The Galactic Siren sounds!
Everything that exists either is created by our minds or not – regardless of the composition of our mind. Though we can never know with certainty what is and what isn’t, what we can know is whether a phenomenon perpetuates from within or from without. The nature of consciousness is there is a thing being perceived and a thing perceiving. Even if the perception is created by our mind, we perceive it as something external to us nonetheless. However, we at-times have problems even at this, seen in most philosophers saying that beauty exists in the ‘thing-in-itself’ or is a property of the object the subject perceives when in my mind beauty is created by our mind and therefore is a property of the mind just as anger is a property of the mind and not the man who cuts us off on the freeway – reactions to perception are properties of the mind not the perceived object or transgression. The Cynic-Stoics are very good in realizing this.
However, in the causal chain, it is perfectly possible that these things are part of the cause of our feelings, thoughts, or general mental state. It could be that there is a “real world” out there, of which there is no confirming, but regardless of whether or not we can verify or discover “reality” we can look at our perceptions and learn – from the data of both the inner and outer.
With the outer it is science. Sense-perceptions of atoms swerving and chemical reactions when X combines Y to make Z. However, with the normative values, since we perceive no “ought” in the externality of our perception – we only infer it – it is with our internal perception that we must evaluate. This is in-essence the wisdom of Hume and Schopenhauer who say that the sentiments ground and motivate our actions. Reason can tell us that the proper moral sentiments can, when actualized, alleviate suffering but reason cannot tell us why lack-of-suffering is good. Only our own experiences and state-of-being can tell us this. Those whose fundamental perceptions are different and therefore have a different ‘reality’ in some sense will argue against our normative claims, and all we can do to sway them is to change their mind to have them agree with our value-judgments – rather than change their value-judgments in order to change the state of their minds. This wisdom stories and art understand implicitly. And they provide what philosophy what (at-least in the same way) cannot.
Art and ethics are both exploration of the internal. They may or may not be external subjects we use, but what we are really exploring is our own state-of-being. With ethics, it should ideally be a radical suspension of egoist intention but can never be a suspension of individual motivation and compulsion. Just as Christ supposedly died on the cross for our sins, so we ideally will view others as ‘ends-in-themselves’ (and presume they have minds though this can never be verified) but this action and view comes from our own nature and not the nature of the thing we sacrifice ourselves for – the nature of which we can never know. Christ dying then can be seen (if he is Man and not God) as the ultimate act of faith – dying out of good will for beings he will never exist or not or will benefit from his sacrifice. Of course potential benefit ignoring the complex dilemma of mind can be known through observance of our empirical perception of a world.
In other words, ignoring whether these creatures have minds, assuming the possibility that they do, we can know whether a sacrifice or action aids them in the outcome they do have minds. I do not know if Lenny the simpleton has a mind, but if he does, then it was comforted through George’s tales of the farm they never had. I do not if rocks really exist, but if they do as I see them, then I know they fall just as I know the realities of my own state of being internally regardless of what causes them. I know the realities of different states of being a subject, the “metaphysics” of which as myriad and numbered in elements as the periodic table. Mixtures of expressions existing in my mind mixing to make who I am at this moment, just like sulfur mixing with gold to make some new compound.
Just as we view substance as both one monistic thing (that thing which exists) but categorize the different elements and compounds, so we are to do the same with consciousness – the understanding of which is of infinite more importance than the understanding of physics, which tell us nothing of value without the normative values from our inner being to act on said knowledge. Science is of value, but not without an effect on our lives which is achieved only through humans desiring particular ends – regardless of the validity or value of said ends. Philosophy and art however deal with the intimacies and normative standing of the inner – who we are and who we should be to do what we should – which is of intimate and therefore implicit value to humanity. Science however is merely descriptive and though it can arouse sentiment from humans it in no way is designed to, is purposed to, or intends to as the nature of art or philosophy does – the added bonus of philosophy being able to influence the mind and ground said sentiment in argumentation, doing then what art and science cannot.
Known existence begins and ends not only descriptively but normatively with ‘being.’ Once the existence of other beings is assumed we can learn the likely contents of said minds from observance of the external and seeing the commonalities and distinctions between beings – both you and I and human and non-human. However, though there are factual distinctions between you and I, the distinction which is of true importance is our momentary state-of-beings which I assume from my witnessing of the external that others have felt and have felt in the transitory way I have. Then, what is of importance is not distinct or unique to us, but that which is common to all sentient life (making limitations on some states of being less likely to be perceived by lower animals and simple-minded humans) and repeats itself time and time again. This is what Schopenhauer refers to when he takes reincarnation allegorically and says though the matter changes the form stays the same – the characters change the same play is played time ad-infinitum. This is also what I meant in an earlier essay when I described reincarnation as the allegory of the constant death and re-forging of our states-of-being individually into something else – Karma being that moral and phenomalogical force that causes one state-of-being to be destroyed and another to take its place based on our thoughts and actions.
This talk of state of being, and solipsism of descriptive and the normative – but in some sense is suspended through ethical observance of the possibility of other minds (this ethical suspension being done though the state-of-being of my own mind) – is what I speak of when I make my phenomenal/Noumenal distinction and side with the phenomenal or pragmatic. All we can know is our own minds and assume the existence of a shared world with others – though not assume it is reality. We do this pragmatically but not “noumenally,” that is, we never are fully convinced rationally of the existence of said things. Just as Hume was never convinced of the validity of the inductive, but lived as if it were so, so we do the same.