Objects in space

I tried, between shouting about some upcoming party, theories about costumes for said party, the endless discussions about christmas and som movie analysis, to explain something of the theory of Perspectivism today. I had only very mild sucess I belive, so I'll give it a try here instead:

The whole thing starts with Schopenhauer, the man with the crazy hair, as can be seen here. His theory of 'the world as will' starts with stating that Kants idealism in many ways is a good theory, and gives him (Kant) credit for establishing beyond doubt that the world around us (humans) truly exists. Schopenhauer then points out a few things about this theory:

  • It also states beyond doubt that the objects of the world are totally unknown, and indeed unknowable to us
  • In spite of this Kant attributes at least one thing to these objects of the world: they give us impressions
  • Kants theory also makes it obvious that the only way we ever can gain knowledge is by impressions (i.e. the empirical way)
The two first points seem to contradict each other, and so Schopenhauer starts adding things to Kants theory, in short:
  • To say about the objects that the send us impressions is to say something which we can not say since we can never know anything about the objects themselves. All we know about are impressions of objects.
  • All we know, then, is: We have impressions and those impressions are the only source of our knowledge. Therefore what we call objects are indeed impressions, i.e. the objects could not exist without us perciving them.
The impressions are percived by us, and we, if we analyse ourselves, will find that above all we consist of will - will to survive, will to reproduce and so on. Perhaps a modern philosopher would have called it preferences. One might even interpret Schopenhauer as saying that the objects or impressions are also made up out of will, that the only thing that really can be said to exist is will.

Anyway, Schopenhauer then proceeds to try to explain why we are never satisfied. He claims that since we misstake the impressions as being actual objects we start wanting them (our will is directed towards them), we belive that once we get them we will be happy. But once we do get them, there appears other objects or impressions that we will towards, and so on. The only escape from this is to accept that the objects are only impressions and that they stem from us rather than from the world, and thus they are not something we can resonably will towards. The way to minimize unhappiness then, is to live with as little of these objects around us, to be askets. This is, however, a futile way that can only minimize, it may be a way away from total unhappiness, but it does not lead to happiness.

Nietzsche, the man with the moustache, studied Schopenhauer and was immensley facinated by Wagner. He stated, as a modification to Schopenhauer, that we are not controlled by a 'will to live' as much as by a 'will to power'. Nietzsche says that life is secondary to power in that the reason for us to want to live is so that we can keep and expand our power. The reason we have to assume that this is indeed our ultimate goal, he says, is that it explains our actions better than other such goals (such as will to happiness or will to be good or other such goals).

Now, in nature, says Nietzsche, those stronger (in a broad sence of the word) will erradicate the weaker ones. Note that he does not say what sort of strength will prevail, it could, depending on the situation be intelligence, physical strength, strength of will and so on. This, he says, is the natural order of things, it is the way things were before religion interfered with the way of things. Religion imposes upon humankind, according to Nietzsche, a moral for slaves and is a pestilence since it counters humankinds striving force for power.

Nietzsche belived that we have an unique opportunity to rid ourselves of this slave moral due to the progress of industry and science. In effect, he claimed, science has killed god. We strive for power, and in that create our own destinies. This is a thought that in some ways is very similar to the fundamental thought of the existentialists, that existence for humans comes before essence. If we rid ourselves from the slave moral we will develop, by our freedom of will and our strife for power into a new state of evolution, the infamous 'Ubermench'. This part of his theory was later on missinterpreted by the nazis and we all know how that went.

This, then, finally leads us into the whole point of this little text, Perspectivism. This is in some ways a middle ground between the rationalist idea of objectivity and the sceptics idea of subjectivism. Nietzsche meant something like this:

Humans can't not have impressions, they form our world view very fundamentally, and as such they are objective, that is, we can't imagine them not being true, and since they only exist because of us they are therefore true. In another sence, we, as individuals may very well not have the same impressions at all, or not even similar.

For all you who think that this is a silly idea, it does not have to mean that if we all look on the same ball we see different things, it may instead be as simple as two persons living under completely different circumstances. Imagine, if you will, that you meet a pygme who has lead his whole life in the rain forest living in tune with nature, deciding things collectivley with his tribe - how many things would you agree on concerning what is important, what the world is and so on? Not so many, I would imagine.

So in that sence our impressions are very much a private thing, they are subjective. But who can say who has the better view of the world, the pygme or you? Noone, says Nietzsche, they are both equally valid. They can coexist without problem, they both are objective, in a subjective sort of way.

This is Perspectivism then, the idea that even though we have some objective sence of the world, it is not the only objective sence of the world. I think it is a rather beautiful idea.

Free will

Do we have free will? The problem really never materialises unless one is presented with an acutal choice of some importance. Under normal circumstances it's just not something we think about. Could I have chosen the apple instead of the pear? Not really important enough for us to bother about. One could say that we are free will indifferent under normal circumstances.

When, then, does it become important to us? Well, as I said, once we are presented with what acutally looks like an important choice. For instance, lets say a member of my close family needs a kidney. Should I donate? You probably say yes. But then why shouldn't I do that when it's someone else, that I don't know who needs it? Actually I happen to know that there is someone right now who needs a kidney (as there always is), so should I not go donate mine immedeately? And to bring this back to the topic of free will again: Could I do that if I wanted to?

In our hypotetical situation: On the operating table, ready to donate to my family member, wouldn't I start wondering if I could choose to donate the kidney to an unknown person? I know I would think that. The problem is that whatever I do I won't be able to go back and check if I actually could have choosen differently. And suddenly, once the stakes are higher than apples or pears this bothers me.

And why not discuss breifly all the moral choices we make. The world isn't perfect, we all know it. That's why our moral choices almost always are between a bad and another bad. Since this is the case, wouldn't it be fun, important even, to know if we autally have a choice in what we choose? Like always when it matters, there just isn't any way to know for sure, no way to make an experiment to prove or disprove our belif or feeling, that we have free will.

So what do we do about it? How do we tackle the problem? Well, there are several ways that I can think of: Accept that we have no free will, i.e. become a fatalist; accept that we have free will; accept that we just don't know whether or not we have free will, which is roughly like being some sort of determinist; accept that not only is there no free will, but neither are we bound by destiny, rather chaos randomly determines our choices.

The way I see it, all those options are equally valid siince there is absolutely no evidence either way. So I prefer to utilise this glipse, if you will, in the system, this uncertanity, and choose to belive that the facts are as I would want them to be: that I have free will. Or did I really choose that?

RSS 2.0