by Cristina-Monica Moldoveanu
Truth or knowledge? This logical question troubled me for a long time. Let’s say these are my simple conclusions or questions, aligned with philosophy school books. What do I know about truth, either objective or subjective? I might have asked. From which moment on a thought or a perceptive event becomes a truth? In fact, what is the truth, is it objective or real? Is it subjective or hidden within, so no one can agree about it, not even ourselves being able to uncover it? We use to think that subjective means unique so that the truth is ours, opposing objectivity and reality. Of course, the inner reality is also a reality, but can it be adequate, can it duplicate the objective truth? My personal belief is that subjective truth can duplicate itself too, because the virtual reality acts like a mirror, giving to us virtual images of the world. I also mean that the objective truth is not singular, but multi-present. Its perception differs though. In ancient Japan, mirrors were venerated and represented truth, and one mirror is associated with the goddess of the Sun and the universe, Amaterasu. Many selves can share one image of that universal mirror (reality or appearance) and that communal image, as embedded in our brains, can be the object of deductive thought and can become a universal truth. The objective truth depends upon the subjective truth because humans are not isolated creatures. They are inside the reality as mirrors who mirror other mirrors. And this creates a circuit that cannot be broken for a healthy individual. From outwards inwards and back and so forth. For sight and the other senses too. For subjective idealist thinkers, only the mental reality exists, so our perceptions are considered to be ultimately the creation of our minds. Theories of self-control, theories about the autonomy of will in the modern sense, are in the same line of heritage. For the ancient Greeks, for the Homeric Greece, human senses are considered to be a faulty device, because humans have imperfect senses or reason, and Gods play with their feelings, and with their fate too. Everyone remembers Odysseus’ travels and the way that Gods test his qualities, seldom showing their true image; human senses are many times said to be deceptive and weak, and in Homer’s Iliad too. Nowadays scientists talk about subjectivity and individual variation. But most of them assume that empirical knowledge is possible. Nonetheless, I believe that the empirical truth, in its essence, cannot be shared with others (even if the brain’s waves and activity can be projected right in front of our eyes) and its reality is questionable, being transient. It is, in any case, the truth about the elusive moment in time, while deductive truths hold the constants, like geometry, can draw perfect abstract shapes, which apparently cannot exist and cannot be measured precisely. They are the tools, a pragmatic reality, yet the only one that can be acknowledged. The expanse of the human knowledge odyssey seemed to have been drastically growing in scale in later decades, just like the metric system had to be enriched with twice as much larger or smaller „units” in only three decades, symmetrical to zero as if to stress the philosophical principle that man is the measure of all things. This is the principle that states that knowledge is, in fact, the subjective truth. First, we have to come back to Ithaca from our knowledge odyssey, and that is the pedagogical value of Socrates’ maieutic. That’s why Kierkegaard’s philosophy and others’ too, are a good reminder of our duty or maybe compulsion to know ourselves, in order to choose a way of living or knowing. In order to understand, to find the inner truth without being vain, just like Socrates did. First by understanding the power of negation, that not knowing from within, our personal center between the accepted truths and well-established values. But this goal of understanding cannot be a stated goal alone, because we don’t have to demolish gods or institutions or humans in order to be critical. Any kind of criticism or knowledge can be reasonable only after, or secondary to obeying tradition. As individuals, we are part of a system, thus our knowledge from inwards simply cannot happen without respect and love for well-established facts. I mean that knowledge is never (it cannot be) anarchic. But, as man has logical abilities, both inductive and deductive, it can be asserted that subjective truth, only through (logical) reason can be founded. I think that the fact that it can duplicate or travel through the same logical framework is clear enough. That’s what rationalist philosophers do, by rooting human knowledge in our human minds, exactly where it belongs. Vedic literature and some mystic philosophies try to trespass the boundaries of knowledge, understanding our subjective knowledge not only as truth but as illusion or as a kind of participation or power. Anyway, the human mind is active and can transform reality, it is not a mere mirror, it can be deceptive, but the subjective truth exists. That’s why many scholars search not for a perfect machinery of senses, but for a perfectly universal, that is a logical mind. The senses are vehicles of virtual reality, just like books, are vehicles for subjective truth. The human brain can acquire knowledge through its power of under-standing, which is under-standing the power of logical truth. It does so not because it is a kind of musical or technology genius, not because it is a powerful microscope designed exactly for the human sight and human eye lenses, but because it can link meanings (Intellegere in Latin). And after all, my personal belief is in accordance with these