I just finished watching Proof, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Anthony Hopkins. This film portrayed the beauty, the excitement, and the madness of wildly inspirational genius. The irony of it all is that some of the greatest contributions to logical thought were the products of illogical experience – a.k.a. inspiration.
Western thought is based upon the Cartesian deconstruction of both knowledge and experience. I cannot prove that I am writing these words, but if I reduce myself down to thoughts and self-awareness, I can prove that I exist.
Logic = If ________, then ___________.
There’s a way around it; I know there is. I was told by my philosophy professor in college that I would have to excuse myself from all debate if I refused to prescribe to the Cartesian method. That’s mostly because to follow another way and yet attempt to debate is to compare apples and oranges.
Descartes wanted to start with something beyond question or reproach. So he took his normal daily existence, considered any potential argument disproving his existence, and ended up with the one statement that no one could take away from him: I think, therefore I am. According to Descartes, I may not be able to prove that I’m writing, or breathing, or speaking, or hearing, or tasting, or touching, or singing, or walking, etc, etc; but I know that I think. I know that I am asking questions in my thoughts. Therefore I exist.
It’s not that I disapprove of this conclusion, really. It’s the resulting massively improper errors of duplicity which I cannot abide by. Descartes’ logic is responsible for all the people who cannot stop dissecting everything. He is singlehandedly responsible for the over-classification of all physical or measurable things. Mind and body, for example. Because of Descartes, I can prove that I think (mind), but I still fail to prove that I have a body and that it does what I think it does.
He may have worked back towards establishing what he saw and experienced in the real world, but he couldn’t really prove it. All he did was to establish a sense of primacy for thought. Thought is first. Everything else is illusion, and even thought can mislead. Thought’s existence, however, is irrefutable.
That leads to disengaged, disembodied, acid-tripping hippies and punks claiming to have had their minds opened. It leads to hallucination and self-doubt and fear. It leads to nonsensical paranoia. I cannot excuse it.
The only people involved in The Great Conversation that I know of who have refused to talk on these terms are the few who place faith above science. Not because faith and science are at odds with one another, but because one must be primary and the other secondary.
More on this later. My eyelids are drooping.