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P. A. Stonemann, CSS Dixieland
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CSS Dixieland

Probing the depths of knowledge

These essays by P. A. Stonemann, CSS Dixieland, cover a wide range of historical, philosophical, scientifical and technical subjects. Each page deals with a particular topic, divided into sections and explained by itself. Every page shows at its top hyper links to every other page. The Start page also has short descriptions of the other pages. CSS Dixieland expresses gratitude to the readers that make this work meaningful.

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Solipsism Philosophy page

The awful suspicion of an unreal reality
The void of existing as the only thinking entity
in a non-existing Universe

Walkyrie who takes our dead heroes to Walhalla in Asgard
Walkyrie who takes our dead heroes to Walhalla in Asgard.
Wagner Frost Illustration

Sections in this page

  Solipsism: The Lonely Mind
  The Mystery of Existence
  Hyper links

Technical note: In languages other than English or Latin, but which use mainly Latin characters, some characters are taken from other alphabets, or some Latin characters are modified with diacritic marks for representing different phonemic sounds or other orthographic conventions of those languages. Those characters, when used in this document, have been encoded as entities of Hyper Text Mark-up Language or sometimes in Unicode UTF-8. Therefore computers using other character encodings may render some characters inaccurately, but hopefully, it will still be possible to read non-English words without too much difficulty.

 

Important warning

This philosophical essay assumes the reader to be familiar with terms and concepts used in Philosophy. It contains sophisticated expressions that are not part of the common language, plus notions and ideas that require a high level of mental abstraction. Some readers, wholly ignorant of philosophical disciplines, unused to elaborate thinking, and thus completely incapable of following the reasoning line of the text, have complained that it is "not clear". The writing is perfectly clear to the trained mind, but certainly not to the common mortals who take a casual look, to the many who cannot THINK.

Rather than attempting to elucidate the path for them, they are advised to instruct themselves in matters philosophical before tackling complex reading such as this one. If in spite of this warning they delve into it, they should at least keep a dictionary close at hand, and be prepared for slow perusal of the wording, pausing as much as necessary for mental digestion of perhaps shocking statements that, very probably, they have never encountered before. At any rate, once they have embarked into this difficult task, they lose all right to say that it is not clear. The unclarity is in their own brains only.

Solipsism: The Lonely Mind

Question for a Philosophical Mind

Have You ever wondered of the possibility of "dream" and "reality" not being so clearly different concepts as most people usually regard them ?

Or even of the more extreme chance of "reality" not existing at all ?

Solipsism, in its metaphysical meaning, is the doctrine that casts serious doubts on the real existence of everything outside the individual observer who thinks. For the hardest line of Solipsism, nothing exists beyond the mind who believes in Solipsism. Needless to say, statements such as "I am the only being that exists, all the rest are merely the product of my imagination", deserve to be listed as perhaps the most extreme philosophical, religious or political notion that has been idealised in the whole History of Thought. That extremism guarantees, in itself, a page for Solipsism in this collection of historical, philosophical, scientifical and technical texts.

The Years of my Philosophical Childhood

When I was a child, these notions nested in my mind. I say "nested", because until today I seriously consider them a possibility, even if not properly speaking a probability. Perhaps they be only a remote possibility. They are not a certainty for me, at any rate, or else I should not be writing this essay.

I am absolutely sure, beyond any shadow of doubt, that the ideas that I am ready to expound here ORIGINATED IN MY OWN MIND. This assertion is made in order to encounter and refute those individuals who, being themselves of an almost totally nill capability for philosophical thinking, and permanently void of any relevant or deep thoughts, might erroneously speculate that at some point in my childhood I might have casually and passingly come in contact with one of the philosophers who had at some time exposed such ideas. It is important to mention that, contrary to what occurs to most people, I never had the metamorphosis of mind that tends to march along with the metamorphosis of body during puberty. I see myself as quite the same thinking mind, now as well as fifty years ago, regardless of having had the physical characteristics of a child, of a teenager, or of a grown man. Of course, new ideas I have developed, new things I have kept learning, and new experiences I have met in my life for all these years. But in essence, there has been no marked difference, from the intellectual point of view, from my existence in infancy, to adolescence, or to adulthood. My mind is the same and my ideas reflect the same fundamental reasoning and beliefs.

