One particular line in this post from Jackie Matthews tipped something over in my impossibly existential mind which responded to Adrian mentioning how our blogs do not necessarily ‘exist’ continuously, but only form when somebody requests the page. Jackie said, “I had a cool epiphany when I realised that my blog doesn’t really exist, the page isn’t there waiting for me, it just appears when someone seeks out its content. Trippy.” Theres a bunch of technical stuff involved with blogs and servers and all that, but lets for a second take the abstract concept of that: is this perception of the world not true for everybody?
Now I studied Descartes as part of my VCE Philosophy class and we looked at his famously misquoted statement, “I think, therefore I am”. I won’t go into the full details of the premise and arguments but after a long spiel he concludes that due to the limited and variable nature of our perceptions – namely dreams seeming like reality, reality sometimes seeming like dreams – we cannot fully validate our own perception on the world. Hence, the only true thing is our own thoughts because thought is the only self-authored thing. At least in his arguments. Lets roll with it.
So when I want to look at a blog, I request it, and the server says, “Right, I’m gonna need this text, this image…” etc. and puts it all together for the lovely user. The same process can be said for ourselves; nothing exists until we look at or ‘request’ it from the world. That basketball behind you? Doesn’t exist, at least not until you turn around and look at it. Then it does. You’ll then say, “Well I know it’s there because I see it all the time! I used it yesterday for a sweet match with my friends!” which is very true, so I’ll say, “Alright. Prove to me, without pointing to or otherwise giving me direct visual access to it, that the ball exists.”
If you can do this, hell I’ll give you a medal, but in essence this is a thing known as qualia. It is the subjective, individual experience of a thing. A simpler example: explain – to somebody who has never seen, heard of, or experienced it before – the colour red. Experiencing colour first hand is an example of a qualia.
Your blog doesn’t technically ‘exist’ as such, but neither does the world outside of your peripheral vision, and for all you know it could all just be a dream.