From: David McDivitt <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Thu, 03 Apr 2003 18:58:48 -0600
Thanks John! I appreciate the dialog on this very much. Someday I hope to write an essay on this subject, using points from emails over the years.
I see two opposing extremes: ontology and nihilism. Ontology is the basis for most metaphysical thought in religion. But it is not just religion. Beginning with Aristotle the majority of Western thought is derived from the need to objectify "things", with reality being whatever set of objectified items. Objectification is an intellectual function, however, so whatever things are just abstract ideas. The fact we use things and relate to them in a seemingly concrete fashion does not diminish the fact the brain contains visualizations. A physical automobile does not exist within the confines of the cranium for instance, but only the idea of what an automobile is. If a carpenter builds a cabinet, there is a visualization of what will be made, there are visualizations of driving nails into wood, and there are visualizations of whether nails get driven into wood properly. Valuation forms whatever basis of knowledge we have. If valuation, then morality. Knowledge is inherently moralistic. What environment does is provide feedback, allowing us to adjust ideas so they are more pragmatic. We adjust expectations, valuations, and knowledge in this manner. What happens when reality is questioned too much? We become nihilistic.
I refuse to believe there are however many items laying around, defined in advance, and as we trip over them we are scientific. This is an authoritarian view of knowledge, as if we are little children playing in a garden some supernatural being made for us. Relating to environment, our ideas gain feedback, and we create new ideas. New ideas are new "things". Such things did not exist until we created the ideas to describe them. So what is environment if we are relating to it? It is mush. It is nothing without significance being attributed to what we pay attention to. The supposed physical realm grows, taking on ever more detail and specification, as we gain greater intellectual complexity.
So what did cavemen do? What was reality for them? Did they have a reality? In considering these questions we must avoid projecting ourselves and our contemporary knowledge set onto cavemen. The intellectual fabric at that time was different. They did not have the things we have today. Did they have clouds in the sky? Only if intellectual significance was attributed, did they have clouds. Did they have cumulonimbus clouds? No they did not. The intellectual fabric of that time did not support cumulonimbus clouds, therefore they did not exist. Only by projecting contemporary values of what a cloud is can we say they had such, and even so, the historical perspective is an intellectualization which exists today. In other words we experience visions of supposed caveman reality in the present tense, so it is reality which exists today, only.
A person may ask why one should worry about such things. We worry about whatever we worry about. No one likes to be subjective, do they? Isn't that a no no? So how do we avoid being subjective? This is done by questioning reality, and how reality is constructed.
When I gave up religion I gave up an entire mindset. There are no foundations except what we think are foundations. Why do we need them? I think it is necessary to take at least some things for granted, but in so doing it is possible to know we are doing that - taking whatever it is for granted, and at the same time we can realize refusal to take at least something for granted is not pragmatic. Let us avoid subjectivity in this manner. Instead of phrasing things in terms of reality, why can't we phrase things in terms of whatever intellectual coefficient necessary to sustain life as we know it? When learning mathematics for instance one can only start in the middle somewhere, work backwards to construct whatever foundation, and work forward to construct higher levels. Reduction always produces greater detail, and with greater detail reality is changed. How we got where we are, and who we are, doesn't make so much difference. We think and construct a historical perspective which we use today. We visualize the future so we can choose our actions today.
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