Oh boy. Today we are tackling a huge topic; not only is it our first look into real philosophy, it’s also a very important topic. We are about to dive into the world of metaphysics (the study of reality). Get ready because it is going to be one wild trip. If everything goes according to plan, you will question all of your life and your own existence; maybe even reach meaningful answers. Slap that ‘continue reading’ button to, well, continue reading.
With that out of the way, let us get started.
One of the most discussed topics in philosophy is what constitutes reality, and how you can tell the difference between what you think is real and what actually is real. Let’s look at one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s most well-known movies to better understand this concept: Inception. One of the themes the movie most heavily explores is questioning if your reality is just a dream; the further you go into the movie, the more confused the characters become regarding this specific situation. So, one of the questions for this week (yes, we will have more than one)2 is: Is it possible that your current reality isn’t real at all?
This leads us to our second topic of the day, epiphanies. For the purpose of this post we will be dealing with this definition of epiphany: “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.” (dictionary.com). Many of the thought experiments related to basic metaphysics involve some kind of epiphany. Let me present you with an example, let’s say that you have a teddy bear; this is the only version of a bear you have ever seen in your life. Considering you know no better, you would think that all bears are cute, cuddly, have buttons for eyes and will always be the shoulder you can cry on. Now, let’s say you go to a national park or a zoo and you see a real bear, everything you thought you knew about bears was wrong. Bears are big, they aren’t exactly cute, they have big teeth, big claws and, even if it doesn’t look like that, cuddling with them is a bad idea. Those ‘Aha!’ moments you get when you discover a new aspect of reality are what we call epiphanies, and the point of metaphysics is that you are never safe from them; your world can always be turned upside down, there is always that chance that everything you know is a lie. To paraphrase Plato, the physical world which we assume to be the most real is nothing but the shadow of a higher truth.
Do you think I’m exaggerating? Think again; and think about everything that was once held as fact and that has now been disproven. The shape of the earth, the earth being the centre of the universe, the belief that heroin, tobacco and lobotomies were good for you, etc. Those all turned out to be completely and utterly wrong, so why should our current beliefs be regarded as fact? Aren’t they also at risk of being as wrong as the thought that the earth is flat?
Walking to a bright light after being exposed to darkness can be both very confusing and very rewarding; for Plato, philosophy is just like that. Yes, it may confuse you at first, maybe it makes you uncomfortable that maybe everything is fake, but once you learn to accept these things and start thinking about meaningful answers, philosophy can be quite enlightening.
That’s it for today’s post, let’s discuss the three questions that I have conveniently bolded on the comment section below. I hope you all liked our first trip into metaphysics, and I’ll see you next week.