Tuesday, 6 January 2009

I blog, therefore I’m not

Cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). Probably the most famous phrase in philosophy - thanks Descartes - but one which really infuriates me because, well…, it doesn’t really say anything does it?

After all, you may think you exist but what if you had never existed in the first place?

Because paradoxically enough, the chances that you do exist (and the chances that you have found your way to this blog given the millions of other websites out there) are virtually nil.

After all, for you to exist meant that your parents had to have met.

Now what was the probability of that? Supposing your father had gone for the blond with the long hair instead? Or perhaps that dorky chick with tortoiseshell glasses? And likewise your mother - what if she had never gone to the seminar where she had met your father?

So, let’s face it – the chances of your parents ever meeting up – and then getting married – and then you being the number one swimmer up the mysterious fallopian tubes - are infinitesimally small – in fact, to all practical purposes ZERO (imagine: for you to exist, not only did your parent have to meet, but also their parents, and their parents’ parents, etc… ad infinitum!) And yet we exist. Or think we do. Cogito, ergo sum.

So where are all these people who never existed? The billions and billions and billions of them? And more specifically, where would YOU be if you had never existed? Think about it. After all, it’s a miracle you do exist – or think you do - and you are pretty fortunate actually that someone else is not walking around in your shoes rather than you.

Well, perhaps that’s it. None of us do exist. And if none of us do exist, then noone doesn’t have to not exist as well.

Intuitively, this makes sense as well, and falls back to the Seven Ages of Man as referred to by Shakespeare in “As You Like It”: infancy, childhood, adolescence, young adult, adult, old age and death (dementia).

These are the different “states” that a physical body can be in. But there is no existence. If a baby dies and goes off to heaven would that really be the “same” person than if the baby had lived and the person died in old age?

It gets strange when you realise you don’t exist.

You may think you do when you can remember your past experiences – especially of childhood – but that only means you have access to the tape recorder function of your mind. For that child is now no more – but equally the body is not dead – so where is the child now?

In some ways, it’s not such a bad thing that we never existed.

After all, we come from nothing and go back to nothing.

So what have we lost?