This morning on my way to work my thoughts interrupted my listening to an interesting podcast, I tried to ignore it, but finally gave in. The scenario played in my head that one of my colleges, who I told the other day that I am interested in philosophy, would ask me what philosophy is according to me. There are many ways you can answer this question, but the one that popped up in my head, all fresh, was that I would ask him if he has an opinion about something, and he probably would say yes, and then I would tell him that he should ask himself where that opinion comes from. That’s philosophy in a nutshell, asking questions and especially to yourself and I would also add that there is no end to this questioning besides fatigue. I was, and am quite satisfied with that short answer and can’t wait to use it one day. Also yes, I asked myself if it makes sense, and me writing about it now is part of that questioning.
I tell you this because philosophy can go abstract fast but in the example from above it is something that everybody can do. One of the abstract questions has to do with the poem I wrote for Day 959.
You perceive, observe
the other – object – adverse
it was my intent
How do I know if the other person is not just an object that miraculously mimics a human being or what they call in philosophy the “problem of other minds” or more fancy: solipsism. I am not going into this to deep for now, you can look it up on the web but in short it is the idea that we can not know for sure what’s going on outside our mind or if other people have a mind and think like you. Related to this is the thought experiment the “brain in a vat” wherein a scientist puts your brain in a vat, connects it to a computer and you would not know the difference when you experience the world compared to when you where still in your flesh an blood body. The computer tells you that you listen to music and you experience it like that including the living room you sit in.
But besides these more abstract questions you can also ask yourself if you treat someone else as an object when you interact with them. If I want to pay my groceries I don’t treat the cashier badly when they are just part of the whole “experience”. Imagine your busy and thinking about stuff, you walk to the counter, put your groceries on it, look at the numbers, take your credit card, look at the face hovering somewhere above the counter and quickly see if it has an expression of: you can pay. You pay, say hi with a quick move of your face in the direction of that person and you leave. Think of it, or try it out, can you remember the face of the person that helped you? They have done some great experiments with this where they changed the person with another halfway through the conversation and a lot of people don’t notice it.
Is the person in this example not just an object on your way out? For you it is, in that moment, but it is of course a person and would that person suddenly fall ill in front of you, you would be released of your spell and help. Like you would if the cash register breaks down when you want to pay, and you see the problem.