Dream or Reality: Which One is "Real" ?

One of my lonely meditations carried me to the notion of "dream" versus "reality". I suppose that my elucubrations on this dicotomy might have initially been elicited, or at least inspired, by my own oniric experiences. I was a devout of Scientific Fiction, Fantasy, Terror, and other genres of the weird and unreal in Literature, Comic Strips, Wireless or Cinematography, as still I continue being up to this day whenever I happen to have a chance for it. After a breath holding session of "bug-eyed monsters" coming to me from books, pulp comics, radio, cinema or television, it was almost for certain that my imagination would continue keeping hold of them during my sleep. Or the monsters kept hold of me. It often meant a sudden awaking, bathed in sweat and trembling nervously, feeling thrills of fear and looking all round me, including the under-bed, in anxious search for those freaky creatures that surely wanted to fetch me for some horrible purposes. So far, fears of this kind are common to other children. It proofs that I was not devoid of an infantile imagination, after all. In fact I possess a fertile imagination down to the present time, although now I try to convince myself that such engendres are only the product of the inventive mind of the authors who wrote those stories, that those beings do not even exist.

OR DO THEY EXIST ?

This was the unanswered question that stroke my mind. Or rather this one:

OR DO I EXIST ?

Because, once that I had gone to the point of doubting of the existence or non-existence of those creations of fantasy, it would follow quite naturally that I also might doubt of MY OWN EXISTENCE. I am totally certain, repeating what I have already pointed out, that at such an early time in my life I was completely unaware of that well known reasoning: "cogito, ergo sum", of Rene Descartes (1596-1650) in the "Discourse sur la methode". It means that the spark that began my reasoning appeared spontaneously in my mind, without the feeblest connection with the similar reasoning of the French thinker.

And for being truthful, also with a very deep divergence in the conclusion to which Monsieur Descartes arrived and that to which I arrived myself, regarding the concept of divinity. For Descartes it is a monotheistic concept, it is an anthropomorphic god who has personal attributes and who "creates" everything out of nothing. For me, it is a self-aware Universe (Pantheism), it is an intelligent Nature (Hylozoism), and it is a sentient matter (Panpsychism). The names in parentheses came from my later reading, years afterwards. I did not know them when I was a child, but the ideas involved in them struck my mind nonetheless.

How could I be sure that the terrifying situations that I met in my dreams were only "fantasies of my own mind" ?

The anguish that I felt while I endeavoured to escape, in a kind of unreal slow motion film, from those indescribable monsters of unfathomable and evil intentions, the bottomless chasms into which I fell, wrapped by a lofty space of emptiness round me, the fearful nothingness itself, they all seemed to be only too real.

The instant of awaking was a tremendous relief, for it meant to have made my escape from the world of nightmares to the world of "see and touch". Of course, it did not go unnoticed to me that the feeling of seeing and touching also existed in the dream, maybe in an undefinably different form, but it existed anyway.

Efforts for Finding Other Thinkers

The few times that I commented these concerns to someone, I was promptly discarded by adults as a child of too feverish an imagination. By other children I was not even understood, let alone comprehended. Children had a remarkable tendency to deviate from the seriousness of my preoccupations, and to indulge into a trivial talk about some story that they had read or some film that they had watched. Adults, in general, completely avoided such conversations, for they did not know what to say. Or they decorated their faces with a contemptible smile, ranging from something as encouraging as "This child may grow into a writer", to the more pragmatic "He may become a good-for-nothing. He should forget those futilities and study his lessons".

