Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Non-Physical Existence

After discussing the basics of Metaphysics in class I am very curious about the ideas of the self and existence. When it comes to the self, I believe most strongly in the theory of dualism, the idea that the self is both essence and substance, material and non-material. I also believe in David Hume’s Bundle Theory, the idea that the self is a projection of the bundle of experiences we have collected throughout our lives. However, I am curious about just how much of the self can exist as either entirely physical or entirely non-physical. In a strictly physical existence, the self can be defined as a mass of molecules and a collection of chemical reactions. But when it comes to a non-physical existence there isn’t a clear definition. I want to explore the possibility of the self existing entirely separate from the physical body and the different ways in which this could occur. For this series of blog posts I have decided to ask the question: In what capacity can the self exist outside of the physical body?

 

What is existence?

To begin to approach this question, we must first define existence. What is existence? Existence can be defined as the fact or state of living or having objective reality, continued survival, or any person’s supposed current, future, or past lives on this earth. For the purpose of my inquiry, I am going to look at existence more in terms of Heidegger’s “Being” and less in terms of basic survival or occupying physical space. In order to discuss this I hope to find or develop some sort of system for measuring the level of “Being” that an entity has in order to objectively as possible discuss the capacity at which it is existing.

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What are the components of the self?

Another important concept to explore is the different components of the self and how they in turn relate to existence. I want to further explore the connections and separations between essence and substance as well as mind, body and soul. I also want to look into the similarities and differences between how an individual perceives their own self and how others perceive it.

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How can a non-physical existence occur?

Finally I want to ask, in what ways can a non-physical existence occur? And is it possible for a person to exist without a physical body? While most of us can agree that non-physical emotions like pride and love and hate exist, is this type of existence possible for people? To start off I’ve made a mind map of the different ways in which I believe a non-physical existence can occur.

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I am really excited to look into this topic, I think it is really relevant to the current state of society where more and more of our lives and interactions are happening online. To begin to answer my questions I have turned to Rob Horning’s essay Me Meme. In the essay Horning explores the relationship between social media and the self and proposing really interesting ideas about “the makeshift identity” most of us have on social media platforms. He goes on to state that “this identity can be shared and consumed not only by others but by oneself. This brings up the idea that the self we portray on social media can be, in extreme cases, completely independent from our true self and therefore may be considered a non-physical existence. Moving forward with this inquiry, I am really interested in looking into the way social media is facilitating the creation of less and less physical existences.

 

 

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Experience An Essence

For centuries, philosophers have been arguing over what constitutes knowledge. I have an answer.

Proposition:  Knowledge is experiencing the essence of a truth.

How did I come to this conclusion?

If knowledge must be a personal experience
and if experience is a true event or stimulus that is perceived, understood, and remembered
and if truth is definite regardless of human thought
and if truths have an essence
then knowledge is experiencing the essence of a truth.

Experience

Experience is defined as a true event or stimulus that is perceived, understood, and remembered. What this means is that something external (outside of the mind which is experiencing) has stimulated the mind. The recognition that something is happening is the act of perceiving it. To understand it is done through the act of reasoning. We take in what we have sensed and make conclusions based on our senses. Note that our conclusions must be true for it to constitute knowledge. Finally the experience must be remembered, meaning that somewhere in the mind we must be able to think back to the experience or at least have affected the mind in some way.

The philosophical tool of using the senses to gain knowledge is known as empiricism. Extreme empiricists, such as Locke, rely only on their senses and do not believe that pure reason can lead to true knowledge. The opposite of this tool is known as rationalism which relies purely on reason to gain knowledge. Descartes was a famous rationalist. With my theory, knowledge must start empirically and have some element of reason in order to experience something.

Knowledge must be a personal experience. Now that experience has been defined, we can look into this next statement. For a person to have knowledge, that person must be the one with the knowledge. Sounds obvious, right? If Person A knows something, that does not necessarily mean that Person B knows the same thing. Knowledge is not a shared item, it must be known personally.

Truth

What can be defined as true? If you were to look it up in the dictionary, you would come across something along the lines of “in accordance to fact or reality”. Essentially what that is saying is that for a statement to be true, it must line up with what reality shows us. The tricky part about truth is that humans make mistakes. Humanity once thought it was true that the earth was flat. Just because they all believed it, doesn’t make it true. A truth is a truth even if no one in the world believes it or knows about it. If someone states, “there is no God,” then that statement will either be true or false. We may never be able to prove or disprove the statement, but that doesn’t mean that there is no certainty in an answer. Whether that person is right or wrong is the real question of truth.

Essence

Essence can be known as a property or group of properties of something without which it would not exist or be what it is. This definition makes essence almost sound like something that can be seen or observed, so allow me to explain a bit farther. An essence is the very core of something, the very being of what that thing is. When you hear the word sunshine, the feeling that comes over you when you think of sunshine is how you’ve experienced its essence. Its essence does not lie in the word itself, rather it lies in all the indescribable ways that thing exists. The very attempt of describing an essence takes away its essence and turns it into the human invention of language.

Therefore, to experience the essence of a truth means to personally perceive, understand, and remember how you experienced the very essence of something that is true.

The idea of essence ties into what is known as propositional knowledge. We can distinguish the difference between a statement and a proposition. Think of a proposition as being an idea or a concept. A statement is the way that is used to express the idea. The statement consists of words, grammar, and syllables, while the proposition is what is being represented by those words.

