ab initio

-- this is part of a three site project: the Eye of the Dragon, the Sea of Thought & Seas of Mystery --

-- right now the three sites largely overlap each other, but will become distinguished over time --

-- my main site (not updated recently) is http://www.pedro-fonseca.com --

Should we ignore our ignorance? Would life be any better if we would lie to ourselves regarding all the things we do not know, which include the meaning of life, the existence of a soul, the origin of everything, the limits of existence, the nature of consciousness and many others? In fact it seems that the fundamental questions that could tell us what to do, what to expect, how to live our lives, are far from our grasp. And yet people seem to deny it. From atheists to religious people passing through agnostics, everyone seems to have made up their minds.

I'm not an agnostic, I'm simply ignorant. I don't know if gnostics are right or wrong: perhaps God can be known. I simply don't know it. So, between gnostics and agnostics I wouldn't know how to choose, but I know where I fit, and it's not on the cognizant side. I am ignorant. And that's not the only thing I am sure of.

I am also sure that this ignorance does not stop me from being blissful, from wanting to understand life and the world around me. It does not paralyze me, by the contrary, it is like a spring that leads me to open up my eyes, focus my eyesight the best I can, and try to understand, as deeply, precisely and widely, as I can, the world around me.

This includes physics but also music, geometry and freedom. I establish no limits, except to lie. I refuse lying (at least consciously) so I always try not to confuse the things that I want to know with the things that I do know.

For instance, regarding the possibility of life after the death the body. There are clearly many emotional issues regarding this topic. Almost all of us feel that death is a bad thing, taking everything we have against our will, taking the ones we love against their will and our will. And even the powerful and the wise are subject to death, no one was, so far, able to stop it. So we would like to believe that somehow our "I" continues even after our body dies. It's a great desire. This desire alone makes many people believe in the strangest theories, just because they're comforting. And, seeing this, many other people simply dismiss all hopes of life beyond the grave as silly hopes of people unable to deal with reality. But if we simply look at the facts, you know, from a "logical point of view", we will see that the subject is far from clear. Certainly the expression of will, the physical perception of the world, everything that makes us physically able agents is related to the physical abilities of our body / brain. Without a functioning physical system we cannot work appropriately in a physical context. Does this mean that the "soul" does not exist? Does it prove that it is only a useful social fiction to keep all these machines in good, working, civilized order? Well, it certainly seems a coherent view. But the fact is, we cannot satisfactorily explain how a physical system can create a conscious experience. Even the most basic experience we have, of being able to freely decide an open future is impossible to describe precisely. How can we describe an act that is neither determined nor random? We can't program such an act in a computer (randomness in computers is just apparent randomness unpredictability due to very complex algorithms or it is true randomness retrieved from quantum events, but in neither case do we have what we feel free will is). We have no precise, logical describable, concept for that! Does that mean that the experience of free will is just an illusion? But the same indescribableness happens in mathematics, with imaginary and transcendental numbers, and we do not deny their existence. In fact we accept many things that escape our imagination, like geometrical objects with more than three spatial dimensions. So there must be other criteria for denying that something is real beyond our capacity to describe it or imagine it. What would be sufficient for us to deny true freedom's (in the incompatibilist sense) existence? Perhaps in the future we will be able to solve these questions. Just like the telescope and the microscope settled many conjectures in the past; what we probably need is a technological development that enable us to look inside the brain in sufficient detail and wideness so that we can solve the question of free will. And perhaps we will be able to solve the question of consciousness too. But this does only emphasizes the fact that we have not solved any of those questions yet. Yes, there are powerful emotions raised by the question of life after death, but these emotions should not lead us to ignore our ignorance. We simply do not know what is the relation between consciousness and matter, and we do not know how long it will take us to overcome this ignorance, or if it's possible or not to overcome it.

So my proposal, my choice, is just to live the mystery. To live knowing that I do not know. Perhaps there are mystics that have found out the answer. Perhaps there are scientists that have found out the answer. Perhaps there are extra-terrestrial beings that have found out the answer. Well, I would like to know it. But so far, every argument and evidence I encountered seemed inconclusive. The fact is, we are just grasping at the surface of a largely unknown universe. We are a bit different from birds and other animals, but we are not that different. Civilization started just a few thousand years ago, and science had just a few hundred years to grow. On the billions of years that lie ahead of any intelligent species evolution, I'm sure that many questions such as these will be answered. But we're not there yet. In fact, we are very far from being there.

My motto here is simple - not to lie: not to affirm what I ignore, not to ignore what I experience.