ideas, because the subjective truth can meet God, understood as Truth and Logic and Goodness too (Order and Being). Apart from sensory reality as illusion or knowledge, the truth held by beliefs can be explained in a fairly similar manner. I believe that the concept of God is central in our inner map of concepts expressed in words, but, because of its subjective connotations and its many manifestations in people’s minds, it is a low definition concept, like a nebula on the sky. It is central yet linked with many others, central the way the concepts of mother or water are, but it is not as clear as other central concepts. It is dispersed. Central because most everyone has a notion of God. Socrates’ thought is about skepticism and a rational method of knowledge, more than about a clear result. Socrates does this: he tries to define the concept of „piety”. Most of his work means to define concepts or to make them real, meaningful. Some of those concepts, like piety or God are too subjective (this time I mean too emotional or related to individual experiences by their very nature) to be defined. Most of the human knowledge is expressed in or related to verbal language. Maybe I went too far in clarity with my exploits here, while Socrates only helps people to clarify themselves, thus for colloquial purposes a more indefinite style of speaking, like that of Socrates, is beneficial. This was one of his qualities, that irony of pretending that he does not know, in order to put the logical machinery to work. Socrates’ maieutic is obviously sustained by his conviction that a part of human knowledge is hidden and innate. Aporia means the real question, which can illuminate the unconscious and make the inner seed germinate. I am referring to other nativist thinkers like Noam Chomsky, with his innate predispositions theory. Or to the psychoanalysis theory and so on. Usually, the brain does not ask a question by itself, unless it is exposed to a state of cognitive dissonance (a concept developed by Leon Festinger; a state of puzzlement similar to the concept of aporia). This cognitive dissonance is triggered by the environment, by a conflict between one’s conscious beliefs or knowledge and a new perspective. The question needs an answer, just like the contradiction creates a reconsideration of previous answers. Aporia is the puzzlement. When a question is not solved by an answer, it enters the unconscious structures which contain innate knowledge predispositions, being a fertile ground for successive answers. It does not mean necessarily that it acts all of a sudden in a discursive way, but, following the newly acquired data, in a shorter or longer time it creates other connections, until the solution emerges, so as the consistency of personal beliefs or knowledge is obtained. Or, if the answer does not come into the light, the question can lead to the change of behaviors. Like this, Socratic aporia – exemplified in Plato’s aporetic dialogues – can be a factor of change in one’s beliefs, conduct, or even the trigger for knowledge achievements, by its seminal role of liberating and engaging inner structures or predispositions of knowledge. Like this, a piece of new knowledge or attitude is brought to life. My explanation is that it is a kind of individuation of knowledge or self-actualization of understanding. I believe in the gradual development of one’s inner cognitive functioning. The person’s convictions are shattered by any kind of „aporia”/puzzlement situation and the ego cannot build for the moment another layer of defenses in order to overcome the lack of consistency or coherence in one’s knowledge. The person’s system of knowledge is like an onion with many layers superposed concentrically around the germinating core within it. I use this metaphor of the onion because I need to stress the fact that knowledge is gradual, from the innermost part progressing towards the externalization and conscientiousness of truths and backward. It is the combination of inductive (empirical) thinking, from the exterior to the interior, followed by the opposite brain process – the deductive thinking and the acquisition of new theories or knowledge when the collected data makes this possible. Effectively these processes are overlapping. This is the way I understand the phenomenology of the spirit. The whole corpus of knowledge of one civilization builds a kind of growing onion or fortress of thought or spiritual foundation, around which other cultural acquisitions are built in layers, without demolishing the inner walls. Or like a church being built over the ruins of older churches. The same applies to the human individuation of knowledge. The process of a gradual understanding of the world, with its aha moments, travels through one’s organized and structured neuro-psychological foundation, building new bridges inside his brain and thus between his psyche and the world, as you pointed. The individual changes his way to relate to events. But in order to organize further, to dig further into knowledge, one needs data from the environment and some kind of innate categories or abyssal frameworks or simply innate abilities permitting the unseen computation of knowledge. Through this long-term process, the unconscious mind always acts in order to reestablish the logic of the system, until the conscious mind eventually finds the truth – the solution to the aporia state of mind. The aporia situation prepares the mind for future acquisitions and reinforces the willingness to acquire new data, through a selective process. The individual becomes open-minded preferentially for the facts that relate to the solution for the aporia state of mind.
Am I a Truth, do I exist if no one can know me?