Essence = Proposition ≠ Statement

Synthesis

Knowledge is experiencing the essence of a truth. Knowledge cannot be passed on from person to person in a way that is impersonal or untrue. You can gain knowledge from another person if you are actively trying to perceive, understand, and remember what it is they are explaining, if what they are explaining is true, and if you experience the essence of what they are explaining. The fact that you have read this post does not mean you have knowledge of my theory of knowledge. To have the knowledge of my theory, you must experience the essence of what I am trying to explain. The language I am using to describe this theory cannot capture its essence, but if you come to the realization of what the essence of this theory is, then you will have gained knowledge.

If you would ever like to test this theory in a situation, I find it is helpful to lay out premises and find which are a matter of truth and which are a matter of propositional knowledge (essence). Here is an example:

Statement: The sun is bright

Premise 1: The sun exists (matter of truth)
Premise 2: The sun is bright (matter of truth)
Premise 3: You have internalized the essence of brightness and the essence of the sun (propositional knowledge)

With all premises being true, you can successfully say you have knowledge. Congratulations!

 

Images from 1, 2, 3, 4

 

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The Golden Ball

Philosophy can be seen as questioning the mere existence of reality, and this questioning goes beyond our material world. In the material world, reality is confined to “facts”, information and experiments that give us a false sense of reality and logic. Further more, this fascination the human brain has with the materialistic world may have its essence in the way we think, the way we think on the surface.Things we can understand that fit in with our experiments and laws that have been declared by sets of theories that have been only developing for only couple hundred years seems to give us comfort, a sense of security about this mysterious phenomenon we call life. On the contrary the human brain is so complex it also finds comfort in “abstract ideas”, such as theism and variety of dogmatic, ritualistic practices that give the illusion of an higher being, a deity that keeps you safe or destroys you with his wrathful will. A loving god that will take your soul to heaven, after you die. Death, A concept that has fascinated the human brain as far as the time our story began. Science argues that after death there’s no more existence as we know it. Our biological body decays as cellular death occurs. Does this mean our consciousness cease to exist as well? Or is there more to this phenomenon more than we can imagine. Philosophy, aims to ponder deeper into these thoughts. Is there a certain, ultimate answer? Probably not, as most of these abstract ideas such as the nature of self or how human consciousness really works ; create more questions that seem to have no answer. So? What’s the point of spending time and energy on philosophical ideas? If you would like to be believe the human race is even more fascinating than the way science perceive to be, then perfection of wisdom, pursue of enlightenment would be the path that you wouldn’t be able to wonder of another way. Philosophy is transcendental, it doesn’t favor different perspectives but the wise and the enlightened. Philosophy does not have facts to be discovered it doesn’t have information to live upon. Philosophy is a gateway to higher state of thinking and consciousness, where you can discover more about the very nature of human existence and more about you. Philosophy satisfies our fascination with mystery while having you guessing and questioning the idea of mystery it self. If knowledge is an ever expanding ocean of ideas that has existed and will exist in the future, than philosophy is a golden, glowing ball of fascination thrown into to the ocean of knowledge. It sinks and sinks to the very essence of the ocean. It doesn’t stay in the surface, for the surface of this ocean is visible. It is visible to the by standers whom have no idea how deep the ocean is. They are too stunned by the beauty of the ocean they see yet they refuse to acknowledge the dept of ocean. Praising the beauty of the ocean from the shallow end seem to be safer, it gives them comfort But the enlightened,he follows this golden ball of fascination deep into the ocean. As the ball goes deeper it sheds light upon the very darkness of the ocean of knowledge. The enlightened dives further, following the ever sinking ball. it gets darker and colder as he leaves familiar waters. As it gets darker, the ball still sheds light into the darkness, clearing a path for the man. Then he realizes, he finds comfort discovering the unknown. He realizes that the darkness will continue as the golden ball seem to shed more and more light as it sinks. This satisfies his curiosity, his craving for wisdom. Now that he’s deep in the ocean, he doesn’t see the purpose of admiring the beauty of the waves that hit the shallow shore, where people stand and watch. Does he keep following the golden glowing ball or does he go back to share what he has seen?

 

 

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Metaphysics

 

existence preceeds essence

From Flickr user andrew j. cosgriff

As we have been discussing Metaphysics, I have continually returned to Jean Paul Sartre’s invocation of the meeting of Existence and Essence:

“What is meant here by saying that existence precedes essence? It means first of all, man exists, turns up, appears on the scene, and, only afterwards, defines himself. If man, as the existentialist conceives him, is indefinable, it is because at first he is nothing. Only afterward will he be something, and he himself will have made what he will be.”

 Now, Sartre was talking about people through an existential lens; but the concept may come to bear on what we’ve learned this week about learning and knowledge. Whether existence precedes essence, or the other way around, we have been engaged in activities and discussions this week that support either hypothesis.

Some of what we have learned has resolutely existed before we have put it into context for ourselves as essential. And some of what we are learning about existed in our minds as essences before it came into being on the board or the class blog.

Which makes me wonder:

  • What is the essence of your knowledge about metaphysics? What have you discovered, learned or uncovered about the topic? And,
  • How and where does it exist?

In short, these are the two questions of Metaphysics: What is…? And what is it like?

I look forward to hearing your responses, and continuing this discussion into Epistemology.

 
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