Long ago ,when I was in college, to graduate with a degree we had to take a number of philosophy courses. At the time I remember thinking my goodness my parents are paying good money for me to learn something and this is the garbage that I have to sit and listen too. Needless to say I did not do so well in those classes, C’s get degrees was always my motto. As the years have passes I find myself looking back on those classes, and now that I have more time on my hands, really trying to understand what some of the world’s greatest minds were talking about.
One phrase that I will never forget from those courses was from Descartes, “I think therefore I am,” his Cogito, as it is named (translated in Latin its Cogito erog sum.) As far as I can tell it basically meant that the only think I can know for certain is that I exist and everything going on outside my mind has to be doubted. That is how I interpreted what he was saying, I am sure my old professors would shake their heads at my explanation. From time to time I often think about what one of the most famous philosophers was getting at.
The other night I was watching one of my favorite shows Through The Wormhole, no sitcoms for me thanks, and this episode was about a subject I find very fascinating and beyond confusing, TIME. The episode went through the various theories concerning time and how we think it works. You would think a basic principle like time would be fairly easy to understand, but it is complicated beyond belief when you really try to understand how it works at its most basic level.
I have talked in other posts about time and different aspects of it, as the episode did as well. While watching one thing struck me, and it was when they were talking about Special Relativity. Basically the principle says that regardless of the observer the speed of light is always the same in a vacuum. If you are in a ship traveling at the speed of light and look out the window things appear to be going much slower on the outside of the space ship. In reality they are moving at normal speed. If you are standing by and are able to see inside the spaceship from the outside it would appear that everyone in the ship is moving at a very slow speed as well despite the ship traveling at the speed of light. The point is that regardless of the speed the observer is traveling what they observe is correct even if it differs from what another observer is seeing. It is a little confusing I know.
So while I was watching this on TV I had a thought that it is our sensory organs that are gathering this information and our brains that process this info and create the images we see. Following this logic I realized that we are bound by one of the best processors in the known universe, our brain. It is the most wondrous device in the universe but as I have thought for a while now is very very limited in its capabilities.
I have often wondered that because of the limits of our brains that we will never be able to fully understand the universe and how it works. I do not think that we need to reject everything that is going on outside our bodies, as Descartes says. I think that even if we were not here to measure it light would still travel at 186,000 miles per second. So that brings me to another interesting idea. Is the world around us independent of our minds, meaning does the world truly exist outside of our minds. Or is the world just an interpretation of our mind, so that if our minds did not exist the world would not exist. Is reality just what we interpret?
I am not sure, I think the world exists outside of our minds but how we interpret it depends on the individual. Everyone’s experience is different, so everyone’s view of reality is going to be different, at least that is the way I see it. This question has been pondered over by many philosophers and scientist alike for many years. So I do not claim to have the correct answer. I think it is safe to say that “My reality is not your reality.” So maybe Einstein and Descartes were both making similar arguments in regards to different aspects. That regardless of everything else your interpretation, whether it be observing the speed of light or watching the sun set, that whatever you observe is all you can truly know to be true in this massive and incredibly vast universe.