The fact is that I was the first student of my class, and probably of the whole school, that in some disciplines I equalled or even knew more than most students of higher levels, or even more than my teachers, who were proud of me and simultaneously uneasy because of my attitude of defiance against their guidance, and of self learning after my own judgment. But these facts did not seem to deter my occasional obstreperous critics from their stupid pragmatism. In such an environment of donkeys, soon I discarded the wish of serious interchange of ideas altogether, preferring to close myself into my own reflections and keep longing for, perhaps some day, coming across more receptive minds.

Those minds that I did not find near me, I found in the pages of books. Thinkers of bygone eras, men who, like me, had not been comprehended by their nearby contemporaries, and who had resorted to the pen in the hope of, perhaps some day, being at least understood, maybe even comprehended, by a reader of a future time, of a later generation. This was an intelligent foreseeing, because such readers in fact do exist, although being few and far between.

I was one of those readers, who commenced my philosophical journey from myself, and continued it with the help of giants from the past, as Isaac Newton (1642-1727) once said. This was an unavoidable course, since the "deepest philosophical reasoning" to my quest for an answer to the enigm of "dream or reality", came from an old Catholic priest who argued along these lines:

"But if I smash Your brains with a heavy club crashing hard on Your head, it painfully hurts ! Therefore You are in the reality, not in a dream".

To this profound cephalgic argument, there was not much to add. It was the tenet of the colloquies that I enjoyed the few times that I attempted to initiate an intellectual intercourse with those "brilliant" minds, my nearby contemporaries. No wonder that most of my childhood was spent alone.

A Shocking Discovery

In my vagaries, I hit upon the startling idea that what I thought of as "reality" might be only another dream. Sure enough, if there be a dream, then there is a dreamer. I undoubtly possessed some kind of existence, as being that dreamer. Someone pointed out, or I read somewhere, that I might be part of the dream of another being or entity superior to me, something like "a superior dreamer who has a dream, and this dream acquires its own self conscience as another dreamer". The second dreamer is thus an inferior one, but this inferior dreamer is not aware of the fact of being only a dream. It thinks to be a dreamer in its own right. Clearly, this sequence might go on for ever. A character of one of my dreams might regard itself as "real", although its reality might perhaps be an ephemeral one. So might I be myself too. This notion set up the scenario for a chain of thoughts that ultimately ended into the shocking discovery. I had some form of existence, at least as a dream that thinks, and who considers itself gifted with the capability of generating thoughts. So far, so good. But how could I be sure
OF THE REAL EXISTENCE OF EVERYTHING OR EVERYONE ROUND ME ?

Do the Others Exist ?

I was a thinking entity in a way or another, dream or non-dream, that fact seemed irrefutable against any arguments. But how could I know, beyond all reasonable doubts, that the material objects that apparently impressed my senses were real ?

How could I rest assured of the existence of those with whom I spoke ?

Were they only the product of my imagination, just fairy creations of my mind, no more than an unreal part of my dream ?

Did they think by themselves, or was it only myself, dreaming that I was enjoying a conversation with someone, but really questioning and replying to myself, and myself only ?

Did my senses, my hands, my body exist ?

Or was I a lone mind in a universe of void, a thought that thinks itself as a thinker, and everything and everyone round me were as unreal as a dream ?

Were they, in fact, only a part of my own dream... ?

The Dead Ones Come to Help

I was justifiably adverse to the temptation of communicating these thoughts to anyone. For one thing, because those people might actually be only the unreal fancies of my mind, without any thinking existence of their own, and a dialogue with them would therefore be in truth only a monologue with my own individual self. But on the other hand, assuming the possibility that they really had some thoughts of their own, that they really existed, I confess that I was somewhat afraid of the risk that they would consider me mentally sick, and deranged beyond all hope of recovery. Not that such opinions would modify me in the least, for I have always been impervious to the empty and silly conventions of ordinary people. What truly impeded me from disclosing my deepest thoughts to them, was the fact that they were, indeed, ordinary people.

Which is to say, acephalous imbeciles.

