Being not bound to swear allegiance in words to any master; Wherever the Storm drags me, I am turned in as a guest – Horace’s Epistle to Maecenas.
Caveat: When I quote something I am doing so to illuminate the point I am making. I am not implying that it is true or correct because of the source of the quote. It may be I am quoting it to show the nonsense that is in the source material.
I have called this series ‘Without Title.’ Every title that I think of assumes the ending before I have gotten there. So for now there is no title. The smart-alec may retort that: ‘without title’ expresses something in itself. But these are the seeming problems that I care less for these days. I expect this series to be ad hoc, ongoing and that it will progress in fits and starts.
A recent comment on my YouTube channel expressed disgust at the ramblings of my disturbed mind. For some, what I am embarking may be evidence to the contrary; to others, it may be concrete proof of my inner disturbance. For me, it is both!
I am not offering the final solution to the philosophical and existential problems of this construct, but my new approach.
There is something uncanny about myself and my relationship with the world. Some thinkers that I regard very highly, have concluded that the inner core of their being is in essence one with the world – but I don’t. At the same time, I am not working within pre-emptive dogmas and trying to fit all my thoughts into them. For one reason, what I am writing about is elusive and I don’t know quite what it is .
This is also the reason why everything I have produced is a work in progress.
I say with sincerity that I am not trying to support a pre-emptive dogma. For full disclosure, I have a feeling about the world I find myself in. This is the product of the unrepeatable and indescribable dance between my observations of the external world, my inner world, the interaction between the two, and something else indescribable – the uncanny.
I am not trying to create a post hoc system to support this. Despite being unrepeatable and indescribable, I am trying to externally represent my inner positions through the medium of monologue and if the reader engages, with dialogue as well. I also have a practical goal which will be seen as we progress. I hope that the process of expressing it will help me to grasp it somewhat.
The enigmatic UG Krishnamurti says something like – you can only ask a question if you already have the answer. He also says that man’s problem is that he has never had his own question. He is constantly asking other people’s questions.
So in some ways, this is the beginning of a new investigation, but really it is a return to a roadblock I hit in my late twenties. My previous solution was groundless optimism. It found its external expression when I adopted the Orthodox Christian faith & hope in the salvific redemption of Jesus Christ. The nagging uncanniness never left me, but I pretended to myself that it had.
In some ways, the salvation I sought was salvation from these problems. I picked up the solution of an all-good, all-powerful Creator which sewed up everything nicely. But the uncanny feeling never went away. I think that for many atheists, their materialism and faith in scientific progression fulfils a similar role. Perhaps, all hard ideologies do this in some regard.
Since abandoning that approach, I have been loath to tackle this roadblock formally, but it has sat deep within me ever since. It won’t go away, and so I must approach it once again. What has held me back is trepidation. What will others say? How pitiful my efforts will most likely be. What if my stuttering efforts harm another that picks them up credulously. More than anything, the remembrance that my earlier attempts led me to the pits of despair and subjugation to a know-nothing fool.
But pretending it is not there does me no better. And so I enter into the fray once again.
Section One – The Wands of Belief Revisited
My first article The Wands of Belief was an honest description of my previous attempts to grabble with these things – where it led me and what was the outcome. One may want to re-read it but I offer this caveat: it is simply a soul struggling to understand what has been the outcome of its efforts. It is slightly cringe-worthy for me to re-read it and I would like to rewrite it. But I shan’t: it is what is and if nothing else it was sincere.
In that piece, I said that I felt like I had got lost in a haunted wood and was struggling to find my way home. But as far as I know, I never started a quest. What is this home of which I have no memory? In my own experience, I find myself as a mind in a body in the world. And there is something, that I call me, which is aware of all of this.
From the wands of belief:
“But what it was I was truly seeking? Or where I was going? I had no idea.
As I look now, I see that the fruit of my search is a mind laden with beliefs set on top of beliefs. Setting one down, picking up three more. Going everywhere, getting nowhere.”
I imagined that I had left my true home, the allegorical shire, but was I ever really there? I thought myself on a quest, but for what reason?
I now see that the imagery of a haunted wood may be a metaphor for seemingly intractable problems into which many seem to fall. Superficially, there are many preaching certainties on these matters, but they seem to still be in the same haunted wood as I am. I don’t think that I can resolve these problems into an unassailable philosophical fort amidst the wastelands of doubt. For a castaway, a jerry-rigged raft from what there is to hand is what he needs to get home – a home that he has never known nor set foot upon.
