth to death, from pliancy to resistance, and then atrophy. Nothing seems constant, except the dogmas that we accept at a certain point in time, which eventually are discarded too for other more comforting, contemporary and convenient ones.

We reassure ourselves that we are conscious and aware beings, capable of making informed choices and holding coherent opinion, yet find our beliefs contrary to what so many others believe. Religion seems to form a sort of foundation in life that one can stand firmly on and feel secure. Yet religions often find themselves in conflict, and religions too are in constant flux, meaning one thing, then another in a later age, then perhaps to be supplanted by another belief system never seen before.

One might get the idea that the author’s intent is to find a firm foundation, or to present a case for a firm foundation to the reader. Unfortunately this is not the case. To try to show or prove such a foundation one would find themselves locked into some new dogma which too would eventually be swept away.

Little can be known to be certain. As Socrates once said something to the effect that “To know not, and know not one knows not, this is wisdom. To know not and know not one knows not is ignorance”. It seems a meagre sort of knowledge to only know that one does not know.

Yet with this pearl one can bring to thought a form of skepticism that can serve one well throughout ones life. That being said, must one assume there is no foundation for our beliefs, and are people therefore consigned to a form of nihilism? We must hope not. Being skeptical implies that there is something to be skeptical about. With skepticism one can look at the so-called truths of the world and decide whether they are worthy of merit, and if not what would or could be a viable alternative.

The job set out here is not easy. When examining the history of philosophy, one soon can find many seemingly plausible arguments, that upon examination by another can be shown to be absurd. The history of philosophy is a sort of historical argument, engaged in dialectic, which subsequently results in different and unique knowledge. So can one arrive at the truth if this attempt is made successfully?

As we ordinarily understand truth, it seems that when all’s said and done one should arrive at the solution, like a solution to a difficult math problem. One interesting things about the dialogues of Plato is that sometimes it is unclear if a resolution to a problem is ever reached through the Socratic dialectic. What once seem true, becomes apparently false, and we then rest assured that the new truth is reliable. Yet later we find that this new truth collapses before even another argument.

One of the main contributions of philosophy then is not simply to solve problems, but to provide tools for analysis, often dissecting arguments, and perhaps generalizing what is left to make new truths. Can truth be found? Perhaps – but a dogged pursuit of the truth using only adequate tools makes drawing conclusions difficult. Perhaps immutable truths may not be arrived at, but new insights may be gained, including any new questions that may arise from the new propositions.

Truth is not finite so one cannot hope to ever arrive at the ultimate truth.

(continued)

 

 

 

Preface (2) – The Apprehension of Reality

One person’s truth seems to be another person’s lie. People can be so contrarian in what they believe. Who can judge the truth? Does only God know the truth? Individuals seem unreliable when making suppositions about truth.

In order to know the truth and speak the truth, people must be autonomous beings. Without freedom a person can not make what seeming is the right choice. To be “truthful” is a very human endeavor. The question continually comes up about whose truth has merit, which truth is reliable. The problem with an assumption of truth is even more complex than people might think.

In order to hold a truth people must think freely. People often assume that they think freely and are fully conscious beings. Unfortunately studies show that people can act upon impulses not associated with conscious thought[1. “The work on people’s lack of introspective abilities again points at the importance of the unconscious, but also at the fact that human behavior does not necessarily follow conscious intention or conscious goals”(Page 233). Handbook  of Social Psychology: Fifth Edition-Volume 1. Edited by Fiske, S., Gilbert, D., Lindzey, G., Wiley: New Jersey.] . There seems to be a discongruity between those behaviors that are innate, and those that are freely chosen. It seems even more so that one can be blind to this difference.

It is critical to know what constitutes our instincts, and what comprises our free will. If not, how is one to know when they think in an objective manner? If one does not think freely, then they cannot claim to live a completely autonomous life. Without these attributes of  reliably free cognitions, one might cease to be fully human, and must be no longer inerrantly an ethical beings. To be an ethical being one must be able to choose what the right choices are. Without autonomy, one may not be immoral, but one must be “amoral”.

