An utterly mundane conclusion

Posted on July 23, 2017


After many years of reflection and the careful examination of very many blind alleys, I have arrived at the utterly mundane conclusion that we are animals who exchange resources.

Some resources are bequeathed to us through the lottery of our birth. Some are acquired or created with the help of the resources bequeathed to us. Resources are tangible like water, food, shelter, and clothing. They are also intangible, like myth, religion, ideas, and debt. Some resources, like family, community and the internet, are both tangible and intangible.

Resources are exchanged cooperatively, competitively, and/or coercively.

Paradoxically, the intangible resources are very often valued far more than the tangible resources — even those which are essential to life. The apparent paradox might best be explained by the fact that intangible resources are very often a highly effective means to acquire tangible resources. This explanation, however, is inadequate because the pursuit of intangible resources very often requires giving up or even destroying tangible resources. Ultimately, there may be no paradox. Perhaps, we are simply the kinds of beings that exchange tangible resources for intangible resources — for better and for worse.

Life is lived inescapably in the present. The future and the past is an intangible resource invented by the experiencing brain to use in the ever-present game of resource-exchange. We make appeals to an imagined future and/or to an imagined past because such appeals can affect the exchange of resources in the here and now.

The influencing effects of intangible resources like God, truth, history, the rule of law and debt originate in the cooperative and coercive habits of humans. We act as if intangible resources can in themselves compel action but we are not compelled by these resources. We are compelled by other humans and/or ourselves.

Intangible resources are expressions of nervous systems. They do not exist independently of those systems.

The certainty of experience is an unreliable means to an understanding of existences independent of human experience.

The species has developed social practices (i.e. “science”) that provide us with some understanding of existences independent of our experience. These practices, nevertheless, are also experiences. They are fallible too. Understanding that our experiences — however certain they may feel to us — are fallible is, perhaps, the most important idea bequeathed to us from the progenitors of science. Unfortunately, stubborn certainty is very often the surest means to acquire resources in the here and now.

The experience of free will is indubitable. It is as indubitable as the experience that the Earth is solid, flat, and unmoving. Our experience of free will is, in all likelihood, wrong. Not much turns on this conclusion, however, because we are beings who experience the indubitability of free will. We will be these kinds of beings until we are not. How we respond to this conclusion — which may be wrong — is not something we freely choose.

Posted in: Philosophy