Saturday, May 7, 2011

I live in my head, as do us all. Except I know it.

     What do I mean by that? Here is my justification for that statement, which I wrote about 8 months ago:

     "I am always by myself. And I mean that seriously. I can only access my own mind. Everything I experience is processed by my brain, approximated, and left for me to decipher. I can socialize with other humans, but I still must do so through my own brain. In other words, my experiences with reality are heavily filtered. I can only get a vague representation of what objects really look like or what other people are thinking."

     And my notion of a "vague representation of reality" is supported by some important people from the past - Max Planck and Bertrand Russell. I wrote this on May 13, 2010:

     "I no longer have the faintest idea of what a table is. Both Bertrand Russell and Max Planck brought this most curious question to my attention, because they did take it very seriously.
They point out that if your senses are disabled, then you can't know anything about a table (so what is a table?). This is truly not a trivial problem, although it seems laughable.
     How does one define the edges of a table? Since you can stand back a few feet from a table and still experience it, that must mean the table extends a few feet beyond its physical existence. You can know about a table because of the reflected photons. Thus, the real edges of the table are the photons. If you disable your ability to detect photons then the edge will creep back to where it activates your tactile sense. If you disable your tactile sense and still can't detect photons, then you'll have to smell it, hear it, taste it, burn it, or have someone put it on your back. While you won't feel the table on your back, you'll still be able to detect gravity and thus sense your weight has increased. If you burn the table, then the odor molecules will collect in your nose and the rise in room temperature will become apparent.
     Does a table have an objective reality? I have to say that it does, but I'm not sure what it could be. The foremost problem is does the table have a surface? Well, to our tactile sense it sure does. But imagine if your fingers are thinner than neutrons. You might not find a surface. That's why this problem is not trivial.

     On May 14, 2010, I stated:

     "My reasoning is that a table may be something else, if our senses were different. It's also important to understand the real problem. The question 'What is a table?' refers to a table that is not being monitored by any of the human senses. I should have specified that. If possible, imagine not having any of your senses (sight, taste, smell, touch, hearing, heat, gravity). With all of your senses disabled, the table would still exist. There would be no way to know anything about it. Now, imagine getting back one of your senses (touch). But this touch sense is very different (pretend we're now in a movie, where ridiculous things are perfectly acceptable). In this movie, you are given fingers that are thinner than neutrons. Your very thin fingers could potentially stick right through the table without touching any atoms. Matter is not continuous. It has gaps that could be exploited by sufficiently thin probes (fingers in this case).
     What fascinates me so much about this question is trying to understand how a table might appear at a default level. This leads to a question that is more important sounding: Does reality have a default level? The default level of reality would be how things appear in the complete absence of any sense. For example, we see what a table looks like in a very small part of the electromagnetic spectrum. A neutrino map of a table might turn up one little dot or nothing at all (they only show the core of the Sun, for example). But still, the table persists. It doesn't matter how you look at matter. It is still there.

     I posted that stuff at an online open forum and I was openly ridiculed. One user stated: "Monitored by human senses right now or not, a table is what it is."

     That leads to one of my greatest pet peeves. There is a very common saying amongst the vulgar (common) people: It is what it is. The amount of hatred I have for that phrase is unlimited. It implies an understanding when no one knows what it is; they have accepted a given situation with careless and hopeless abandon. All inquiries are discarded; cogitation is disabled. Let's all be insects! Yay! Don't worry about thinking or understanding - just go with the flow and give up!

     As for the so-called nonsense about the table, an intelligent reader will understand the discussion is not about tables, but about reality in general. A table is a simple example. I could have used a napkin or a paper clip. The object is irrelevant. The real argument is what is reality if our senses are disabled? This is an abstract problem, which my brain is equipped to enjoy. People that understand people and socialize a lot will simply call this "nonsense", for the same reason I would call drinking alcohol "nonsense".

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