A more practical reason why one would want the human specie to act freely, is that one can have a well ordered society, based on good principles of behavior. Without autonomy one cannot have this. On a larger scale, not only must autonomy be beneficial for the individual, but it is necessary for a well ordered society, and hopefully someday a world at peace.

It is clear that peace must be a goal of all peoples, even with the great distrust that exists between peoples. While in a more enlightened age, one country might not covet the resources of another, but rather share them, an autonomous being could (if they so chose) make such a thing reality. While this might be dismissed as claptrap, it is important to remember the fate of rulers in the past who have ignored the “other” after which the ground shook from unrest.

Identifying one’s dogmas are vitally important for social cohesion. From evolutionary theory, one knows that when traits that are passed on, they can survive into successive generations. This innate nature of Homo Sapiens, and all life, may be biased to enhance one’s survival, even to the detriment of others. This orientation may have worked well in agrarian societies, but in our large urban centers our instincts can often get us into trouble. One only needs to look at the prison statistics in the USA for example.

While it may be a tall, and perhaps an even impossible order, one must endeavor to understand one’s innate nature that hovers right behind their consciousness. In order to identify one’s dogma, one must be critically aware, not only of themselves, but how one understands the world. For the way one views the world (i.e., Weltanschauung) can tell us how individuals understand themselves.

In order to change the way one looks at the world then, one must look intimately at the way the individual looks at themselves. Most people are confident they are “good people”, that is they are morally upright, and act according to principle; although one may be marginally conscious, if at all, of how self-serving this principle could be when based on an innate need.

How can one remedy this situation in which people find themselves? If there is no immutable truth, then how can one decide if one is right or wrong? Unfortunately different people attach different meanings to truth. For example, it might be true that the Democratic Party goals are more aligned with the working people. It might be true that the Republican goals ultimately enable others in society to thrive if they so choose. It may be true that the Socialist believes that all wealth should be more equitably distributed, for a more stable society. Or it might be true that the Libertarian values liberty over all others.

How is one to decide what is the most desirable of all goals? How is one to decide what belief system one adheres to for a firm foundation and growth? In order for people to find what is wrong about the world, people must know first what is wrong with their own way of understanding this world. People often have different views, and may even change radically their views over a lifetime. Understanding is necessary to examine these dogmas.

In order to examine dogmas one must suspend one’s beliefs. If one is interested in stamp collecting, and they are reading this, this person will likely move on. Or if one wants to understand the Hubble Constant, one will not look here, but will look into the discipline of Astronomy or Cosmology. Yet, when one considers; the stamp collector and the astronomer both have a stake in what is said here. The stamp collector might dismiss this missive because it has nothing to do with commerce. The astronomer might dismiss it because it has nothing to do with science. The stamp collector and the astronomer can both benefit from this appeal, being subject to the human condition. Dogma enters all lives. Bias manifests based in class, status, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, species and so many other innumerable ways that touch all.

It is through this understanding, through our perception, that the world can prevail as it is. Some think of the human race as sheep, choosing whatever path the leaders choose. The call to arms, the making of treaties, the resumption of ties, all happen while one lives their lives, make their decisions – whether good or bad – and after, if one is so fortunate, take themselves safely to their graves.

The goal of this book then is to pierce beneath the facade, to ennoble those among us that can search for the truth. This is for those who will take up the mantle of Socrates and more. For whether one finds the truth or not, nor is even able to do so, that is better than not knowing the truth, but being deluded. If there is no truth to be known, how can one know this if one is not willing to search for it?

Introduction (1) The Apprehension of Reality

It seems as if there is no firm basis for what anyone believes. People’s opinions vary depending on who one talks to. Perhaps one can accept this difference of opinion, asserting that someone else’s opinion is simply incorrect. One might say this is because, for example, their views are tainted by bias, or that it is simply because of the crowd they run with. Making these claims about others, one must believe that there is a certain truth that others are missing, ‘that if only they were more educated, or more open minded.’ In objecting to the others opinion, one might feel sympathy for their erroneous beliefs, perhaps bewilderment, or even anger.

