Every now and then, on a Friday, I’ll step into the deep waters of Philosophy, ramble on some idea and maybe even interact with something I might be reading. Most of the time, a real philosopher could probably read my drivel and speak into it offering a corrective—but for now I’ll speak from ignorance. After all, it is Friday; what better way to have fun than with philosophy. In this post I’ll answer the question “Are You There?” referring to me the writer, in under 700 words. Heh.
Now philosophers have long noted the problem of trying to establish the existence of other people. Weird right? Some of them doubting everything outside of themselves tried to get a foothold that there was one thing they knew—that there was a thinker (themselves) thinking thoughts. As such they could start establishing reality from there.
But this is problematic when it comes to other persons. I mean, even if you could find thought as a foothold for existence, how can you substantiate that someone else has thoughts? If you hook them up to a device and see readings on a machine all you know is that there are readings on a machine.
Indeed even if the person outright tells you what they’re thinking, you don’t really know if that’s what they’re thinking much less the concept of there being a thinker there. For all you know, you’re part of a dream with you being the only real one and these messages (like blog posts or things from apparent other people) are just your fractured mind warning you about your situation.
But walking around like this is not only problem prone, it is also really difficult to maintain and continue to live. I mean, why eat food? Why not just do what you want?
Beyond that, there is the fact that you experience things and you don’t have any real reason to doubt your own situation. When you feel pain you know what it feels like, even though you may not be able to properly portray to anyone else that you are indeed feeling pain; as such you should be able to look at people outside of yourself in a similar situation. They don’t have to justify their existence; you just use yourself as a construct of what other people are like.
Not only do I think there’s nothing wrong with this, I think you’re completely justified in doing it. You have no reason to doubt that you are a thinking organism and when you look out into the world you see things that resemble you in just about every way (except with apparent different thought constructs) so why doubt that they are thinking creatures—just like yourself.
The problem with a blogs, or any written document, is that it removes us a step away from the creatures we can interact with in the sensory level. So how do you really know that there’s a writer out there putting these digital words to paper? I mean, can’t it be some randomizing computer program or a T-1000 trying to seduce you into a trap?
Well, here I think the same projection actually works: you know that you can put your thoughts to digital paper and you have no reason to doubt that you yourself put down these thoughts on digital paper without you knowing it, so you are safe to assume that someone else—a thinking creature just like yourself—is writing these words.
So “Are you there” you ask me? Yes, I’d answer and you are totally justified in believing me.