Why You Can Know F*ck All

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The world we experience is our representation of it – not the world as it really is. In fact, we can’t know the world as it really is because we have no access to it. So, is sugar sweet? In its own right sugar seems to be just a particular molecule with various properties – sweetness not being one of them. Sweetness is something a human tongue adds – it is a subjective experience, as is color, musical harmony, beauty, order – and so on.

Our experience of the world is local – a local reality. Even the way we think is local – logic, mathematics, reason, cause and effect. Any pretension that our reason can comprehend reality is pure nonsense. Our reason comprehends only the structures which it itself has created. The world knows nothing of our reason and as such is not determined by it. All sciences are in fact concerned only with understanding the way our minds represent the world, they are not concerned with the world outside these representations, since we have no access to such a world. We are locked away in our own local reality – both sensory and conceptual.

This raises the obvious question: what the fuck can we know? The answer is kind of obvious. We can know the nature of our own minds, and the way we represent the world to ourselves, but any pretension of knowledge outside this is pure wishful thinking.

There is a subtle point to be made here. Our minds do not create the world, but they do condition how we experience it. If you’ve got five years to spare then read Kant, he deals with the points being made here in mind-numbing detail.

Life and death are also our own representations – time being the way the mind sequences our experiences. Is there really any birth and death? Well if time is not a property of reality (as Kant asserts), then neither are birth and death. And if causality is just a property of the way the mind represents reality then the possibility of free-will also exists, although it certainly doesn’t in life as we know it.

The down side to the realization that our world is a local representation is that we lose our pretensions to knowledge beyond experience. The up-side is that we can use our local representation as a negation of reality. In other words there is no birth and death, no cause and effect, no space, no time, no color, no musical harmony etc. This mirrors quite well the negative theology practiced in the middle-ages, where adherents would simply say what God was not – not a color, not in space, not in time etc.

If we can admit to ourselves that we know fuck all about reality because we are trapped in our local representation, then it becomes possible to say rather more about the nature of reality. Nice paradox, and I like paradoxes.

By MB

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