In sad corroboration of my worries, the scarce contacts of this kind that I ventured to start, promptly halted without any conclusion. Or else veered, by influence of the pre-conceptions of my dialoguing partners, into waters where they felt more at ease, without having to tackle the unsolvable riddles that I posed to them, because they took my mental explorations for paradoxical or contradictory reveries, beyond their comprehension and of their wish for comprehending. In this heart-cooling atmosphere, I durst not insist on any further digging for philosophical awareness amidst my contemporaries. Not unwarrantly, I turned my attention to books, in the expectation of being rewarded with an enriching intellectual intercourse.

In this enterprise I was not disappointed. The wisdom of sages from the nearer or farther past was exhumated from the slumber of their centennial tombs, and they came to talk to me. They could only say what they had during their lives foreseen as rousing the interest of future readers, or what had instigated their own intelligent curiosity. They could not, of course, answer my questions in a direct manner. But by patient perusal of their writings, many of the words that they had recorded on their venerable papers, rugged parchments, or mummified papiri, astonished me as being MY VERY THOUGHTS, amazingly similar or even identical to what I had conjectured myself.

The awful suspicion of an unreal reality had not solely originated in my mind. It had stricken other brilliant minds as well.

Solipsism makes its name known to me

I learnt that the shocking notion of being alone as a thinking entity in an otherwise unreal universe, receives in Philosophy the name of Metaphysical Solipsism. There is a milder variation called Epistemological Solipsism, which does not question the existence or non-existence of the universe round the thinker, but that affirms the impossibility of knowing anything outside the thinker as that thing really is, even if accepting its true existence. Epistemological Solipsism also emphasises the difference that will always exist between the perceptions of different observers focused on the same object. For instance, a colour or an odour will be perceived differently by different people, there is ample evidence for this. This difference in the perception felt by different individuals is of course extended to the whole environment surrounding the subject who perceives, sustains Epistemological Solipsism. The term "Solipsism" comes from Latin "Solipsum", which we might perhaps translate (for the benefit of those who do not know the language of Seneca) as "alone" or "isolated". It is an appropriate vocable, for in any of its two main acceptions, either the softer Epistemological or the harder Metaphysical line of thought, Solipsism stands for "being isolated from the rest of the Universe" or for "being alone, in a non-existing Universe".

David Hume

Epistemological Solipsism started perhaps with David Hume (1711-1776). His quandaries on what is feasible of being known, and what will remain arcane for ever, had a lasting influence not only on the philosophical school of British Empiricism (based mainly on the ideas of John Locke in England, David Hume in Scotland and George Berkeley in Ireland), but also on philosophers of other doctrinal affiliations, such as Immanuel Kant (in Koenigsberg, East Prussia), and the whole school of Historicism-Idealism that starts with Hegel in Germany. To some extent, Epistemological Solipsism touched even the school of Continental Rationalism, that is considered by many as the antagonist of British Empiricism. The Rationalist school is primarily based on the works of the already mentioned Rene Descartes in France, of Baruch Spinoza in the Netherlands, and of Wilhelm Leibnitz in Germany. Those three giants of Philosophy died before the publication of David Hume's treatises, but their followers continue until today. The pen of Hume developed a notion that I had also independently entertained myself (but not developed) in the philosophical dives of my childhood.

I can recall that as a child I was reflecting on the celebrated case of the apple falling from the tree, which according to an account written by Voltaire a century afterwards, stimulated Isaac Newton in 1666 into his epoch making research on the Force of Gravity, and that ultimately lead him to his immortal "Principia Mathematica de Philosophia Naturalis". I honestly ought to confess that I entertained a disrespectful glee, maliciously gloating at Mister Newton as I pictured the whole scene with a rotten apple catching him unawares, unexpectedly smashing against his face as he was indulging in a pleasing nap on the fresh grass of his cottage at Woolsthorpe. In Voltaire's story, this serendipitous incident sets Newton into a sequence of logical connections, which revealed his powerful genius as one of the greatest mathematicians and physicists that have ever existed. In my seemingly absurd mental whereabouts, I found not unreasonable to ask to myself: "What if the apple had never fallen ?". Beware of what I have said. Not exactly that the apple had not fallen because of still remaining attached to the tree, but rather, that the apple had not fallen
BECAUSE THE FORCE OF GRAVITY MIGHT NOT ALWAYS ACT AS EXPECTED.

