Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Epistemic Urges

Posted by Jerry on August 11, 2006

Jason recently mused about the whole concept of “souls”–what is it, where is it, and do we humans really have it. It’s an interesting post, well worth a proper read. I say this because his post got me thinking about souls too! 🙂

In his ruminations on the matter of souls, Jason cites one of my earlier posts, Consciousness: Its limited and limitless qualities. He says:

Ergo once mentioned that the idea of afterlife only exists because, being as we cannot comprehend not existing, we therefore imagine a life for afterward, because we cannot fathom not thinking, not feeling, not existing. We cannot fathom not existing, and therefore, we must continue to exist even when all we know and all we see disappears or goes away…

And I believe this is in fact true. As I said in my earlier post, our conscious minds are epistemically boundless, limitless, unrestricted in imagination. Our imaginations are completely free. As evidence, witness the creative, productive, and cultural history of human civilization–the myriad of unique, different, artistic and commercial creations by individual men–the millions of differents poems, books, movies, photographs, ideas, theories, applications, etc. This proves irrefutably that man’s imagination is limitless.

Epistemically, we can think, conjure, imagine almost anything; we can fabricate any unique kind of creature, superhero, fantasy realm, dreamland, creative design, musical composition, etc. The limitation to our consciousness lies in the metaphysical realm: our consciousness cannot survive beyond our physical death because a physical death is also the end of that which makes our consciousness possible, a functioning brain. Thus, in a metaphysical sense, our consciousness is grounded and limited (since it cannot overcome physical death), but in an epistemic sense, it is free and unbounded (it can imagine itself to “exist” in places where the physical brain does not exist, e.g., an imagined heaven).

Now, in addition to the fact that our imaginations are unbounded, there is another epistemic rule: our consciousness–while it can imagine anything–must have something to think about, something to imagine. In other words, a consciousness conscious of nothing is a contradiction of terms. The fact that we are conscious implies that our minds have some content that we are aware of.

[Edit: Ted Keer correctly pointed out to me that while we can imagine anything or any fantasy, there are some logical limitations to its abilities. These limitations are mostly of the abstract, logical kind. For example, it is impossible to imagine a squared-circle. We have no such figure, no such concept, and no such referent in reality. I refered to this limitation much earlier–much before Ted pointed this out to me–in a post titled “Musings on Metaphysics.” These qualifications notwithstanding, the fact of our immense abilities to imagine practically anything remains. The thrust of this post is that consciousness always imagines something since to be conscious is to always have some content of awareness; however, it cannot imagine *nothing* or the state of nothingness–which is what death is, nothing.]

Being conscious of “nothingness” is an invalid statement, as no such thing is possible. “Nothingness” by definition would include the non-existence of consciousness. In fact, one must remain silent about the concept of “nothingness” because nothing can be said about nothingness, except in relation to something else.

The only sensible manner of speaking about nothingness is in its relation to something. One can only speak of nothing as being bounded or charted by something. Thus, it is purely for methodological purposes that we use the concept of “nothingness.” Nothing such as nothingness exists as such.

Therefore, human consciousness–as it cannot fathom the notion of nothingness–is impelled (or has strong epistemic urges) to imagine some sort of continued existence after death, because death and non-existence, i.e., nothingness, is simply unfathomable and impossible for the human consciousness to imagine; the nature of our minds is such that we are unlimited in what we can think of so long as we think of something and that we think of ourselves as thinking beings.

We are unable to come to a point where nothingness envelops our consciousness such that we can imagine what death and non-existence must really be like. This is why people are pre-occupied with contemplating death: the state of death is an enigma to them, a puzzling condition that they simply cannot get their heads around. They forget that the very act of contemplating what death must be like is succumbing to their epistemic urge of attributing a *content* to the state of non-existence, to imagine *something* about nothingness, to push their epistemically unlimited consciousness into the metaphysically impermissible domain of death.

Since we are incapable of experiencing, or even imagining, what death and non-existence must be like, we tend to explore (using our unlimited imaginitive capabilities) “after-death” scenarious of our continued existence. And while we are engaged in such flights of imaginative fancies, we might as well fabricate elaborate scenarios that fulfill our deep, emotional desires, such as “unending happiness and bliss” in heaven, joy, honey, wine, virgins in heaven; our desire of justice and reward is likewise fulfilled by imagining that evil and rich people are banished off to hell where they suffer forever, and poor, meek, and good people who “suffer” on earth are abundantly rewarded in heaven. This is the act of confusing our epistemic nature with our metaphysical nature.

Related Posts: Epistemic Urges-II

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One Response to “Epistemic Urges”

  1. […] by Ergo on August 14th, 2006 Upon a second reading of my previous post titled Epistemic Urges, I felt that there were a few things I needed to clarify, or state more explicitly. So, I decided […]

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