I’m Jaq. If you’ve read Sun Valley Moon Mountains, you know me already. But this is my first foray onto Ajax’s website. Again, if you know the story behind the writing of SVMM, you know that Ajax found my manuscript in a closet. I had left it in my own closet on Alternative Earth. Since then it’s functioned kind of like the magic closet in the Nornia Chronicles (Narnia on your worldline; there are small and subtle differences between our worldlines as they diverge). Anyway, he left me a copy of a Podcast he did with Connie Dunn. One of her questions was: How do you think the world is organized conceptually and what difference does it make?

Again, in SVMM it made one hell of a difference. But Ajax asked me to share my own thoughts, since SVMM was a fantasy (I think). Anyway, it’s always made a big difference to Ajax and me. Not a surprise since we share, basically, the same brain.  But to the point. Does it make a difference whether you think the world as we experience it appears to us precisely as it IS and is external, objectively, to our own selves? Or is it a product of mind or something else?

This question has been pondered as long as philosophers have been around. Plato postulated that the reality we experience is like shadows thrown on cave wall by a fire. And that we will never experience ‘reality’ directly. Aristotle was more in line with common sense. If I see a chair, it exists outside of me and independently. Now, in everyday life I’m guessing we all deal with the world as an objective, external reality. But the question has deeper implications for our view of the world.

Historically, speculative philosophy gained traction with Descartes. He wanted to know what in fact he KNEW for certain. And he arrived at the conclusion that the only thing of which he could be entirely certain was his own self as a thinking entity, because we are often deceived by dreams, illusions and other phenomena. Although the only thing he could be entirely certain of was the process of observing his own thought (“I think therefore I am”), he also believed deeply in God and postulated that since God would never deceive, the world as we experienced it was REAL.

This notion was taken to its extreme, and logical, conclusion by George Berkeley. He felt the world as we experienced it was precisely AS we experienced it. With a catch. It was all in the mind. Sound kooky? Think about it.

When I whack my thumb with a hammer, all of the experience actually does take place in the mind: seeing the injury, feeling the injury is actually experienced only IN the mind. So how does a vast universe, of which each of us experiences only a small part come to be? Well, it exists in the all knowing mind of God. Pretty snappy argument.

But there exists a material world outside of ourselves right? Maybe. There is an argument that the 3D world we experience is simply a projection off of a 2D surface, like a hologram. Maybe not so kooky. The projector could be the mind of God, or a god, as we learned in SVMM. And I think this idea of the mind of God, a god that controls ‘every leaf that falls’, was and still is fundamental to having a strong belief in God. That those things unexplained or unexplainable  can be attributed to God. An anthropologist called that the ‘Sacred Canopy’, which covered the world of the unexplainable. Of course, that canopy has been shrinking for millennia, as science has come to offer more and more plausible explanations of experience.

Which brings us to the second great Epistemological school. The Empiricists. This one is easier to get a hold of. The world we experience is as we perceive it and outside of ourselves. And it follows certain laws. How does God or a god fit in? Well, the Deists were probably closest to the viewpoint of the Empiricists. God built this wonderful watch, the visible Universe, and set it ticking; able to run on its own according to his predestined plan.  Those that hold to an Empiricist view are most likely secularists. Most likely. they believe in Science and the ability of humans, given enough time, to explain all phenomena.  That’s about it. But you can see that Rationalism and Empiricism set the tone of our relationship with our environment.

And what about Ajax and me? As stated in SVMM, we held to the system of Kant, who tried to synthesize Rationalism and Empiricism. He believed we experience a world outside of ourselves, but filtered by the structure of our brains. We see only a certain spectrum of light, hear only a range of sounds and think causally. The ‘real’ world was like the actual chair that cast its shadow on Plato’s cave wall. Beyond our senses. Unreachable but real.  Humans have been given a unique perspective. So enjoy it and suck as much knowledge from it as you can.

Oh, and if you think humans can reach beyond their sensory perceptions with the aid of ‘prostheses’, microscopes for example, and at some point fully understand the world, think again.

Take Plato’s chair. No matter how we try, could we ever experience the WHOLE chair at one time?