The Apple May Not Always Fall

I fancied that the observed fact of an object falling to the ground every time that it is released from a height, is not in itself a guarantee of the absolute certainty that the object will, by needs, always fall when released. It apparently happens every time, but there might exist some hidden law or principle that, in an unimaginably minuscule proportion of those times, might prevent the object from falling. We do not know for sure that it will fall, we may only presume that it will do it, because in our past experience it has done so every time. About future experiments of this kind, strictly speaking we can only accept a probability. An overpowering, extremely high probability perhaps, but still a probability and not a total certainty. We infere the laws or principles of our scientific knowledge by induction, and on the assumption that such high probabilities have the force of certainty in the Universe that we know. If being otherwise in another universe, existence or reality, we obviously cannot know, and therefore we regard ourselves as unaffected by it.

To my delight, David Hume had written similar ideas about two hundred years before I had thought about them, but still a few more years had to pass until I discovered how much he and I had approached on this notion, Mister Hume and myself. I wonder how many other thinkers may have existed throughout History (or throughout pre-History, for the matter), who may have reached important philosophical conclusions of this kind or of another kind, but who for one reason or another never wrote anything, or if they did, then their writings did not survive the mists of Time. Of impossible comprehension to their contemporaries, those solitary souls probably saw themselves as unique thinkers as I also saw myself before my digging into dusty book shelves, in whose pages I discovered a few other thinkers who could be considered as unique as myself.

Johann Gottlieb Fichte

Metaphysical Solipsism seems to have been proposed for the first time, if not clearly defended as a philosophical truth, in Germany by Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814). The most important work of this inventive and original thinker was published in 1794. Together with Baruch Spinoza, Fichte is one of the philosophers of most difficult comprehension and interpretation that have ever existed, for their deep ideas are not to be grasped by everyone, let alone explained to those who have not read the books written by these Masters of Thought. The central idea of Fichte is the importance of the "I", or "myself", as a subject who thinks and as an object that is thought. This is not to be confused with the concept of "ego" as proposed by other authors (like the "ego" of Psychoanalysis, for instance). In Fichte, "I" or "myself" is an absolute. He very naturally became entangled into the wraps of Metaphysical Solipsism, being one of the very few philosophers who seriously presented the notion of his own loneliness in the Universe as a "thrilling possibility", whose truth or whose falsety, however, can never be demonstrated.

In the XX Century Rudolf Carnap (member of the school called "Circle of Vienna"), also commented on the undemonstrability of Metaphysical Solipsism, either for or against. This is the position that I hold myself, as well. There is no known way to demonstrate the existence of the universe outside the individual mind of the thinker, or else its non-existence. I am writing this essay in the hope that someone might understand the words, comprehend their meaning, appreciate my effort, and think by himself. But I am fearfully aware of the possibility, even if I concede that it may only be a remote possibility, of being myself the only thinking entity in existence. Therefore there would be no one for reading this text, simply because no one else exists at all, beyond myself. They all would be fairy creations of my imagination, regardless of how real they may seem to me when I engage in conversation or any other kind of interaction with them.

It is obvious that I am pointing to that non-existence of my contemporaries only as a possibility, same as Fichte did, and not as a certainty. If Fichte or myself would have believed in Metaphysical Solipsism AS A CERTAINTY, neither Fichte nor myself would have written anything, except perhaps as an aid to each of our personal memories. There would be no point in writing for others, since those "others" quite simply would not have a real existence for a true solipsist. I ask myself if ever existed a true solipsist. It is clear that we could know it only with great difficulty or we could not know it at all, because a true solipsist would rest assured of his absolute loneliness in the Realm of Existence, and consequently would see no reason at all for explaining his belief. No other thinking entity would be there for listening to him. This would be the conviction of the most authentic of solipsists.

Bertrand Russell

A long-lived philosopher of the XX Century. He had a sense of humour that touched on the contradictions of frivolous people who enjoyed his society, but who did not possess the minimal mental capacity for the comprehension of his philosophy, or the philosophy of any other deep thinker. Sure, there were such idiots in the fashionable cafes and parties of post-Victorian Britain, just like there are everywhere. They merely are what I dare to call "intellectualoids of Philosophy", this is, those snobs who pretend to be intellectual, but they are not. They are just plain stupid. They only follow blindly what happen to be the intellectual fashion of the moment, and illude themselves into thinking that they think. Only empty presumption they show. Russell delighted in telling philosophical jokes, like that witticism of the "solipsist lady":

-"I met in a party a lady of fashion who declared to me that she was a metaphysical solipsist. She had tried to find other people with that belief, but to her amazement, she had realised that she was completely alone !!!"

Genial quip of Mister Russell, one of the best in the History of Philosophy. Bertrand Russell did not sustain the possibility of truth in Solipsism as clearly as Fichte had stated it, but the idea is offered for his readers to ponder over it.

And so You should, reader of this work. Have You ever considered the awful possibility of an unreal reality ? Might You be the only thinking entity in existence ? Is this philosophical text that You are reading right now written by a P. A. Stonemann, or is it only the imaginary product of Your own mind ?

Answer all that to Yourself, because if Metaphysical Solipsism be in fact a truth, then You have no other one to whom You might answer.

The Mystery of Existence

Reflections on our own being

What were we before being what we are now ? Did we exist in some form that was later lost in the mists of Time ? Were our thoughts clearly present then, or diffused like in the vapours of a dream ? Does it remain in our current thoughts some reminiscence of what they had been then ? Or may it be that what we call "this reality" be not more than another dream ? Shall we ever awake from it, or will the mystery continue in an endless, eternal dream ?

We do not know how other beings face these questions. It is only presumptuous anthropocentrism that misguides some people into thinking that "only humans" possess the intellectual capability or the curiosity of spirit for delving into such speculations. However, thinking about the Mystery of Existence may not be an exclusively human activity. And as a matter of fact, most humans never dive seriously into the cold and obscure waters of their inner thoughts. As children, they are occasionally hit by a flash of doubt, when they admire the majestic vastness of the Universe, or when they contemplate the intricate complexity of life in a water droplet seen through the microscope, during a lesson of Biology in the school laboratory. They ask their teachers, they ask their parents, and they often obtain insatisfactory answers from adults.

When they grow into adults themselves, they gradually forget their "childish" curiosity, and accept the insatisfactory answers of the predominant "culture". Most humans are not philosophers. Karl Jaspers said that religion is for anyone, but Philosophy is only for a few privileged minds. When we speak of humans, we can be on safe ground because we are also human and we possess inherited natural traits more or less in common. Also because we can know the ideas of a human, expressed in a human language. In spite of the limitations of ANY language, thoughts that have been said or written in a human language can be studied, its meaning understood, its implications at least partly comprehended, by those who have the intelligence and the willingness to do it.

What about the thoughts of non-human entities ? From the whale to the amoeba, from the gigantic sequoia to the microscopic bacterium or to the even smaller virus, from the mountain to the molecule, or to the atom, or to sub-atomic particles. Are they sentient, or just mindless machines ? Are our computers aware of their own existence, or at least more complex future computers will become gradually aware that they exist ? Are WE automatic machines ourselves, with the delusion of thinking that we think ? The cells of our body also have a life of their own. Are we "one" or "many" ? Or a sincretic combination of both ? Is the Universe structured as a hyerarchy of infinite number of minds ?

