Saturday, December 12, 2009

This is real

Originally written 10-6-09. Why do I never publish these things?

In Honors we've been reading Descartes and this Tuesday we talked in particular about trusting the senses. Can you really? Is it ever possible to tell yourself definitively that this isn't all a dream or illusion?

Descartes, of course, starts off with the assumption that nothing is certain and quickly runs across an anomaly. To say "I do not exist" is a contradiction because if you did not exist you would not be able to think that you did not exist. 'Twas Descartes who said, "I think, therefore I am." What you almost never hear is that Descartes went on to demonstrate that even if you assumed everything you ever knew was false, you would be able to determine certain things were true, among which the fact that you are not self-existing. Therefore, God must exist. And God must be infinite in all things: power, goodness, etc.

Those are the two things that I can never doubt, if Descartes is to be believed. I exist, and so does God. He puts forward the idea that it is simply logically impossible to conceive of either being false.

And God is not a deceiver. That is a central premise of the writings of this skeptic--God does not lie.

So where does that leave the senses? They are so often untrustworthy. Everything we've experienced when "awake" we've also experienced while dreaming, so how do we know that the state which we call "awake" is not merely another dream?

B, one of the guys in my class, suggested that maybe we're all schizophrenic, caught in a massive delusion for our whole lives, and don't know it. J, another guy (there are only three guys in the whole class), strongly disagreed. One of them brought up the movie A Beautiful Mind. B used it to support his point, that you can never really know, and J used it to support his point.

I happened to watch A Beautiful Mind a few weeks ago. And I happen to agree with J. Some things are certain. No, you can't go through and prove them empirically. You cannot make them airtight, so no possibility of doubt can enter.

Do you want to know what's real? Alicia Nash asks her husband, putting her hand over his heart. This. This is real.

It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reason can be found, he says, long after.

Love. That's what Descartes leaves out. Yet it's essential to his logic. God is love. God is not a deceiver. We are able to find some semblance of sanity in this world because we know that this is real. Love is real.

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