The theory that the Sun moved around the Earth worth it great. It predicted that the Sun would rise every morning and it did! It wasn’t until later that we realized what we thought was true, might not be. So do we, or will we ever know true reality? Or are we stuck in a world where the best we can do is be approximately true? Discovering more and more useful theories everyday but never actually reaching true objective actual reality. Can science or reason ever prove convincingly that what you see, hear and feel actually exist beyond your mind? That you don’t just live in the matrix?
Your mind is all that you have. Even if you use instruments like a telescope or particle accelerators, the final stop for all of that information is ultimately YOU. You’re alone in your own brain, which technically makes it impossible to prove that anything else exists. The egocentric predicament. Everything you know about the world out there depends on and it’s created inside your brain.
This mattered so much to Charles Sanders Peirce that he drew a line between reality, the way the Universe truly is and what he called the phaneron. The world as filtered through our senses and bodies, the only information we can get. If you want to speak with certainty, you live in (that is you react to and remember an experience) your phaneron, not reality. The belief that only you exist and anything else, food, the Universe, your friends, are all figments of your mind, is called solipsism. There is no way to convince a solipsist that the outside world is real.
It’s a frighting realization that we don’t always know how to deal with. There’s even the matrix defense, a guy could kill a person and argue that when he did he was in the Matrix and that his crime wasn’t real. By using the matrix defense he is found not guilty, by reason of insanity of course, because the opposite view is just way more healthy and common, it’s called realism. Realism is the belief that the outside world exists independently of your own phaneron. Rocks and stars and Lady Gaga would continue to exist even if you weren’t around to experience them. But you cannot know realism is true, all you can do is believe.
Martin Gardner, a great source for mathematics tricks explain that he is not a solipsist because realism is just way more convenient and healthy and it works. Now if you ask him to tell you anything about the nature of what lies beyond the phaneron, his answer is:
“How should I know? I am not dismayed by ultimate mysteries, I can no more grasp what is behind such questions as my cat can understand what is behind the clatter I make while I type this paragraph.”
Humble stuff. What strikes me is the cat. Cats do not understand keyboards but they know the keyboards are a fun place to be. It’s a great way to get the attention of a human, they are warm and exciting, surrounded by noises and flashing lights. Plus cats love to get there and sit on whatever they can, a mark of their existence. We aren’t that much different, except instead of keyboards we have the mysteries of the Universe. We will never be able to understand all of them, we won’t be able to ever answer ever single question, but walking around in those questions exploring them is fun, and it feels good.
(Words from Michael Stevens – Vsauce) Watch the video here