While such differences of opinion may, at times, seem innocuous, such differences may turn out to have dire consequences. Wars can be fought not only over resources such as oil and gas, but also ideas. Ideas can often serve as the rationale for wars. Differences in ideology can turn into animosity, and animosity can turn into conflict, and conflict can turn into hatred.

Someones opinion may seem certain in their own eyes, but in fact these beliefs, while valid, could be based on false premises. Also one’s beliefs could be the result of the persuasion of some orator who practiced some sleight of speech using the logical fallacies such as the Bandwagon Fallacy, the Ad Hominem Attack, or even the Poisoning the Well fallacy. The demagogue may also use such rhetorical devices such as the enthymeme [1. Frame, D., (1998) The Logical Nature of Aristotle’s Enthymeme. Master’s Thesis: San Diego State University]

Truth is most often thought of as a shining ideal. Perhaps there are some truths shown with opinions, but oftentimes these truths seem unreliable. Are opinions the only types of truths? It seems not. It seems most often one’s opinions are considered to be a truth by at least the one asserting these opinions.  How many ways are there to talk about truth?  In fact there are many different types of truth.

There is the type of truth where there is a correspondence between what is asserted and the things it refers to.  Other types of truths include a coherence theory of truth, where beliefs seem to hold together by virtue of their composition. Also there is the pragmatic theory of truth where if things work there is truth (i.e., a machine if functioning properly works).

The correspondence theory of truth is the most common type of truth easily accepted, understood and used in the world. When looking for a correspondence, one identifies what they believe is true corresponds with something else. If I say that I see a blue beach ball at the beach, and there is in fact a blue beach ball within view, and it is the one I see, then my statement is true. This sort of truth can be applied to opinions, facts, laws of science, and as well as all objects of perception. All of these truths can be observed. We can observe that the Democratic or Republican party is right, or that the sky is blue, or that some element has a certain atomic weight. We know all of these things through experience.

When talking about using sense perception, we are referring to what can be observed. When we speak of observation we most often think of seeing with the eyes, but to observe something can arguably contain hearing sounds as well as including the other senses. Most often observation comes together with most or all the senses engaged at once. When using the senses for understanding of the world, one acquires empirical knowledge, that is making judgments about that which is observable based on sensory experience.

When we look at an object we see that object in a certain way. If we look at it today, tomorrow or the next day it always appear the same. If it is blue it always appears blue, if it is coarse to the touch then it always feels that way. There is a certain constancy and therefore permanence in that which we perceive. We feel assured that things are as they are, and they will under ordinary circumstances, be the same tomorrow.

This sort of idea of constancy and resilience permeates our contact with the world. As the sun rose yesterday, it will rise today, and likewise will rise tomorrow. The decay of fall and the coldness of winter, the rebirth of spring and the gloriousness of summer, present themselves in reliable cycles. As we are born, mature, reproduce and die, this is the life and legacy of being human.

These things that are seemingly permanent give comfort to us and provide a sense of security. This reliability of existence allows us to be at ease, to revel on holidays, celebrate with friends successes, but also to find sorrow at another’s passing, knowing that you have yet survived. The unknown is what disturbs us most. The unknown is the stuff of stories of horror contained in movies and novels of ghosts and vampires, werewolves and demons. While one may enjoy the diversion of such a story, which releases us temporarily from the cares of the world, when the stories are over, we are happy to return to our adjusted lives.

 

 

Introduction (2) The Apprehension of Reality

Living this life, with all its foibles and pitfalls, results in a greater understanding of ones’ self and the world. When we are a new born babe, any event surprises us, because without experience we know not what to expect. With experience we know what to expect whether it be another days toil, or a holiday, or even a sedentary moment.