The concept that matter may possess some kind of mental awareness is known in Philosophy with the name of Panpsychism. It is not merely a void fantastic speculation, or just a hypothesis, as non-philosophical people are inclined to label it. There is some empirical evidence for it, if we interpret the results of certain experiments in Physics or in Biology as indication of some hidden self-willing force. There is also a sound scientific reasoning for it, considering the lack of a clear boundary in the continuity of life, from cells to non-cellular episomes ("plasmids", comprising viri, viroids and prions), to crystals, to mineral matter regarded as non-living.

Life originated from supposedly non-living matter, according to Alexander Oparin, Stanley Miller, and many other researchers. If we admit that we think, then necessarily we have to admit one of two possibilities: that either our thought at some point originated from non-thinking matter, or that it was already present in that matter, and the gradual appearance of life out of matter is a reorganisation, restructuring, or increase in complexity, of the mental awareness that already existed in matter, or that exists until today. Keeping divine interventions apart, there is no other logical possibility.

Certainly, panpsychist ideas are of difficult explanation. First, because they require a good knowledge of Physics and of Biology. Few people possess that. Second, because they can only be comprehended in all their implications by privileged minds, gifted with a deep abstract reasoning. Even fewer people possess that. And third, because they frontally clash against firmly enrooted prejudices influenced by certain religions. Most people possess that. Most people prefer to take the comfortable position of believing in improbable divine interventions, rather than the serious position of thinking on these problems. Divinity does not help Science, it destroys it, presenting a myth as if it were a scientific truth. Is the Earth or the Sun, the centre of the "universe" ? Most people do not care. In the times of Copernicus, or today.

The paradox of the Chinamen and the insects

If I observe two Chinamen facing each other, gesticulating and emitting oral sounds, I can assume that they are in communication, that they are speaking. I do not understand any Chinese, but I am also a human, and therefore I have some common characteristics with them. I assume that their gestures and their vocalisations indicate the existence of a language. Paying more attention, I perceive that they understand each other, that they speak the same language. They assent or deny, they are reciprocally influenced by the conversation, they show emotions of amazement, or sadness, or joy, or fear, or anger. They may show unmistakable signs of agreement or disagreement on some point, but I cannot know what the point may be, because I do not understand a word of the language. I may gratuitously suppose that they have engaged into some trivial chit-chat, a small talk of no consequence. But maybe not, maybe they have touched one of the most complex points in the thought of Confucius, and they are developing new and interesting perspectives on that ancient philosopher.

Then I continue my walk and I see two ants on a clear of the ground, not far from an ant-hill. The two ants are also facing each other, each ant moving rythmically its antennae and touching smoothly and frequently the head or the thorax of the other ant. They are of the same species, without any doubt. The question strikes me: are they speaking to each other ? I cannot hear sounds from them, they may be of low intensity for me, or emitted in a frequency that I cannot perceive. Of course, they may be in communication by other means, not necessarily using sounds. Perhaps using chemical feromones, or some other form of communication that I cannot guess. Or the movements of the antennae are a linguistic code in itself, as the hand-language of the deaf is for humans. I simply cannot know, not even if they really happen to be in communication between them or not, because I am not an ant, because Nature has not endowed me with the instinctive recognition of motions in the antennae of ants. Nature has given me the instinct for interpreting human intonations of voice, human facial expressions and human gesticulations. But not for interpreting those of ants. Insects are taxonomically distant from mammals.

If I reach the stupid conclusion that it is impossible for ants to talk, or even to think, that only humans can do those things, then I have fallen into the absurd anthropocentrism where certain monotheistic religions have fallen. Ant-hills with thousands of ants, or even millions of them. Organisation of work, construction of complex structures, social hyerarchy, distribution of food or other resources, defence against enemies, preparation for situations of rain or draught, of cold or heat, of plenty or scarcity, or of many other possible eventualities. Can they perform all those feats without coordination by means of some form of language ? Or without any form of thinking ?

