questions on the loo, issue #1: Epistemology, anthropocentrism, conscience, and life

This will be a regular feature of questions that pop up in my head.  They will most likely be philosophical in nature.  They’re more for me to keep track of, but discussion is always, under whatever circumstances, welcome and desperately wanted!  


How do we know what we know?  That’s a loaded question, but one that’s simple in concept.  How do we even know that we know?  

How do we know we’re “human beings”?  What if there are beings out there with more knowledge than us?  Beings that we have no knowledge of?  What is the definition of a “human being”?  The “greatest” creature?  The only species that has a conscience?  Are we really the only creatures with a conscience?  How would we even know that if we cannot think the way a different creature thinks?  Maybe our concept of conscience…doesn’t even matter.  Maybe what we think or what we think we think does not matter.  

What exactly is “life”?  Is it simply existence?  Is it existence with a timeline?  Existence with a beginning and an end?  Existence with a mortality?  Do immortal beings (whether they exist or not is not important here) even live?


p.s. i find it very difficult to get philosophical in words, because language is already an ideology–a convention, a system, a code.  words in a language are completely arbitrary, yet at the same time, so…biased. each word has so much baggage.


Filed under language, philosophy, questions on the loo

8 responses to “questions on the loo, issue #1: Epistemology, anthropocentrism, conscience, and life

  1. 1) ‘Know’ – that word is a heavy one. What we ‘know’ does not necessarily originate wholly from the senses: I feel that the empiricist view is somehow incomplete. Because senses are possessed by other animals too, and they obviously don’t know that, say, that we live in a planet called earth or that a fist-sized rock contains enough electricity to provide energy on this planet for 29 million years.

    Then, what we ‘know’ is actually a mixture of external knowledge + internal intuition. Quite like Kant’s a priori concept.

    Therefore, what we *know* is actually what we *think* what we know.

    2) ‘Human beings’ like, everything else in our world, is just another name we invented. Naming is only a provision for the ease of organisation; and has no relation whatsoever to identity.

    I like your definition of a human being – a creature with conscience. Yes, perhaps that is the most defining characteristic of humanity.

    3) ‘Existence with a beginning and an end’ – here, I do not agree. I think it has more to do with the *process*, not the destination or the path.

    Life is more than existence. Existence makes it sound static – life is flowing. Life is a flux.

    And oh, yes, language sometimes is completely futile in the face of thoughts. Oooh, do you think there might be something called ‘thought-speak’?

  2. j

    Thank you for the wonderful and enlightening comment, ilovemint. It pretty much took my questions into consideration and fleshed out possible answers, which, to be honest, i was a little too lazy to do at this hour in the morning (3:33 am my time). I agree with basically everything you said.

    Ha, i was actually reading Kant’s “Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime” right before posting this. I will definitely have to look more into his a priori concept. I’m really liking him so far.

    That is exactly what i was wishing for! “Thought-speak.” It’s impossible for such a thing to exist, because any form of expression involves some kind of filtering.

  3. The way Kant arrives at his conclusions is superb, isn’t it? It is like something you’ve known in your heart, but can’t quite put your finger on – and that moment of truth, when you realise it, understand it, it’s like a gem staring at you right in the face, and the light of it kind of illuminates everything else.

    You know, I can see from your writings that you have this way of learning through asking questions? That’s the same with me too, I don’t know where all those questions come from – seems like one question leads to another, doesn’t it? Questioning is the best way to knowledge, in my opinion.

    And knowledge, well, it’s a bewildering term. Sure it makes us feel better to work out a piece of this crazy puzzle called life, find how things fit and work together in Universe. Sometimes though, when we actually come to know how little we know, or how much there still is to know, it can become all too confusing and seem like it’s really no use at all.

    But that’s exactly the point though – echoed in Socrates philosophy, ‘Only one thing I know, that I know nothing.’

    P.S. I’ve just remembered – Socrates’ way of philosophising was actually asking questions as well!

    “any form of expression involves some kind of filtering.”…that’s a profound truth.

    Haha…3 am lol. =D

  4. j

    Yes, i know! That’s *exactly* how i feel about Kant! I think Barthes is even more like that. Have you read him? You’d like him.

    Hmm, knowledge. I don’t trust knowledge, but i guess that’s what i like about it—the fact that it *should* be doubted. H.P. Lovecraft said, “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents,” with which i couldn’t agree more.

    You know, we have a lot to discuss. But right now, i only have five hours left to finish my work for school, so i will visit your blog again in the very near future! Truly looking forward to it.

  5. j

    And yes, questioning definitely is the best way to knowledge. My History of Communication professor asks us to write two “observations” and one “question” for every reading, but for me, it always turns out to be three questions, or rather, three observational questions.

  6. Oh, no, I haven’t yet read Barthes, will check him out thanks.

    And yes, that’s how I view knowledge too – I guess it’s more of an ongoing ‘process’ more than anything.
    The professor sounds cool lol. My teacher asked me to stop pestering her with questions and get back to work >.<

    Nice quote as well. :]

  7. j

    Yeah, he’s one of my favorite professors. Really smart guy. Ugh, don’t listen to your teacher. What kind of teacher discourages students from asking questions? You should talk to her super or something.

  8. The kind that thinks her students (or just one particular student, lol) ‘think too much’. Seriously, I wanted to play Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2’ right in her face…oh well.

    Anyway, we got some riddles figured out! Here’s to the future Nobel Prize =D

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