While even as one ages, one finds that one can take nothing as certain. There is that one day where the check did not arrive on time, or a day where ones love did not arrive. Experience is a great teacher and individuals and society as well benefits greatly by knowing what to expect. Knowledge depends on the understanding, and one can only acquire understanding through experience. Most feel confident that experience is what can be relied on, and it is that experience that has enabled the human species to survive.

Although it is possible of course, for example, for a species to be an excellent predator and because of this has been able to thrive, but later finds itself without food because of the extinction of the species it feeds on. Nowadays the world has excelled in the production of increasingly destructive weapons, and have been able to exterminate those less well armed. But now the nations that have triumphed face each other in hardened befuddlement. What are we to do now their leaders might wonder? One possible outcome, hopefully, is an age of cooperation.

While we know experience is vital for species survival, being the nurture in the nature/nurture distinction, the role of nature is less clear. Like a driving force which leads one to act beyond or without ones understanding, this force evades consciousness, and therefore, like bias itself, is beyond comprehension. Socrates claimed that the only knowledge one can have is the knowledge that we don’t know. One cannot really know for certain the true motives for ones actions. It might be thought by an individual that they acted out of love, or perhaps justice, but actually acted primally as our genetic ancestry dictates. The scope of consciousness must be necessarily unknown, because our genetic inspired drives do not rise to consciousness. How much is a true self-conscious motive is forever a mystery.

If we cannot know the extent of our conscious motives, we cannot really feel secure in these motives determining behavior at all. This is not to claim that the two, nature and nurture, cannot act hand in hand in the quest to survive. The relationship between these two is a very contemporary enterprise examined largely by science and philosophy and is especially poignant in the writings of Sigmund Freud.

While it seems to be true that our consciousness is limited to some degree, this does not rule out the usefulness of the human intellect. Certainly great skyscrapers, elaborate mathematical theories, and human cunning, is unrivaled in the animal kingdom, points to a conscious determinate existence. When looking more closely at Socrates’ dictum it becomes clear that his is a call to skepticism, a call to avoid dogma. We are indeed thinking beings with the ability to scrutinize and hypothesize as shown by Descartes’ Cogito “I think therefore I am.” One can find a sense of comfort with this assertion. It seems we must live meaningful and robust lives. For if we are able to think, we must exist, and be a thinking thing at that, a free independent consciousness.

When one scrutinizes the nature/nurture distinction, only one can be confused about what is reliable, what can be known, but when looking at assurances that at least to some degree one is a truly free thinker all trepidation recedes. Many would find it depressing if this great mind which humans possess only served ancestral animal instincts. We are then, at least to some degree thinking free beings, but the question may arise, as Rodney King after being beaten by the police, most famously stated during the subsequent rioting in Los Angeles, California in 1992,  “Can we all get along?”.

 

 

An Aside – The Apprehension of Reality

Like every day in this life the sun rises and sets. We behold a shimmering of light in the morning, followed by greater brightness, and then finally the sun skirting the horizon at dusk. Across the nations, the beginning of day heralds those rising from slumber, to do ones duty for ones employer; or for the employers themselves, and their bosses, to map strategies to expand their influence and to prevail over others like minded.

In this process of facing the day, one confronts certain realities, and different fears. Whether from want or plenty, all find the chill of the cold, or feel their perspiration from the heat. As the air is inhaled and CO2 exhaled, the respiration necessary for life enables our existence in the kingdom of life, as we, the most dominant species, prosper and flourish. Socially our cities stand as a testament to the species prowess, as individuals the palpitations of ones heart yearns in desire for satisfaction in bonding with a loved one.

Age speaks to the circle of life. As one ages, another generation is born to lead on where the former may have hesitated or failed. In the present, parties are celebrated; anniversaries are marked by happy couples who have overcome adversity, helping each other survive, healthy and happy, till death when they part.