As far as I know, the problems I am grappling with have been solved by others, but what has that to do with me? As far as I know, the terms that I am using will have been philosophically defined long ago, but again, what has that to do with me?
I find two glaringly obvious problems in my epistemological views: I am what one would call a transcendental idealist and practically an empirical realist. For many, there is no problem here, but my empirical realism can also imply transcendental realism! How can I follow transcendental idealism but at the same time, follow practical empiricism that implies transcendental realism?
Transcendental idealism as described by Bryan Magee (discussing Kant.)
Kant had argued that all possible experience can only come to us through our faculties, through our sensory and mental apparatus. And therefore what we could experience depended not only on what there is out there to experience but also on the nature of the faculties that we possess. What our faculties could handle, what they do to what they handle, how they handle it, and so on. So that all experience as such is subject dependent – and he went on from that to argue – that therefore we could see total reality as divided into two.
There are things-as-they-are-in-themselves independent of being experienced; and to such things, we have no means of access.
Then there are things as they appear to us, the world of appearances, the world as it comes to us through experience. That’s what we know, that’s the world of common sense, the world of science, our total world.Transcribed by me from Bryan Magee: ‘Arthur Schopenhauer, Philosopher of Pessimism.’
But, In the everyday sense, I act as if I am an empirical/naive realist, but what I call a practical realist. When navigating the terrain, the most profitable way is to assume that the senses provide me with direct awareness of objects.
And further, I investigate reality as if practical realism corresponded to a transcendental realism i.e that the objects I perceive correspond pretty much to objects existing objectively without my perception of them.
But as soon as I consider the processes at work I am led inextricably to transcendental idealism as described by Schopenhauer.
” ‘The world is my representation’: this is a truth valid with reference to every living and knowing being, although man alone can bring it into reflective, abstract consciousness. If he really does so, philosophical discernment has dawned on him. It then becomes clear and certain to him that he does not know a sun and an earth, but only an eye that sees a sun, a hand that feels an earth; that the world around him is there only as representation, in other words, only in reference to another thing, namely that which represents, and this is himself.Schopenhauer, first words from the world as will and representation.
But transcendental idealism does seem to imply that there is a fundamental oneness between myself, the world, and all other beings in it. But this is opposed to everything that I feel empirically.
This is what many call the problem of perception and endless reams of paper have been used pontificating on these things. However, to my mind, not one singular solution appears that solves the problems as many suppose. Many have offered them e.g. Rudolf Steiner. They usually do so as they are aghast at the depth of the epistemological problems that Kant has opened up. But none of these, at least for me, solve the problem. They just shift it around somewhat.
I want to have a firm objective epistemological foundation. And indeed, like Wile E. Cayote, it appears that I have such a grounding until I look down and find it is not there. The roadrunner of philosophical completeness is ever beyond my grasp.
And this is not the only seemingly intractable problem that I have. The second I will mention briefly in the postscript.
I ask the reader to consider that perhaps these are only problems if it is something that one wishes to solve. Is it the need to solve them that makes them into problems? Perhaps a better path, the one I intend to take, is to simply consider the implications of the seemingly innumerable problems that are thrown up by finding oneself as a man that both finds and experiences itself as a mind, in a body, in a world.
- The hard problem of consciousness.
- The problem of induction.
- The problem of causation
- The problem of free will.
- The problem of theodicy.
- The problem of the herd & the individual.
- The mind-body problem.
- The problem of existence.
- The problem of hierarchy & problem of the herd
- The problem of the truth and lie system.
- The problems of epistemology.
- The problem of freedom in a world of causality.
“All of you problems are caused by the solutions that you desire for problems which in reality do not exist.” Thrice8Hermes in Solution-reaction-problem.
So far, I have offered some of the epistemological problems I have faced. There are many proffered solutions available. And many say that this one or the other is the best way to go. But if you look carefully, their solutions generally will present the problem at one point and then file it away as if dealt with.
The next question I ask myself is: why do I need to solve this seeming opposition? In my mind, this is what turns philosophy into a dead end and leads to endless quibblings over minutiae and pointless rancour.
