This thought that currently boggles me, I’ve thought countless times before; I have grown quite bored of rehashing it. But it somehow continues to profoundly affect me, especially when I notice how resistant others are to it. As far as I am concerned it is self-evident, the most patently true fact at the very foundation of our knowledge. But it is very hard to escape the feeling that our world exists independently of us.
We wind our way mysteriously to find ourselves locked away imperiously, enthroned upon an altar that alienates as it seems to lift. But having climbed, we cease our efforts and bars descend and shutters flip. Without warning we are ensnared, our flight terminated like birds snatched out of the air and entombed cagewise. There are maybe a few casuistic interlocutions fashioning this trap, but the predominant is this hidden platform upon which is inscribed ‘my world exists independently of me’. The others rest on this and flow from this – at last even confine my wings.
What shatters this ground, releasing this air dweller, is what bends the spoon by seeing that there is no spoon. The brain is just an intelligent lens; the world, the reversed image it casts and infers. “It is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.” The fact that we never make any contact with any world ‘out there’ must be clear to those who dwell long upon this consideration. Any world we appear to contact is no more than just that – a world that appears, by virtue of being cast into appearance, as an explanatory tool of vast power.
I find myself always wondering the same thing at this particular thought-junction, namely, what can and cannot be said about the world-in-itself. Schopenhauer is said to have committed the grave error of making of the noumenon a graven image, so to speak. In giving any attributes whatever, he has blasphemed against the Kantian interdiction. Is it just a temptation of ours, from the tantalizing vividness of our representation, that we wish to be able to say that at the very least there is some correlation between what is real and what we see? Or is it just the feebleness of our mind and its inability to rise up, or dive deep, ever inhabiting the interfaces of surface level reality?
What our perception essentially does is to find a pattern that is consistent with all the evidence of the senses. Since we are sensitive to such an infinitesimally small sliver of reality, however, is it not possible that the actual state of affairs is very much left undetermined by our inferences? In more mathematical terms, since there are so many more free parameters than we have abilities to measure, does not our representation underconstrain reality? A two-dimensional being perceives a rectangle or else an oval when presented with a cylinder in cross-section, and cannot have any intuition about their true connection in the higher-dimensional object. But as I say this, my mind immediately furnishes the example of the hologram, where higher-dimensional information is packed into lower-dimensional surfaces, and our cortex, which is a two-dimensional sheet upon which our entire universe is embroidered. Still, the analogy suffices for the purpose of illustrating the point: there is an infinite set of vastly varied universes compatible with the meager residue of data they leave behind on the extremely limited recording devices of sensitive beings.
It currently seems to me, however, that we must at least be able to say that there is a correlation between phenomenon and reality. A subset of the information though it surely is, it must still be a somewhat accurate projection of such. And true enough that there may be infinitely many alternative ways to translate that fertile reality into this projection, it seems to me that they must still share some variance – at least under a very loose system of conversion between translational systems. However, it doesn’t quite seem absolutely impossible that our limited understanding of mathematics precludes us from seeing that the different forms reality may take can yet be completely uncorrelated, despite being equally consistent with sensory data. Ultimately we must remain agnostic about this issue, to avoid the stake upon which all in whom arrogance leads to make claims that bootstrap themselves to ground truth are burned.