Why do we think we need existential beliefs? (…, Therefore I am)

Answer by Jim Ashby:

Thanks for the A2A, Baba!

I think, therefore, I am. Cogito ergo sum. It is self-evident.

Your own existence is confirmed by self-awareness. You may doubt anything else but how do you doubt that your mind is doing the doubting? You experience through sensory perception . . . which is useless without a brain to integrate and interpret them. So even your own senses are dependent on your brain/mind. Your self-aware consciousness is the bottom line of your reality.

The foundation of knowledge is built on the self-evident, beginning with your own existence. From there, other things become self-evident. If I can reach out and touch someone, that person must exist too. If I'm a person that exists and am self-aware, this other person I grasp in my hands exists and is self-aware.

I'm no child psychologist, so I don't know what stages we go through as we acquire knowledge and a worldview but its seems self-evident that the first things we learn and internalize are self-evident.

Language factors prominently in how we think. Distinctions and discernment can't be adequately shared without language. One of the most fundamental distinctions is between the subjective and the objective: what is 'in your head' versus what is 'out there', tangible in reality. Discerning the difference, at first blush, doesn't seem inherently difficult but I've recently become increasingly aware of how language complicates discernment.

What I've been noticing is that people use language imprecisely; they shift indiscriminately (as suits their argument?) between different definitions of a word or they use reasoning that applies subjective concepts to objective things, or vice versa. Confusion invariably ensues when you conflate multiple definitions of the same word or when you conflate the subjective with the objective (or vice versa).

For instance, agnosticism and atheism. Agnosticism is about objective knowledge. Atheism is about subjective belief. In effect, agnostics claim God is not objectively knowable and atheists claim God is not subjectively believable. Knowledge deals with facts. Belief deals with opinions. I can't count the times or ways that people treat agnosticism as if it were a claim of subjective belief or that people treat atheism as a claim of objective knowledge. They arrive at completely bogus conclusions because they were imprecise with their language.

The distinction between subjective and objective might seem simple, or even self-evident . . . but, in practice, it gets complicated by abuse of language. The remedy is to be mindful of consistency: don't mix and match definitions of words and don't mix and match subjective and objective concepts.

I think, therefore, I am.

How you think determines who you are.

Why do we think we need existential beliefs? (…, Therefore I am)

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