Then a fat priest of one of those monotheistic religions comes to me and says with his big belly, beatific smile, his fat finger pointing to the blue sky:

-'It is the work of the "Creator". Those little creatures are mindless. They only move by instinct. They exist only for the purpose of showing to humanity the omnipotence of the already said "Creator" of the Universe'.

Such is the tenure of the ridiculous replies to which I alluded, when I said that children often obtain insatisfactory answers from adults. According to those religions, the ants have not a language and do not even think. I am not exaggerating, it is really the notion that those monotheists believe. I was a child when I read "The Young Observer", book written by Archbishop Thiamer Toth, of Hungary, before the Second World War. Interesting and well written, the book offered an example after another of how every representative of the Zoological Kingdom, except humans, were mindless machines acting only by their "instinct". Humans, he said, possess a "rational soul". It did not occur to him that humans are as influenced by their instinct as the other animals are by theirs, and that the other species may also possess their "rational soul".

To have an idea of the heavy influence of absurd religions, even on otherwise intelligent men, let us give the example of one of the greatest philosophers and mathematicians that have existed: Rene Descartes. In his book "Discourse sur la Methode" he deals with the Mystery of Existence. In his famous sentence "Cogito, ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am), he correctly concludes that at least his mind must have some form of existence, because he thinks. Then he questions the existence of the world. "Is it only my illusion, or I really have a physical body moving in a physical world ?", asks Monsieur Descartes. After a long discussion on the notions of "Res Cogitans" (Thinking Substance) and "Res Extensa" (Physical Substance), he reaches the final conclusion that:

-"I cannot have created to myself out of nothing. A 'Creator' has created me. That 'Creator' must be a benevolent 'Supreme Being', who will not want to illude me into believing in the false existence of a world, when there is none. Therefore the world really exists, because the 'Creator' is benevolent and will not lie to me... blah, blah, blah... blah, blah, blah...".

It is incredible, how even privileged brains swallow the predominant myths of their historical times, and reach "conclusions" that even a child would take as a fairy tale. Needless to say, Monsieur Descartes thought that even his little dog had no thought. Only humans have. His pet was a "mindless machine". I have some cats living with me, and I am convinced that they have feelings and emotions more or less as I have. Love or hatred, joy or sadness, even a sense of humour, are as part of them as those feelings and emotions are part of me too. An ant is taxonomically farther from a human than a cat, therefore I cannot say what feelings or emotions an ant might have. Or what thoughts. But the fact that THEY FEEL AND THINK, seems to me as unescapable a conclusion as the myth of the "Creator" seemed to Monsieur Rene Descartes, or to the Illustrious Archbishop Thiamer Toth.

The above thoughts are almost completely mine, except when I quote other authors. Those thoughts have been mine since I was a child. Contrary to what happens to most people, I did not discard them as I grew from child to adult. I immersed myself deeper into them, exploring their many possibilities. However, I have not been alone. There have been other thinkers who preceded me or are contemporary to me, and who put their thoughts in written form, inmortalised for posterity. Probably still others who had similar thoughts, but who for one reason or another never left their writings, or if they did, then those texts disappeared at some point, and we are not aware of their existence. I pay my tribute to those unknown thinkers.

Bibliography

"The Self Aware Universe", by Amit Goswami. One of the leading physicists in India, explains a pantheistic view of the Universe and of our own existence.

Distribution and Comments

This essay may be freely quoted or distributed in all or in part by anyone. The author expects the courtesy of having his name mentioned in quotations, and also his electronic address in distributions, so as to make possible to any reader to contact him for the elucidation of doubts.

Readers are invited to send their comments. Intelligent and constructive comments may become the basis of fruitful collaborations. Electronic post address at the bottom of the Start page.

Hyper links

Hylozoism, Panpsychism, Pantheism, Solipsism

Pantheism
The concept of a thinking, self-aware Universe
http://www.pantheism.net/

 

Panpsychism
The concept that all matter possesses some form of thinking
http://www.panpsychism.net/

 

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