ESSE EST PERCIPI

The continuing complacency by world governments to apply the systemic changes needed to combat climate change is making the idea of a mass extinction on this planet in the foreseeable future, more and more feasible, and the predicted year of total climate collapse grows ever nearer. The greatest concern is that this unfolding scenario is still only considered a marginal problem, perhaps because the forecast of the tipping point that situates it some 30 to 60 years from now[i], still seems far away and, probably the major reason for our lethargic reaction, is that there is still a lot of money to be made in fossil fuels for those who have got so, so rich by exploiting them.

For those of us with humanistic sensibilities, however, this steady and persistent procession towards our total extinction is maddening for the madness it is. For a humanist, despite the seemingly mass-suicidal death-wish, humanity is something which is inherently beautiful and profoundly meaningful in the Universe. But what is it that will really be lost if a mass extinction of all biological life forms should occur on this planet, as may very well have taken place on our neighbouring planet Mars?

To get our mind around the tremendous consequences of such a loss, we merely need to contemplate reality in an idealistic fashion as Berkeley did with the concept of esse est percipi (aut percipere), Being is to be perceived (or to perceive).

In this idea, Being and Perception are mutually dependent if we consider existence from a qualitative point of view. A Universe of mostly empty space, with an occasional ball of hot gas or frozen rock, is, qualitatively void of Being because there is no consciousness of it, and it itself is not conscious of its own existence. In short, without any passive or active consciousness of it, a thing does not qualitatively exist. To be, a thing needs to be perceived, and to be perceived, a thing needs to be.

This kind of metaphysical thinking may seem trivial at first, but if we associate all percipi with organisms threatened with extinction (i.e., all life on Earth in the age of the Climate Emergency), then it becomes clear that the extinction of life on Earth could very well mean the extinction of everything. With the end of biological entities capable of consciousness, the entire Universe, in a qualitative way, will cease to exist as well. The result would be a state of absolute non-Being, an absolute void of perception is tantamount to an absolute void, in which there is nothing to perceive anything and because of that nothing can be perceived.

Esse est percipi should now therefore be taken as a moral statement, demanding an ethical response to preserve and develop consciousness, and this demand for consciousness is one that must affect the whole of humanity as the perceived and perceivers par excellence.      


[i] ‘Collapse of Civilisation is the Most Likely Outcome’: Top Climate Scientists – Resilience

The Purpose of the Universe

BOSS-BAO

DO WE REALLY NEED RELIGIONS?

All religions have their basis in the question: What is the purpose of this existence in this Universe?

There are two basic answers to this question: either no, there is no purpose; or yes, everything is meaningful.

Taking the latter point of view has its psychological advantages, because it creates an underlying meaningfulness to everything and makes us feel that our own lives are part of a bigger purposeful picture as well. We may think we are mere specks of star-dust, but, in fact, something marvellous is really happening in the world (and the cosmos) around us.

God, or the gods, is a simple way of saying why the Universe is purposeful. But in practice, the God-idea evolved into something sinister and perverse – dogma.

Religions as such, have taken a patent out on the concept of the Universe’s meaningfulness, and we have suffered millennia of human conflict and strife because of the defenders of the God copyright.

However, God is not a necessary component of a meaningful Universe. The Universe can be just meaningful in itself.

MEANINGFULNESS

Of course, “meaning” is just a human-made concept, and the English-language version of that concept. Without self-conscious, rational beings, there can be no meaning as such, because meaning implies an entity capable of understanding that meaning.

Hence the assumption that God is necessary for a purposeful Universe. However, homo sapiens and other self-conscious life forms exist in this Universe whether God exists or not. Life has evolved, in a non-deterministic way, through trial and error. There is no need for God in understanding the purposeful Universe. In fact, if we do feel it to be necessary to throw in a Creator, then it would make more sense to imagine that creator being blind. Existence itself is a desiring, intentional thing. Existence wants to exist and humanity, as a sapiens organism, is an integral factor in that existence.

Berkeley was right when he argued that, in a practical sense, nothing would exist if there were no consciousness. But he most probably was wrong in assuming that the Universe itself is conscious. The Universe probably created consciousness, unconsciously. However, if we affirm that the Universe is purposeful, then there must be an unconscious desire in the unconscious-Universe for the evolution of consciousness within it. This desire resides in the need to exist. The motivating current of our Universe is “To be, or not to be”, affirming the first part.

EXISTENCE AND MEANING

A desire for existence implies a desire for the preservation of that existence and ultimately an eternal existence. Eternity only makes sense if the Universe itself makes sense by being meaningful.

Meaning therefore is embodied in the existential reality of the Universe; in the meaning in the act of becoming involved in the eternal-process of knowing and being known that is the Universe’s relationship to itself and to the life it has created. Life that is the centre and purpose of its creation.

This point of view is atheistic, but anti-nihilistic. The important thing is universal achievement and the fulfilment of our essence which is always in life itself.

The nature of life then, is to exist, which means, live and rejoice in living. Its striving is to overcome the non-existence implicit in death. It is here where the authentic human nature lies – in our shared purpose with the Universe.

SEE ALSO: THE IMPORTANCE OF METAPHYSICS https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/the-importance-of-metaphysics/