Apparently today is World Philosophy Day (or maybe yesterday was, or tomorrow will be… it all depends upon a host of epistomological questions which have been investigated for thousands of years but which have never been resolved). In honor of the event, BBC News Magazine has an article featuring four philosophical conundrums which will make your brain hurt. I, of course, answered them all quickly and earned a perfect score, but I won’t share my answers with you, because that would be cheating, and cheating is wrong… Or is it?
Now, one of my favorite philosophical conundrums is the “Omphalos Hypothesis“, otherwise known parodically as “Last Tuesdayism”. The notion here is that the world was created by a deity in its current form with all its information and fossils and geological formations and all at one point in the recent past. All evidence that the earth is older than, say, 4,000 years, was placed in situ by God at the event of the world’s creation. Some philosophers raise this to “next Tuesdayism” by saying that God may as well have created the world last Tuesday, and every evidence that the world is older than that, including our memories, were created at the same time.
Really, though, the hypothesis doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and is ultimately irrelevant. If the universe really is no older than a few days, the best approach to understanding it is still to approach it with the observable evidence on hand.
Just for the fun of it, though, I like to say that I actually adhere to “Next Tuesdayism”, the notion that the world and everything in it won’t actually be created until next Tuesday. That includes your memory of reading this hypothesis; you may think you’re experiencing it right now, but your only proof that you are doing so will be your future self reflecting upon the experience, even if that future self is only a few milliseconds away. So who’s to say that what you’re experiencing now isn’t just a memory that you reflect upon later? In short, can you disprove that we don’t yet exist if your only evidence for prior existence is your own memory thereof?
It is, again, one of those questions that ultimately irrelevant to our understanding of and approach to the world. I also used to ponder that reality might be changing all around us every few seconds, but we would never know, and the only reality we would ever be aware of experiencing is the one we are experiencing right now.
I also enjoy pondering issues of identity and the internal experience of self, but I won’t go into that here. I did write a story, “Trying to Stay Dead“, about these issues. Go read it and enjoy it. And have a happy World Philosophy Day.