Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Evil Demon

The basic question posed in this chapter is taken from Descartes's, "Meditations". When I saw the source, I was as happy as a child that I was aware of this discussion and what Descartes had to say about it :).

Descartes tried to explain the working of the human mind, and to understand what goes inside our mind. The first question he poses is - how self-evident is everything around us? Is it true that the grass is green as seen by you and me? Or am I just led to believe that we both see the grass to be green, yet what I call green is actually seen as red by you? Can we believe everything that we perceive in the world to be the truth, or is there some "evil demon", or God who has programmed us to view, act and behave the way we do. Are we living in a dream? To a hypnotized person who has been "programmed" or "instructed" a certain way, two plus two is five and that is the truth to him. If hypnosis is possible, are we all then "hypnotized" by such an evil demon? Can we really trust what we see and believe as facts, to be the truth?

"Matrix" series is what springs to my mind. When I started reading a few paragraphs by Descartes describing and reasoning about this, my head started to ache. According to me, one of the reasons why Philosophy is probably taken to be such a dense and hard to reach science is the way the philosopher communicates. The paragraphs are riddled with dense and complicated sentences, and almost all views are expressed in such a seemingly convoluted and lofty style. I will try my best to not sound so.

So here is what I have thought - As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have sometimes felt like I am a third person looking at a movie of this character (me) and experiencing what she goes through, just like how one would get engrossed in a movie or a novel and start associating themselves with the character. I really cannot fathom what will happen when my consciousness ceases to exist, or when my character exits the stage. I may be living in a movie, dream or be hypnotized. But in whatever state I am in, people around me seem to share the same belief on many aspects of this world, making me be harmonious with my assumed-reality. I may be led to believe so, and I may never know. Using Fodor's principle; my mental model of the world is nothing but rules and representations of my beliefs of how the world is, as perceived by me. In which case, there is probably no absolute truth, which is why I see everyone of us trying to solve the mystery and have our own interpretations based on our beliefs and perceptions of the world.

So is there anything that can be trusted as being true without a doubt? To this Descartes says, our ability to doubt and reason, is probably the only thing that is self-evident without doubt. And I agree. I don't know if the grass is indeed green or if the sun does rise in the east, but I do know I am questioning their truth and validity... and hence I'm certain of my ability to constantly doubt and reason. I am also certain that IF I am programmed by certain rules to view the world in a certain way by the demon, THEN my belief, representations, and actions hold good and are true. If I am led to believe that I cannot walk on water, then me trying to not walk on water is a true logical consequence and is hence Truth to me. If I have been programmed that 2+2 =5, and I believe that the answer to 2*2 must then be 5 as well, then given the belief system, my ability to reason is the only thing true here, although both answers may be False. How good my ability to reason is, and whether it helps me reach the right conclusions every time, given the premise... I don't know.

No comments: