Here we go, continuing on, back into the ever exciting world of philosophy. So far, Stefan Molyneux has talked about some general principles of philosophy, then he talked about metaphysics and the three categories within metaphysics of the nature of reality. Now we get to dive into TRUTH!
An Introduction to Philosophy Part 4 – Truth (2 of 4) by Stefan Molyneux
PLAY Audio Version: [audio:http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/FreedomainRadioPart2/~3/7ZchBc5RAwo/FDR_389_An_Introduction_To_Philosophy_Part_4_Truth_2.mp3]
The one thing that I’ll say about concepts ; Concepts, and indeed human life and consciousness is possible because of atoms. There’s a fixed number of atoms and elements, and they each behave with particular properties.
When we have concepts at the highest level, really what we’re fundamentally doing is, we’re organizing atoms. We’re building the base properties of matter and energy and organizing them within our own mind.
When we are talking about concepts, we are talking about the organization of things which have like properties in and of themselves. When we look at the night sky, we see all these stars, well we can call them stars because they’re all composed of (I guess) clouds of gas, all giving off enormous amounts of energy. That is very important.
When we’re talking about water, as a concept, we’re talking about two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. The chemical formula, or the atomic formula H2O, represents “water.” Because all water is composed of this particular atomic constellation, we can then abstract and describe the behavior of water as common across all material objects which are composed of this particular configuration of atoms. Oxygen, same sort of thing, breathable air versus non-breathable air. I’m sure you get the idea. A solid and a liquid are conceptual descriptions of behaviors of matter and energy in the material world, transmitted to our mind through the evidence of our senses.
The reason that concepts, and indeed human beings, are possible, is because matter is divided into specific atoms which appear in regularly-occurring constellations and have specific properties which maintain themselves over time and can’t be changed without some sort of external force being brought to bear on them, the principle of inertia. The idea is that we have concepts because there are atoms, and because there are universal physical laws. We have a concept of “falling” because things that fall down, because of the existence of gravity.
That’s something I wanted to point out. The most itty-bitty, tiny, tiny little things in the universe are directly the cause, because of their uniformity and regularity and regularly-occurring constellations, are directly related, and the direct cause of the widest conceptual abstractions within our own mind.
That having been said, there are concepts that are directly related to matter, and then there are things like “a country.”
We have a country called “Iceland.” When you talk about “Iceland,” you’re talking about a particular location in the world. Does that location exist? It certainly does exist. “Iceland” can be used in the same way that we describe a mountain.
When we think of the 49th parallel, the largest, yea, the largest undefended border in the world, between Canada and the United States, there we’re starting to talk about a little bit of a difference. If we talk about Malta or Australia, we’re talking about islands that are bounded by ocean, so where Australia ends, the sea begins. So it’s fairly understandable that when we talk about Australia we’re talking about, potentially, the discrete physical entity that has arisen from the ground and been populated by undesirables, at least historically to a large degree
When we talk about America and Canada, though, we’re talking about something quite different. We’re not talking about geographical regions that are divided by an objective and specific physical occurrence. The 49th parallel doesn’t exist like a cable running along the ground. If you look at the earth, you don’t see the latitude and the longitude like in huge canyons or ropes across the earth. These are just things put on maps for the convenience of sailors and pilots.
…when you examine these kinds of things in rigorous and scientific detail and keep going even past our own historical.. what we’ve been taught is important, then we realize that Canada and the United States don’t exist. Don’t exist in reality. This is very important. This is some of the radical stuff that philosophy can really help us understand. I’m not saying it’s comfortable to think about, but it’s very important to, if you want to think about how the world could be saved and improved, and how human beings can be happier and less conflict-ridden, etc., then it’s very important to understand that Canada and the United States do not exist in reality.
What exists in the United States? Like, what exists for real? Not what’s in our head, or what we’ve been taught is real, but what exists for real, that can actually be objectively measured and proven?
Well, two things fundamentally exist within America:
- One is material objects: trees, roads, sno-cones, people, pets, fences, of the white picket variety usually. Material objects exist within the United States. Matter and energy exist in a geographical region we can called “the United States.” That exists, for sure.
- The other thing that exists in the United States is people’s belief that the United States exists as a country. Not just as a bunch of things you are putting an artificial boundary around within your mind, but as a country which has a moral and almost physical reality independent from or greater than the sum of its parts.
We know that each individual thing exists, but that the idea is something within our own mind, and that the idea, since it is within our own mind, and we’ve already established that all ideas within our own mind must bow to the actual facts of reality, that whenever there’s a conflict between ideas within our own mind and what actually exists in the external world and is real, sensual evidence, measurable, etc., whenever there’s a conflict between these two things, what is within our own mind must give way as false, as erroneous, until there is actual backup from sensual evidence in the real world.
Just psychologically, there are kind of two worlds that we inhabit as human beings:
- We inhabit the physical world, of course,
- but we also kind of inhabit the social world. This is a really loosey-goosey way of saying it, and I apologize for the lack of precision, but we inhabit the social world, which means that we inhabit or we get reflected to us through sensual evidence other people’s beliefs. This is very important.
Things that you can experience directly through your sensual mechanisms, with the evidence of your senses, you can determine their existence or non-existence on your own.
In the question “Do countries exist in reality?” we can figure that out for ourselves. If you go to the Canadian-US border, and let’s just pretend that this side, south, so I’m on the American side, then I take a step over, and then I’m on the Canadian side, I take a step back, I’m on the US side, I look down, and there’s no differentiation between these two things in reality. As we said before, in reality we could say that Australia at least is bounded by an ocean, and therefore when we say Australia, we are dividing between land, and water.
When we look at trying to divvy up true and false statements, it’s very important in my mind to really be clear about the differentiation between what exists in reality and what exists only as a belief (and what exists is the effects of a belief).
When we talk about the difference between what is real and what is not real, it’s important to look at these three categories, two of which are sensually evident, and one is not.
- The first category is things which exist in the real world which are independent of your consciousness, which are received to you directly through the evidence of your senses, etc.
- The second category of things are things that exist within other people’s minds, as a belief, and which are not correlated to the existence of things in the real world. So if my friend Bob believes in leprechauns, then he can say, “Yeah, I believe in leprechauns,” and that’s something that you can believe in or not believe in, or whatever.
- But then there are material things in the real world that are produced through people’s belief in things that don’t really exist. This is what gets people so confused. So there are things like a mountain. There are things that exist like an American flag. An American flag is an honest-to-goodness, physical, material thing that exists that is produced because people believe that a conceptual entity called “America” actually exists. Because a lot of people believe this, you get the production of lots of patriotic this, that, and the others, and it is used as a very fundamental moral argument, which we’ll get to when we talk about morality, for a lot of behaviors that people will put into practice that we would never countenance from an individual, but because they are associated with a country, we will allow that to occur.
…just try and work on exposing this dividing line between things that exist in the real world, and things that exist in other people’s minds and the things that exist in the real world that are only a product of beliefs in other people’s minds, but does not prove what they claim to believe in.
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