Cogito ergo I know that I know nothing.

I quote Descartes and Socrates, therefore what I write is philosophy.

That’s how silly this feels. But for the sake of my thoughts being anything more than a fart in the wind, I will pretend to believe otherwise. (And then for the sake of my honest ideas, pretend no more.)

I am a vessel of experience floating in a world just outside my grasp. With the aid of my senses I have concluded that the properties of this world, which toss me to and fro, do exist outside of myself. Rather, they must exist as such. For, if all that I experience is nothing more than a self-induced illusion, the state of a dream, then all is for not.

And of that, I know that I need not worry. It is upon this principle that I will move forward, feel outward and look inward for the fruits of my senses made tangible by my mind. This will be the purpose of my life and by proxy, the purpose of this blog. Of course, while I navigate this world, this universe, in the event that I discover a seam, then I will question the validity of all of this at that time and not before.

And on that note, I will begin with a question. I think it would be fitting if I began with onefor which I do not have an answer, nor an inkling.


Is the purpose of a human to move through space as a collection of atoms, consciously affecting the future to further its means and achieve its ends, or is the purpose of a human to act within the aggregate of humanity to affect the future in an unconscious and disconnected way?

Or more succinctly, what is more important, the greatness of a human or the complicity of each human in the greatness of humanity?

I asked myself this question today. As I was looking at the valley over which my highway ran, the components of this thought collided. I think it is a worthy question and not simply because it troubles me. I have come to delude myself into thinking not only that my thoughts have worth, but that I may be able to offer humanity something of value. This is an old thought of mine. Remembering back, I once had a talk with a couple friends about a (very lucrative) career I was to get into. I told him that I no longer felt that my life would have purpose if I did so and that I would rather use my time to offer something to time, illicit some positive change in the world. When I asked my friend if he understood what I was saying, he responded “Yeah, like Hitler”.  ಠ_ಠ  This response, I did not expect. At first I thought a little less of my friend, but only because I did not initially understand why his answer was so.

Who was Hitler if not one who outgrew his role as a single man to mitigate the natural progression of history and the constraints of mortality that ensures the path of the future is a slow and generally thoughtless progression, to be a man of real change. Good change? Well good and bad are labels applied by the winners of wars. (With all the death he imposed, I’ll say ungood).

For another example, imagine a cell who decides its purpose is no longer to do as it is told, but to become more than itself. This we call cancer. On the other hand, this same form can cause mutation to occur and as prehistory has shown us, this is a very good thing. For, without it, the very first cell would not have been the seed of sentience, but rather the very first cell and nothing more- ever.

Perhaps, if I am allowed to try and resolve this thought here and now, mankind moves like water. With a steady current in any which direction there is erosion. But the destructive and creative effects of water are not limited to simply rushing. There are also moments in history when a dripping occurs. With one lifetime after another there can be a repeating of efforts and strategies that produces failures for those who act, but on a greater scale, produces the path for which a solution can be found through these repeated efforts. These are histories stalactites and stalagmites, agriculture, metallurgy and language.

One other behavior which can be used to illustrate the parallel of water and men would be that of the expansion and contraction of water at various temperatures (men at various temperaments) can illicit great change in a relatively short amount of time. And maybe Hitler was just that, a man who, at a time of great unrest for his country (post WW1 debt) fell into a crack of history and made his presence known… yes, he would say that it was by his will, but perhaps that’s what the lucky drop of water that affects the future so is allowed to say.

Another day, another thought.

Thanks for reading

About Ossington

I often think but seldom share these thoughts. And if the product of my thinking is to affect anything but my own sense of satisfaction, then surely it must be shared. Here you may try to know what I believe to know.
This entry was posted in conjecture, philosophy, thoughts. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Cogito ergo I know that I know nothing.

  1. Robyn says:

    Great title; switches from Latin to English, try to do that with all of your titles!
    So, lets start with philosophy.
    You are an empiricist (who believes that we gain all ideas and knowledge through experiencing the world) and a realist (who believes that qualities exist objectively within external objects whether there is anyone there to perceive them or not). You believe that properties of the world must firmly exist. For such a powerful conclusion, I would be interested to hear your argumentation. More specifically, I am interested in your opinion on God; does He play into your reasoning? Usually when philosophers make claims about firmly existing things in the world external to us, they tend to appeal to a higher authority on reality. Basically, you give (/imply) two options for the explanation of the way the world appears to you (and of the existence of things outside your mind): you say that your experiences could be nothing more than a self-induced illusion (and if this is the case, then whatever, who saw it coming, right?), or, more logically (and for the sake of carrying on with life), things do actually exist because where else would we get our ideas from? Well, to give a short counterargument from idealism; since it is possible for humans to mis-perceive the way an object or state of affairs is (by way of the limits of human understanding; e.g., seeing a whiteboard as red under a red light, or assuming that a table is solid yet upon closer examination it is actually composed of many millions of particles which are separated by open space) do we really have reason to believe that anything has objective qualities which cannot be considered relative to the human ability to perceive them? If we’ve learned anything from the Allegory of the Cave, its that you can always see things in a different light! The question is, which light is it that allows us to experience the true nature of reality; how far back must we step from the paint to see the whole picture?
    So, if we understand that we perceive all properties of the external world subjectively, then what are we left to assume exists necessarily and intrinsically? Plato thought that universal forms do in fact exist, but they exist in a different way than you are implying. By forms, I am referring to the universal truths which unite objects or entities of the same type, e.g. the appleness of an apple (the form of an apple) is what allows us to distinguish apples from oranges, or bananas, or cars, or humans (any other distinction between these objects would appeel to grounds which I have just shown are problematic and empirically unfounded….get it, apPEEL…….note to self: puns aren’t funny). So, an essence of a thing is the collection of ideas (not necessarily existing properties) which make up that nature of what it is to be that thing. Further on Plato, he thought that what God was, was the aggregate of all universal truths; the embodiment of the forms and the knowledge of the forms. In this way, we can imagine God as somewhat of a data base, or even a mind (like H.A.L became) which contains all facts about the world. We can go even further and say that all these facts are actually ideas of true knowledge within the mind of God. Plato was also an empiricist, he thought that we gained knowledge about the truth of the forms through experiencing their manifestations (e.g. the more trees you see, the more you are able to grasp the universal essence of treeness). So, when you say that it is possible that your reality is actually a self-induced illusion, I fell that you are ascribing yourself with possibly undue authority and power. For many philosophers, the only “self” that can induce it’sself is God. Conclusion:

    TLDR; When we experience the world external to our mind we are not necessarily perceiving actually existing qualities or objects; rather, ideas of God.

    I would also like to talk about the REST of your entry…(hey, it’s always good to read the introduction closely!) so I will have to do this again another time, I have class early today morning

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