One World?

One of the philosophical subjects that I have been musing about recently is whether we all live in the same world.

I’m sure this keeps other people up at night.

Though the ethical realm is often thought of as relative (i.e. not universally real), I think that most people take it as a given that we all live in a shared physical world (solipsists and the like aside).  We think the world of our senses is something quite independent of our sense of it – and we also tend to think that we are pretty much in agreement about this world (unlike the realm of our ethical experience).  On reflection though, I’m not sure whether our experience of the physical world is any more consistent than our experience of the ethical world.  The reason that we think that it is more consistent is because our physical experience is not something that we compare quite as much as our ethical experiences.

Let us imagine that we’re in an art gallery, and we are both admiring a painting.  Or at least, I’m admiring the painting, while you’re pretending to admire it.  On the surface we both agree about the physical entity in front of us, but while I think it is a work of art you think it’s a piece of crap.  The non-specificity of our language is such that we can both agree that there is a painting on the wall, without actually agreeing on what the painting is.

The immediate rebuttal to this argument is that our experience is different only aesthetically.  The painting is the same collection of molecules, we just experience it differently.  My counterpoint is that the only world that we live in is the world of experience – any experience is by its nature aesthetic because all experience is by necessity part of activity.  Even if we talk about the ‘real physical world’, the world of atoms sitting in space distinct from experience, we can only actually refer to them as an experience.

What I am essentially proposing is this: our moral and physical experiences are of a kind.  Each is as subjective as the other.  Let me know what you think,

Ryan Workman

via Blogger


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