I enjoy reading about philosophy. I think it’s a writerly thing, especially speculative fiction writers like me. After all, it’s our job to ask “what if?” “What if a great power is awoken, and the only way to stop it is by throwing his ring into a volcano?” “What if there’s a secret wizard society, and children go to a special school to study magic?” “What if there’s a world where the seasons can last for decades?” You get the idea.
I found this page very interesting. It’s almost a crib sheet to the major schools of thought, explained through art. Of course, you don’t have to follow one school exclusively. I find myself shifting from one to the other. Such is the nature of a thoughtful mind. Debating yourself is one of the best ways to learn.
I’ve been thinking about the “Brain in a Jar” theory lately. To summarize, we may be brains within a jar and our reality is nothing but an illusion (like The Matrix). Maybe we are avatars in some virtual reality game, or characters on a TV show? We have no way of proving or disproving this, since we are prisoners of what we can perceive, existing in our own private universes. If we can’t perceive something or perceive it’s effects, then we can’t prove or disprove its existence.
Sometimes I wonder if this theory pertains to fiction. What if we aren’t the brain in the jar, but the ones who put the brain in the jar? When the aliens create The Matrix, are they creating a true reality for us to exist within?
The answer I keep coming to is that maybe it’s not real as we define reality, but it does exist. To exist, something must be perceived or it’s effects perceived. This chair exists in my reality because I see it. The wind exists because I feel it and see it blowing leaves around. That damn jackhammer outside exists because I hear it and see it shattering the sidewalk outside my goddamn apartment (sorry, just frustrated at the construction crew that’s been outside for over a month). Thoughts exist too because others can perceive or be affected by them.
Fictional characters may not be “real,” but they do exist. They affect our thoughts. They make us laugh and cry. They empower us or bring us despair.
We may be characters in someone else’s book or video game or whatever, but maybe not. Regardless, this reality is real because it’s real to me. I exist because I think. Would I exist if someone else thought of me? If a tree falls in the woods…
So if aliens have our bodies hooked up to weird tubes and created a virtual reality or not, I have to assume that it exists either way. We all do. Except for Keanu Reeves. He’s the One.