“Essential Philosophy” – By Stefan Molyneux, Host of Freedomain Radio
Get the book: http://www.fdrurl.com/EP
Everything you do is philosophical.
You wake in the morning, groan, stretch and open your eyes. What is happening?
Everything that is happening is philosophical.
How do you know you are awake? How do you know it is morning? How do you know your eyes are open? How do you know your dreaming has ended and your day has begun?
How do you know your memories of yesterday – or ten years ago – are valid? How do you even know you are the same person as the one who got into bed last night?
It gets even crazier, when you really think about it.
How do you know that your “experience” is not in fact some elaborate simulation? Do you know for certain that you are not a brain in a tank, wired up to some Matrix-style virtual reality?
Look at your hand right now. You see a hand, sure, but how do you know that the hand truly exists outside of your mind? Sure, you see your hand, but the image only shows up in your mind. It’s the same with your sensations of your hand – they also only show up in your mind. Where is the hand itself?
Last night, in your dreams, you also had hands – or claws, or tentacles, or heaven knows what –that did not exist or move in what you call the “real world.” In your dreams, you visited a floating island full of dragons that does not exist outside your dreamscape – or does it? Perhaps your dreams are the real world, and your “waking” life is the dream. How can you know for certain?
Perhaps the people you live with are mere avatars – artificial intelligence simulations of human beings. Perhaps they were all real people at some point, but have been replaced by space aliens with perfect biological robots. When you went to a movie last night, perhaps the entire cinema complex was a form of elaborate theatre – perhaps you were in a movie, watching a movie.
What if you are created anew every day from scratch, but with a steady if inconsistent series of progressive memories layered into your newly hatched brain?
What about your memory?
Is it real? Recalled events are gone, lost in time; your memory only exists in your mind. What if you or something else is altering it over time?
Think of your very first memory – is it real? Think of other early memories – could they have been created in your mind by stories you heard as a child?
Try this on for size: go and visit your childhood neighbourhood. I guarantee you that it will neither look nor feel exactly as you remember it – and sometimes not even approximately, even if little has changed.
Look at a picture of yourself as a child – where has that child gone? When you build a foundation for a house, the finished house still has that foundation. But what still remains of your childhood body and mind? You are not like some Russian doll with smaller versions of yourself remaining inside. The human body is replaced over time – every seven years, with little to nothing left from your past physical self. Where are your memories? Are your memories like the childhood game of Broken Telephone, irretrievably lost in endless translation?
Invite childhood friends and siblings over for dinner and discuss shared past events – what perceptions do you all have in common? I guarantee you that others will have very strong memories that significantly differ from yours – sometimes even opposing them completely. What does this mean? You were all in the same place, experiencing the same things – but you have very different memories. Nothing remains of the events except the memories, the interpretations, and everyone’s story about the events – so tell me, what is real? If everyone has a different idea of what happened, what actually happened? Can anyone tell?