Again, I suggest that these seemingly intractable problems do not need to be resolved, but they must be acknowledged and not ignored. They do say something of importance. In some ways, their intractability is a mystery and a puzzle. This could be an allegorical interpretation of this section from 1984.
Note: This conversation takes place in Room 101 at the Ministry of Love. It follows immediately after Winston is tortured and fleetingly sees that O’Brien is holding up five fingers and not for. In some regards, one could see this as a man being tortured by these intractable philosophical problems.
My previous attempts to resolve these problems ended up in false optimism and blind love of the Creator, of which I knew nothing. Winston learns to love Big Brother and in him finds his salvation. But of what does his salvation consist? What does his love of Big Brother represent? A boot stamping on a human face— forever.
A different approach?
But what if one approaches this matter more simply. These problems are present in the way I understand and interact with the world. Without rushing to solve them or tidy them away – What does that imply? What are the practicalities of the matter? If these problems & incongruities are simply seen for what they are, does this tell us something?
In this piece, I am not trying to perform mental gymnastics to solve these problems. The incongruities remain, but no longer as problems to torture myself with. I still consider the implications but with a different purpose. If some of the incongruities could be ironed out this would in no doubt be a good thing.
But, I am considering the implications of my practical experience of finding myself in the world and the ‘problems’ it throws up. If this process leads to some resolutions then all the better. But I am also interested in the incongruities themselves, perhaps as signposts to a quite different understanding. One that allows but does not expect nor require their resolution. One that takes seriously their incongruity.
I ask these questions to myself and to the reader. What do you want? Why are you considering these things? Is there anything to be gained from laboring over philosophical distinctions? Why do you torture yourself with these problems or why do you pretend that these contradictions are not present?
These things are personal, but they may also be common to many. I am not offering the philosophical solution that you may be seeking. I am offering my sincere thoughts on the matter. What I say may resonate with some readers straightaway, with others not so much so. By the end of my writings, it may be in reverse.
An attempt at a conclusion
At the beginning, I said that I am not setting off with pre-emptive dogmas in hand. One reason is that I am not setting off. I don’t know if I ever did, but I do find myself in the middle of something.
I don’t have dogmas, but I do have some positions that are difficult to describe in words. They the product of a lifetime of observing both within and without; considering and reconsidering these things; and investigating what others have said on the matter. I also carry this wordless ‘thing’ that is within me, but really precedes all that i have said.
The ‘thing’ that I cannot escape. The uncanny relationship this ‘thing’ seems to have with the world it finds itself within. For many, the solution they pick up is a universal and all-embracing oneness – but this not cut it for me.
Again, I cannot quite describe it in words but…I find myself as a mind, in a body, in a world. But there is something else that precedes these things. Others have this, but perhaps not all. It seems to be lacking in those higher up the system of control. For all that I know, it is in them, but they have smothered it with the deceptions of this place. However, the more I see, the more I doubt that they have it.
I will call it a ‘thing’ but it is not this either; but ‘thing’ seems to carry few connotations.
This ‘thing’ finds the world it finds itself in to be uncanny – “strange or mysterious, especially in an unsettling way”
It has no direct memory or experience of another place, another way of being different from what we call life. But it feels that there is something deeply wrong with what it finds in this construct, in its mechanisms, right down to the essence of this place.
This ‘thing’ finds that the sanest and most profitable way to engage with the world is by empirical realism. From this one would assume transcendental realism. But everything about that also implies transcendental idealism. But transcendental idealism implies that I am one with the world and all that is in it. And this makes little sense to it either.
Trying to resolve these things has caused me great suffering over the years. It seems to me that the very attempt to resolve them has been the source of many of my problems.
This will serve as much of an introduction as to where I am going next. Apologies if I have not defined my terms in much detail. I have already started part two but I think this is as much as anyone would want to go through in one sitting!
But for now I will leave the reader with a postscript for what is to come.
A taster: two quotes on the second seemingly intractable problem that I wish to deal with in the future. For now, I will comment no further but I will get to them in due course.
Before I do, I wish to draw a line in the sand between the teachings of the character Jesus Christ and myself.
The Wandering Jew once said: “I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” (Jn 12.47)
I am judging the world that I find myself in, and I’m tired of pretending that I am not.
Quote 1: Arthur Schopenhauer
Quote 2: Samwise Gamgee.
“It’s like the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad has happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer. I know now folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something. That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”
to be continued…..