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Author Topic: Does anything that does not affect me really exist?  (Read 3646 times)

Offline Eric A. Taylor

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There is a Paul Simon song that is stuck in my head. It's about a guy walking around in the bush of Africa (Under the African Skies I think it's called.) and it's got me to thinking. I imagine a middle aged, dark skinned person who has spent his entire life in the bush of Africa. I imagine the only thing we have in common is that we were both born at the same moment in time, He would have been born around 3 or 4 in the morning in Africa while I was being born at 2 in the afternoon in California. He'll be approaching his 41st birthday in about a week. He's never used anything electrical and while he might be a little bit aware of the wider world outside his home range, it's not something of is daily concern. I'll never meet or in anyway interact with this person, so can he be said to exist outside my imagination? For that matter does anything outside my direct experience really exist?
« Last Edit: 29/12/2010 00:22:08 by chris »


 

Offline graham.d

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Re: Does anything that does not affect me really exist?
« Reply #1 on: 21/12/2010 09:59:29 »
This is philosophy question, and like many such questions, can end up as a matter of an agreed definition of words; in this case the word "exist". In my opinion "existence" of objects, people, mathematics etc. should be defined as something absolute and outside the need for anyone's personal perception. If it were not so then it would seem highly unlikely that we would generally agree on how the world behaves and, indeed, would probably render science as a worthless subject. Afterall science is our attempts to understand the world and if the world had no properties outside of what an individual can perceive then it would seem a pointless pursuit. So I would define existence as, a priori, that which is there whether perceived or not. I would say the earth existed before life existed and, therefore, before there was any entity to perceive it. It would seem strange, in my opinion, to be a scientist and take any other view.
 

Offline Don_1

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Re: Does anything that does not affect me really exist?
« Reply #2 on: 21/12/2010 10:55:17 »
Yes, I exist for a start.

JUST A MINUTE, I see no reflection in that mirror!

Either you're right, or I'm a vampire.


This is a twist on the old 'falling tree' business. Yes, the falling tree still makes a noise when there is nobody to hear it and things outside of your world exist. Some may even be of some consequence to your life, though you may never know it.
 

Offline Mazurka

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Re: Does anything that does not affect me really exist?
« Reply #3 on: 21/12/2010 11:22:15 »
Yes, I exist for a start.

JUST A MINUTE, I see no reflection in that mirror!

Either you're right, or I'm a vampire.


This is a twist on the old 'falling tree' business. Yes, the falling tree still makes a noise when there is nobody to hear it and things outside of your world exist. Some may even be of some consequence to your life, though you may never know it.

A third possibility to account for the lack of reflection -and one arguably more reasonable than being a mythical creature - is that you were looking at plain glass rather than a mirror...

More importantly, (putting my pedants hat on) a tree falling in a wood with no one to hear, makes a sound, but does not make a noise - as noise is defined as being unwatned sound...
(which I think illustrates Grahams point)
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: Does anything that does not affect me really exist?
« Reply #4 on: 21/12/2010 11:30:41 »
"If it were not so then it would seem highly unlikely that we would generally agree on how the world behaves "

Not at all. Since all of you are figments of my imagination, you "believe" exactly what I expect you to believe.
It is inevitable that you largely agree about how the world works. The disagreements are just glitches.

With the definition you have put forward, there is no objective evidence that anything exists.
 

Offline peppercorn

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Re: Does anything that does not affect me really exist?
« Reply #5 on: 21/12/2010 11:58:08 »
The disagreements are just glitches.

Very Matrix-esque!
 

Offline Eric A. Taylor

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Re: Does anything that does not affect me really exist?
« Reply #6 on: 22/12/2010 02:02:56 »
Yes, I exist for a start.

JUST A MINUTE, I see no reflection in that mirror!

Either you're right, or I'm a vampire.


This is a twist on the old 'falling tree' business. Yes, the falling tree still makes a noise when there is nobody to hear it and things outside of your world exist. Some may even be of some consequence to your life, though you may never know it.

Well you have interacted with me so of course you exist. But did you exist before you read my post? You might think you have memories that predate your post but are those real or false memories.
 

Offline Don_1

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Re: Does anything that does not affect me really exist?
« Reply #7 on: 22/12/2010 07:38:22 »
Yes, I exist for a start.

JUST A MINUTE, I see no reflection in that mirror!

Either you're right, or I'm a vampire.


This is a twist on the old 'falling tree' business. Yes, the falling tree still makes a noise when there is nobody to hear it and things outside of your world exist. Some may even be of some consequence to your life, though you may never know it.

Well you have interacted with me so of course you exist. But did you exist before you read my post? You might think you have memories that predate your post but are those real or false memories.

Ah yes, but if I ask the same of you, which one of us exits and which is the product of the others awareness? What about those whom I react with but you have no knowledge of? And, of course, those who you know and I have no knowledge of? And those who they know and neither of us have any knowledge of? Continue to expand on this and, eventually, we would come back to you and me. So your question should really be 'Does anything exist?'

I can tell you that my feet certainly felt like they existed by the time I got home last night!
 

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Offline Geezer

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Re: Does anything that does not affect me really exist?
« Reply #8 on: 22/12/2010 07:56:48 »
Shrunk
Oh crap! I knew it was a mistake to read this thread. I'm having a nihilistic meltdown.
 

Offline Don_1

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Re: Does anything that does not affect me really exist?
« Reply #9 on: 22/12/2010 08:00:23 »
Did somebody post something after my last post?

Nah! I don't think so.
 

Offline Bill S

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Re: Does anything that does not affect me really exist?
« Reply #10 on: 25/12/2010 20:47:34 »
Quote from: Mazurka
More importantly, (putting my pedants hat on) a tree falling in a wood with no one to hear, makes a sound,

I disagree, it produces waves in the atmosphere, but only the right auditory equipment turns these into sound.

The solipsist argument can be interminable.  The reality is that the only person to whom I can prove that I exist (I think, therefore I am) is myself, and there it ends. 

Wow, that was a bit dogmatic for me. :P
 

Offline graham.d

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Re: Does anything that does not affect me really exist?
« Reply #11 on: 27/12/2010 17:02:32 »
The Descarte argument is tautological and somewhat worthless as a starting point for any philosophy of the world. From a scientific point of view it is non-sensical as a basis for doing anything useful. In any case, because it is a statement that can only be made by an entity about itself, it cannot convey any truths to any other entity. It is better to assume that nothing is certain but that we can make reasonable assertions as a basis from which to make logical deductions. At least we can all get on with our lives in the hope that something useful can result from which we can all benefit (I am making the assumption, not unreasonably, that entities other than myself exist).

 

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Re: Does anything that does not affect me really exist?
« Reply #11 on: 27/12/2010 17:02:32 »

 

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