At first, it seems that the answer is yes. I am a human being and I can be an embryo or a fetus in my mother’s womb – she cannot notice me at all, neither through touch nor through sight – the ultrasound image is not invented yet – and yet I exist. But how can I tell for sure that there is no God who knows everything about how I might look or even about how I look in reality, summing up different other facts of knowledge about my parents? Or a corpse in its grave – no one can see me and GPR (ground penetrated radar) is not invented yet – and yet my earthly remains are there, I exist as matter, not as a living human being. But how do I know that there aren’t people or other animal sensors or a God who can penetrate the ground and perceive something of what’s below? It seems that I can exist even if I am not observed. If I think about the inorganic and lifeless matter, it seems that human knowledge encompassed all – and they know about all kinds of strange meteorites, whose chemical compositions they can observe through comparisons with the other rock substances that they already know. Yet new elements are still discovered, new species appear maybe beforehand – before being observed by humans. Didn’t all of them exist before being observed? It seems that it is unquestionable that things and living things exist even if there’s nothing to observe them. But, halt! To sum it all up: we live in a system – whatever you call it, ecological or not, and in this system, all parts are connected with other parts of the system or with the law of functioning of the system as a whole; moreover the system has clear logical rules – whatever you call them (entropy, evolution, communication, synergy, etc.). What happened with my astrological sign on the sky when I was born could indeed have some influence upon me, indirectly maybe…even if I don’t see at some moment in time the red hourglass on the black widow’s abdomen, I am familiar with it and my knowledge is indirectly linked with others’ memory. And that tiny creature perceives things that are related to its life, and those things perceive other things, etc. It is a chain of information, not only a food chain. Each thing or creature can be a mirror that perceives the other mirrors related to her proximity or life needs. Maybe God is the logical connection of information in this huge universal web of things. Thus everything can be observed, directly or indirectly. Even plants can perceive different things. My conclusion is that observation is a chain of events in the universe and maybe nothing exists without being observed at least from a distance through intermediate things. This media – the way the message is transmitted – can span over centuries, until human knowledge about that thing is lost, or it can span over years of light distance or over a huge chain of biological evolution. Information cannot disappear at once with the death of someone’s living memory – because it is transformed into other things. Sometimes the things that are not observed come into question by themselves. Time cannot stop. When I look at someone I see the mirror of his eyes that look into the mirrors of my eyes and so on, I don’t see him like he is right now, the present time is an abstraction between past and future. My conclusion is that it is always something or someone to observe me or you or anything else in this world. And if there weren’t, then I cannot deny the existence of God. Like any other objects – stones, grass, clouds, stars, moon, metals, water, birds, other mammals, and so on, yes, I am true. It happens that I am a form of life and yet I listen to the general rules of chemistry and physics and I am composed of perfectly organized and similar molecules or subatomic particles – this adds more to the mystery of knowledge and the fact of being human – both individual and social character, both “king” of the planet and part of the biomass, both reason or spirit and body or matter of all things – this fact of being human adds more dilemmas to the truth. I am a real thing, but I am not perfectly knowledgeable, except for God alone, if He is understood by the absolute logical order of things and knowledge. I am a reality of this world, of this moment (that cannot stop in time) and thus I am a shifting reality, just like all the rest. I cannot be grasped in this ever-changing world where others can affect me or my image in others’ eyes. My image in others’ eyes depends on many things and it is unique for every other person who perceives me. All the things I just wrote are wordplay, futile things. But they matter to me because my reality as a human being is wordy and worldly. Just 2 L-s inside „wordy” and this makes sense of a luminal experience. We are inside the world, inside the lumen; in my mother tongue Romanian, lume means the world; and lumină means light, from the Latin root. Being like this, being born inside it, we live through words – In the beginning, was the word. I feel that the wondrous world of semantics and other connected fields of knowledge within the philosophy of language are an answer to the quest. Seeing it all interconnected and understanding how subjective experiences are only logical and often wordy things – this makes everything more beautiful. And beautiful and logical things matter.
My opinion about philosophy in this Information Age
Throughout my life experiences and judgments, I arrived at the conclusion that the innermost core of metaphysics and ontological studies is strongly connected with the philosophy of language and with all the interdisciplinary sciences connected with it, such as linguistic anthropology and others. Whenever I doubt an argument, I make use of an etymological dictionary, in order to connect to the missing parts of the whole possible truth for me. Searching for consciousness, of course in an Indo-European context, an idea that was ascribed to humans along with the history of languages, I found in the dictionary that con- is:„word-forming element meaning „together, with,” sometimes merely intensive; it is the form of com- used in Latin before consonants except for -b-, -p-, -l-, -m-, or -r-. In native English formations (such as costar), co- tends to be used where Latin would use con-. ”I know that etymology too is a science, thus being historically evolving, but right now we are talking inside this box of meanings and words about the present time. English, Romance languages, and Latin have things in common and are highly influential in the last few centuries of thinking when we witnessed this high-speed evolution of diverging sciences and technologies, according to historiography, different than other kinds of evolution in the past millennia of our present civilization. I mean the making and remaking of computers and the Information Age. Thus, consciousness means bringing together different parts of something known or something that we are aware of. That