This circle of life continues with or without us. We are only conscious of it for what seems to be a brief moment, only to be cast aside by seeming cruel indifference. We pay homage to the Lord and God who gave us breath, who gave us birth, stayed with us and presides over our death. It is a short existence, but can seem very long too if one learns to appreciate the moment. As one moves on and on in the ever quickening circle of life, infancy gives way to prodigiousness, prodigiousness to wisdom, and hopefully with apt mentoring, a better life for those to come.

Life seems real, ever so real. We feel pain and pleasure, often because of the action or reaction of ourselves towards others. Some assert karmic forces in determining our immediate condition, which affects our life, and as some cultures follow, future lives to come. With reincarnation, to be thrown here as a babe, seems an unjust reward for living ones life in some different time or place, especially when a justification cannot presently be found. When one ponders ones existence, one may find no justifications may in fact exist, but that things just are, and are so beyond all comprehension.

With fits and starts one moves on to the next challenge ever striving to overcome and to be better for it. This life seems painfully real and this stark being reminds of our beginnings and heralds our end. But at the core, worn away, a kernel appears, a diamond or a pearl that is shown, that presents a life well learned, and accomplishments earned; or perhaps finds nothing, a life that vanishes never to be remembered again.

Glory in the days of plenty, even if they are few, and rejoice in the life of wonder, however it comes, so that one can strive for a better life, a happier time and a greater ideal.

The Apprehension of Reality: Chapter 1. The Monolith

In the distance stands a structure. It stands against us, but not as a obstacle but as a form of measure. It tells us where we stand in relation to it. It provides a stopping point from here, but a starting point that lies thereafter, or beyond. It has a structure, a texture, even a point in time. It advertises solidity, but may conceal its own fragility. This is the beginning of matter.

We may know of it if we perceive it or even imagine it. In the imagination we may construct it based on other forms we have perceived before, or we may know this phantasm by an innate acquaintance with the a priori nature of cognition. The object existing or the idea in itself can draw on each other for subsistence, but do not depend on each other to manifest Being. Obstacles must be beholden, for if not where would the individual dwell?

Existing in a world which is perplexing draws the mind into examination. Can we know matter? Does matter exist at our satisfaction, or for a point in time without a master? Does the world put itself at our disposal, or does it permit us to cohabit within? A stencil drawn of the human form elicits a matter of knowing, which the form has created, and the dregs left over, not essential to the form carved which is discarded.

Drawn to animation, like a series of drawing thrown into a row creating the illusion of movement, this stencil form too imitates life as it moves through the shutter of time displaying its independence from the stencil originally carved. Like Felix the Cat with the bag of magic tricks, this hominoid transverses the world, encountering other forms as objects of itself. This illusion settles on the fact that one sees the world as  one perceives themselves.

As the objects of sensation depend on the perceiver, so does the object itself depend on itself for its own continence. To be perceived or to be the perceiver seems little different. The thing in itself knows only itself, except as it may know another as an object of itself, like the original perceiver’s cognition knows it. All sentient things perceive other things and perceive each other in turn, nothing, almost nothing, stands alone in this exercise.

The one thing that stands alone is the monolith. This monolith can be found puzzling to sentient beings.   Can one really know it to exist now? Can one show it existed before? Does any confidence exist that it will exist in the future? An even more important question is, can we know that what we perceived ever existed and if so how can we prove it.

Does this monolith stand as a monument or a token that represents human ethics and conduct? If one knocks on this monolith to gain entry to a friends abode is this different from taking axes to an enemies dwelling beating the wall down? How much of ourselves have we invested in this material entities and maybe even more important, how much of the raw stuff have we converted and molded to suit our own ends?

If we are made from the same stuff as the monolith, then when we mold this stuff into something else we are changing our own nature to something else. Can one really separate one from the other? If the nature of the monolith falls victim the vicissitudes of nature are we not affected in a like manner being matter ourselves? If a bomb blows up a home doesn’t it destroy our vitality as well if we dwell within this home?

Matter is a lifeless composite of stuff whose origin is from the exploding of stars and from the beginnings of time. Life on the other hand can grow and become stronger, can heal itself, recover from catastrophe and celebrate in victory.