Existence and awareness
There is not much I know for sure. At least I am sure that something exists,
and that I am aware of it. I am not even sure that anything else is aware of
that something exists. I think it is possible for something to exist without
anything being aware of it. I have no explaination for what awareness is, and
how it is even possible that something is aware at all.
These are really the two big questions:
- Why does there exist something at all?
- Why am I raising these two questions?
Besides being aware of my existence, I am also aware that I know a number of
abstract concepts. Some of these concepts are: Boolean algebra, natural numbers, (three dimensional) space, change and time.
I am aware of an ability to reason about abstract concepts, to manipulate sequences of symbols, a sense of
mathematics. And also
the use of language to represent thoughts. I am also aware of the concept of
model, as a symplification of something else with a certain purpose in mind,
and the ability to reason with such models.
Change and time
I am aware of constant changes. Because changes can only be observed if you can
compare a state with another (previous) state, I conclude with certainty that I
must have some kind of memory. Although the changes appear to be continuous, it
is possible that they are discrete. They appear to happen at a constant rate
and in a linear fashion. I am aware of an abstract concept of time to measure
intervals. The best conclusion I can arive at is that my awareness seems to be
moving at constant speed and in a single dimension of time. I do not know
whether this dimension is open or closed. Because I am not sure of the extend
and reliability of my memory, it is possible that I am looping through time,
and that I have experienced "now" an indefinite number of times before, without
having any memory of it.
Change and external world
Not only am I aware of constant changes, I am also having the impression that
the states are new. From this I conclude that although I do have a memory, it
is limited. I conclude with certainty that my awareness is not all-knowing at
the moment. (I do not exclude the possibility that it could become all-knowing
in the future, and not even that I was in the past. Note that one could reason
that it is impossible to know with certainty if one is all-knowing.) From this
I conclude that from the point of view of my awareness there is an external
world. Of course, it is possible that that which I experience as "external
world" simply is produced by something from within myself, of which I am not
Problem of awareness
It seems that this "problem of awareness" is independent of whether an external
world really exists or not, and, in case it does exist, the nature and origin
of this external world.
I think, that the few things I can state with certainty, have been stated in
the text above, meaning that that follows on this page, are believes, that
although they often seem rather sure, nevertheless could be completly false.
It seems that there are really no answers to the two big questions.
The external world appears to me as a three dimensional world, in which 'my
body' moves around. The center of my awareness seems to be located in the
'head' of the body and generally be aligned with the orientation of my head.
My body seems to be part of the three dimensional world and behave like an
entity in this world obeying the same kind of rules. I precieve the external
world through senses. There seems to be a rather direct sense within my body
and some indirect senses with respect to the external world outside my body.
It seems I precieve the external world outside my world through some
processing of the senses, as it seems I attribute some properties to the
external world of which I can reason that they are not present in my primairy
sense data. For example, I know that my eyes do not precieve depth, yet I do
precieve the external world as having depth. I am aware of optical illusions
with which I can trick my senses in 'observing' something that on a different
level, I know, is not there. In general the experience of the external world
seems consistent to some degree. I am also aware that sometimes I do not sense
things although they are there. My field of sight seems to be less accurate
than it presents itself to me. This leads me to believe that the experience
I have of the external world is a complex reconstruction based on sense data.
Although I have no way to verify every scientific fact from the areas of
physics, chemistry and biology, they in general seem to be very credible. These
sciences tell me that the world behaves as if it is made out of atoms, atoms
which themselves consist of smaller elementary 'particles'. Atoms that form
monecules or have other types of bonds between them. That our bodies are made
out of cells, which consist over a very large range of often very complex and
large organic monecules. Cells, which are like compex machines in which
constantly a large number of chemical reactions are taking place, in which
energy is used to transform organic monecules into other organic monecules.
And that some of these cells are able to communicate with other cells through
the exchange of certain chemicals which related to electrical signals within
these cells. That these cells are called nerve cells and that an organ,
usually called 'the brain', inside my head consists of a very large collecion
of those nerve cells. I understand that these cells generate enough electrical
activity such that these can be measured on the skull of my head. Although
some have suggested that quantum coherence is related to consciousness in a
fundamental way, I believe that Max Tegmark makes a
strong case disproving it. Furthermore, it seems that the nerve cells of
all animals living on the world operate in a similar fashion and that there is
no reason to believe that our consciousness arises from the fact that human
nerve cells are structurally different from those found in other animal
There seems to be solid scientific evidence for biological evolution and that
we humans are related to the Hominidae. We share a very large portion of our genes with them. It
seems that there is evidence that human gene ArhGAP11B, which seems to a truncated version of ArhGAP11A found with the
other Hominidae and mammels, contributed to thicker layer of certain nerve
cells in the neocortex and to neocortex folding. Probably other mutations
(affecting the size of the scull and the development of the brain) were also
needed to make the human brain like it is. Among the hominidae and also some
other mammals and birds, there are species that have the ability to recognize
themselves in a mirror. Some of these species show behaviour that seems to
indicate that they posses a theory of mind. Many of these species also
display complex social abilities, a sense of righteousness and fairness, a
sense of shame, an ability for moral reasoning, and show signs of grieving.
Although all these facts cannot prove that these animals posses a kind of
awareness similar to ours, there are also no strong reasons why they could not
have such an awareness.
what follows is very far from the above...
Many people use the argument that we are moral beings as an argument for the
existence of God. I think that argument is flawed. It seems that ethics and moral
law can be defined by economics. The traditional definition of economics centers around goods and services. But what
holds for goods, also holds for social priviledges. We live in a complex world where
we for the access to scarce resources are dependent on the people around us.
When we are young we are strongly dependent on what our parents give us. We
quickly discover that our parents are special, and in our minds we build up
a model of social relationships and obligations and we discover that proper
conduct is needed to keep those relationships in order. Shame is basically
the (real or imaginary) fear to be rejected by people around us. All our life
we are busy to build up a model of our personal value, and use this in our
relationship with the people around us to get those resources that we need
Killing is wrong, except in a war
We have this ethical notion that killing is wrong. If killing would be okay,
it would mean that it would be okay for others to killed us, or kill the people
around us who we depend on. Yet when we are confronted with an evil power,
killing is acceptable. When killing an evil power is acceptable, is greatly
determined by economic arguments. The police is allowed to shoot to stop
a person from causing excessive damage to others, for example, when this
person is killing random people. In case of fight between two countries,
solders in the armies are allowed to use voilence to prevent the population
of the country to be killed or harmed.