“I think, therefore I am…” –René Descartes (17th Century French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist)
This quote has been on my mind ever since I rewatched Crash Course Philosophy – Episode 5: Cartesian Skepticism – Neo, Meet Rene. This YouTube series has been the subject of my fascination ever since the first episode was published on 8th February 2016, and because of this series, I’ve pushed some of my most precious friendships into a self-perceived turmoil.
I found it really hard to find peace with my beliefs about this world, and how my beliefs hardly aligned with those of my most trusted confidant, when I started talking to her about how we could make this world a place of less suffering for all.
I thought that if I thought really hard about what was right and what was wrong, then I would find the absolute truth… the ONLY way to live harmoniously with all life on Earth. I wanted to find ABSOLUTE truth. It turns out that it really doesn’t matter what is absolute truth. Why? It’s because you can never prove anything…NOTHING.
People will say, “What about mathematics? We prove stuff in mathematics all the time.” To that, I say, “Mathematics is just the use of a few assumptions in order to see if things work within that system. However, mathematics can’t really prove ANYTHING to be absolute, because we have nothing else to compare it to. We are literally making up what is absolutely true based on arbitrary rules that us humans have imposed upon a system.” That is, there is nothing we can prove – without a doubt – that will happen EVERY time, because we’ll make up some sort of rule that cannot be overruled, thereby restricting ourselves to our own perceivable truth.
Sure, we can say that the Sun will rise and fall in a somewhat regular pattern for the foreseeable future, but that in itself is really still JUST a hypothesis. Likewise, we HYPOTHESISE that the Sun will eventually collapse, causing some sort of devastation which will surely eliminate all life on Earth, but we have yet to have anything which ABSOLUTELY proves that this will happen. It’s just a hypothesis.
Let me take this analogy one step further. We can’t prove that we TRULY exist. We can’t prove that we DON’T truly exist. We can’t prove that God created the Universe using the supposed laws of physics, or that He is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient. Yet, we can’t DISPROVE any of those things, either.
We can reason with all our might, but in the end, there is really NO POSSIBLE WAY for us humans to find ABSOLUTE TRUTH… because we are nothing more than just subjective intellectuals. We use an abstract source in order to determine what is most likely to occur as frequently, as regularly, and as systematically achievable (AFARASA): our imagination.
(Btw, that was a play on words for a concept in Australian medical imaging where a radiographer must keep the dose to the patient as low as reasonably achieveable – ALARA)
But that doesn’t mean that life is meaningless…
But back to “cogito ergo sum”…
When I listened to that phrase…I actually questioned its validity. To me, just because you’re an entity which can formulate the idea that you might be wrong, it does not mean that you are a person who is attached to a Universe which holds some sort of absolute truth. You wouldn’t know if you were actually simulated to have those responses, based upon the simulated environment you live in, just like The Matrix movie trilogy.
In the end, there can never be an absolute truth that we can prove without any doubt. However, that doesn’t mean that we should just live life as drunk, drugged, and overly-sexual beings. We don’t necessarily have to act snarky, selfish, and malicious just because there won’t be an ethereal power who will punish us.
Even if there may not be any sort of future we can guarantee for our progeny…even if there is no way that we can prove anything we experience in this mortal realm…even if there is no way to truly determine what is absolutely right or wrong in a way that is utterly undeniable…
That doesn’t mean that religion doesn’t have its uses.
However, that also doesn’t mean that religion is fool-proof…nor that it will perpetuate world peace to ALL souls on this plane of existence.
If I were to say anything (and in the process, modify a line stolen from Assassin’s Creed), it’s this:
Nothing is true…but just because nothing is true, it doesn’t mean everything is permitted.
Thanks for reading, dear reader. DFTBA!
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