Saturday, March 11, 2006

Existentialism and the Lab Rats

My new lab partner (note to self: come up with better nickname than “Fresh Meat” ... he’s earned it) is proving quite interesting. He’s spent some time with a philosophy book, that’s for sure. But he’s not very familiar with the more modern concepts. He’s more rooted in Platonic Forms and Aristotelian “yes/no” dualistic thinking, which is okay, since most of modern Western philosophy builds off those mental giants, but still…..

Anyway, I just had quite the interesting conversation with him. I haven’t had that much fun since Philoman (yeah, that guy over at Eight Geeks) was my newbie partner. We were discussing existence vs. the perception of existence. Actually, we started out talking about the reliability of eye-witness accounts and memory in general. He’s having a hard time believing that his (and everyone’s) memory is as fallible as I claim it is. I told him to look it up for himself. Hopefully, he will and we can talk again. Especially if I’m wrong! That would be fun.

But that lead almost directly into the whole existential thing. He claims that he can prove something exists without a shadow of a doubt. I claim otherwise, i.e. that we can only prove that we can perceive something, not that it’s actually there. After all, I could be a real nutcase in a straitjacket and a rubber room somewhere, eating mashed up peas through a straw. (BTW, if that’s true, I hope they bring my thorazine soon. I could use a nap!) He rejects that and claims that he can prove to a delusional person that they’re delusional. (See how that ties back into the memory discussion? Nifty, hunh?)

He depends too much, in my opinion, on test equipment and so-called reason that isn’t really reason at all, but actually just experiential reality. I used the example of a little green man standing on a desk. He and I can’t see it, but a theoretical third person claims it’s standing there waving at us. My challenge to him was to prove that it wasn’t actually there. Now, I know this is a dirty trick, since you can’t prove a negative, but it was fun to watch him wriggle. Ultimately, I got around to the fact that if someone is having hallucinations, they can’t tell the difference between them and reality. The schizophrenic that hears God’s voice coming out of the toaster really believes that it’s God until someone convinces him that God doesn’t talk out of toasters. Only when he is convinced that something he’s perceiving isn’t real can he begin to apply reason and rationality to the topic. But that’s really counter-intuitive, since my new partner is trying to use the self-same reason and rationality to prove his points. Isn’t that funky?

I eventually brought the whole Deity issue into it, since he’s a self-proclaimed Catholic. He believes in some ineffable, supernatural force. I asked him to prove it. He had a hard time even formulating a response to that one, so I let it go.

The last bit we got into was causality, and the inability to prove it. What I mean by that is that you can’t prove that just because you tossed a ball in the air and it came down 1000 times that it will come down the 1001st time. But that’s a whole different post….

Hmmm…maybe Aradia should take my philosophy and pop culture books away from me.


Blogger Ranson said...

Great. Just great. Break another one, why don't ya! This is why we don't have nice things.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Coralius said...

He's young, he can take it.

6:08 AM  
Blogger Ranson said...

That's what you said about the puppies, and how many of those do you see floating around?

6:17 AM  
Blogger Coralius said...


Are you sniffing lab chemicals again?

6:23 AM  
Blogger Ranson said...

No. Should I be?

8:58 AM  

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"Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul..." -- Mark Twain


Fire does not wait for the sun to be hot,

Nor the wind for the moon, to be cool.

-- the Zenrin Kushu