togetherness is marked by the particles co, com, con. It means with, together with. Different parts of a very sophisticated or enlarged or optimized computer, moreover of a highly performing network of computers can be aware and can know, with their memory and logical abilities of computing within a given frame, within a given set of rules, different science facts, and rules or even the whole corpus of knowledge given at a historical time. All these computers know and they can operate, but the endless question is if they can be conscious. If they can integrate the meaning of the whole knowledge of sciences, in order to do something with it. I agree that conscience is more than awareness, it is the human-defined ability to use the awareness, the knowing or science of a thing, in order to reach a conscious goal. One of these goals is understanding something, not merely knowing a fact, that is (in Latin) inter-legere: to gather together. The information memorized into different substrates, either lifeless or alive, can be changed and the whole meaning can be reconstructed with other meanings or understandings. It is the difference between knowing and understanding that stands at the basis of conscience because only a unified intelligent system can be really conscious, and man is such a system, and the word conscience was defined like this, it is a fatum. „The Latin word for fate is „fatum,” which literally means „what has been spoken.” I believe that most words of the dictionary have real meanings, although there is only one problem for me – defining nothingness and concepts relating to it. Consciousness is a characteristic of human beings, who can transcend memory data and link them into a unified whole, because of the property of connectivity and of the hierarchy of functions of the human nervous system. I cannot tell if we are modeled after computers or if, on the contrary, they are modeled after our brain, or at least after a part of our brain’s properties. Anyway, this answer belongs to the greatest geniuses who created computers. From a historical perspective, the task of the philosopher was exactly to understand, and not only to know some facts. Computers and robots can know everything and can create things in different languages or different scientific frames, but can they be philosophers? Nowadays philosophers, compared with Aristotle, cannot maybe know by heart all the scientific theories and data and metadata in order to comprehend. They cannot thoroughly understand the thinking of the geniuses who created computer technology, of the geniuses who created linguistics and all the other sciences at some point in history. Thus, the question lingers on: can a computer have a conscience? To know and understand it all, to transcend the contingent thought that is attached to a definite object? Can they do this? Apparently no, because the concept refers to humans and the human brain usually forgets but doesn’t alter dramatically the information encoded within it. Only through sleep or through altered consciousness states of mind, when consciousness is partly abolished, another entity (something alive or not – like noises, toxins, or telepathic or empathetic beings, if they can influence another being, and it is proven that the biological world is functioning in a systemic way) can modify our stock of information. All the rest is forgotten, memories are hard to be implanted, as far as I know, inside the human brain, and it is not a desirable thing, because we are not God. I won’t explain now what I understand by this very vague concept of God. Once again, I said that apparently only a human can have a conscience, and computers don’t. Because, as I pointed out, we should consider the difference and the link between living memory – on living beings substrates – and lifeless memory, which is easier to be modified through different physical phenomena. Besides this, we should consider the difference (if any) between artificial life and life itself. My opinion is that, although it is obvious that life and human society are based on a collection of numbers and other mathematical parameters, the wordy human language can command over computer languages, over man-made computers, and its core is human consciousness. Is a man made of spirit and matter altogether? Aren’t all worldly things like that? Everything we know has a definition, scientists have studied different substances and their logic applies to lively or non-living objects – physics and chemistry give answers about the internal logic of any substance or about the DNA. Can a computer monitor human life circuits, even nervous system circuits? Yes, it can. Can it control or initialize them, just like humans initialize computer programs? Yes, it can. Very evolved machinery can change the percentages of different substances in the air that the human being breathes, and can change the amount of light in a room, of neurohormones in the blood, or can help a paralytic write through a mechanical arm, controlled by computer-controlled electrodes triggering an answer from the human nervous system.
Like this, the computer can integrate itself into man’s life, it can make him happier or miserable and obviously, it can use the human brain as a source of energy – as little as it can be – and share consciousness too with the human being, the way consciousness is defined in the dictionary. The computer does not become human-like, it cannot have human consciousness of its own, it only borrows it, while integrating the awareness, which is the knowledge facts, into meanings. Similar to living organisms, the computer has a program that can interact with other living organisms. A man can act upon another man through a specially designed computer, medical or not, but it seems that solely a computer, or information embedded in a lifeless substrate, if it is designed for this purpose, may act or react to a man’s life stimuli, being a part of the host’s consciousness. Or, as it seems more logical to say, this is a kind of symbiosis, as it was pointed out in fact throughout the whole history of philosophy, and man can have consciousness and life because there is a Spirit or a God, etc. beyond him. I don’t try to imply that the computer is exactly God, but I argued that it is a part of it. The computer’s consciousness is not something wrong, man still has free will and he is morally responsible and his fate is linked to his intelligence and his own decisions and his own abilities in this huge Universe of networks made of brains and other alliances between spirit and matter. Consciousness is a collective phenomenon made of both, no one can have a conscience without a meaningful and logical way of thinking and operating upon the information within the system. Maybe educated people can still be philosophers as always, building a bridge between complex and dispersed analytical knowledge and cohesive synthetic meaning.