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Thursday, July 05, 2007


I've been trying to spend a little free time reviewing Spinoza. I would have never thought much of him, but Matt pointed him out as decidedly non-religious thinker that influenced Western thought. Here is the first premise from Spinoza's Ethics (which ultimately becomes a version of the ontological proof for God):

Substance exists and cannot be dependent on anything else for its existence.

Spinoza then talks about attributes, which the substance had and the perceiver can perceiver. Then there are modes or affectations, which are the result of the attribute on the perceiver. So, he is carefully breaking down the process of perception, or the make up of reality.

Anywho. Here is what I find interesting: We as human beings--most of us--assume that our perceptions are linked to a substance. We process these various stimuli in such a way as to think that there is a cause of those stimuli outside of ourselves.

I wonder why we do that. Spinoza has no evidence for his first premise. We can know that there is a something--us--and maybe a something else--because otherwise there can't be a defined something--but we have no reason to believe that our sensations are caused by a something else.

Then I heard a story about autism and wondered if autistic people don't so easily make this assumption.


Matt Dick said...

I think it's analogous to the free-will discussion. I happen to think we don't have free will. But no matter what I think, I will (have to) act as if I do.

That's the case with assuming something exists outside of us. What's the result of thinking or acting otherwise?

JimII said...

Just to dig on this for a minute, I wonder if you could conceive of a world in which you control everything. So, in other words, you think it is within your power to create your perceptions. When things don't go your way, it is a result of imperfection on your part. A failure to properly create your desired perception rather than the result of an uncontrollable external stumuli.

You may move about in the world in exactly the same way as someone who believes there is no free will. (E.g., just because it isn't your choice to want a cookie, and then to eat a cookie, it doesn't mean you didn't want the cookie any more than it means you didn't eat it, right?)

No matter whether the outside influence or your internal will are illusiory, you ultimately have to function the same way.

Seriously, Scotch and cigars. Soon.

Matt Dick said...

I can conceive of such a world. Every now and again, when I am just at the edge of sleep, I can partially control my dream -- I am aware I am dreaming, and that I can fly, or do anything, but sometimes I fail to execute perfectly, even though I know I can do it all. Perhaps in some way this could be something like what you are proposing.

But ultimately, your question comes back to a tree falling in the forest.

When are you and your brother planning on being in Illinois? Cigar and whiskey, and I have a great whiskey ready to go.