Thoughts On: How We Judge What Is Real


Note: from the old blog

I’m sure that all of your have heard this narrative at some point in your lives. For me, I found that it became particularly prevalent in my pre-teen/early teen years, when kids really start to delve into their first existential questions.

The very first ones of course tend to come up much earlier. For example, I remember thinking I was HOT SHIT when, at 8 years old and first discovering the existence of color-blindness, I came up with the age-old question: How do I know that what I see as blue is what you see as blue? Maybe what I call blue, you call purple! OMG SUBJECTIVITY FTW!! But apart from those classic one-hit wonders, the real “deep” discussions (which often ended in, if not tears, a lot of brooding and moody pondering), at least for me and my peers, began at the pre-teen stage. Things like whether or not love exists, whether or not the soul exists, whether or not the supernatural exists, what that all means with respect to us and our lives and our meaning and purpose, these were all hotly discussed.

Of course these discussions were not as “deep” as we thought them to be at the time, which is about as much as you can expect from a bunch of barely pubescent kids. They were riddled with logical fallacies and a whole lot of “this is what I would like to be true and therefore this is what I believe” was going on, but that is immaterial to the point I will finally get to. The common thread of discussion that I want to bring up is one that I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, and I want to bring it up because it is one that I have heard come up among adults as well. It goes a little something like this:

Desperate Romantic (DR): Of course true love exists! I believe in it fully! It is what makes us human! It is what binds us!
Presumed Skeptic (PS): I don’t believe in true love. It doesn’t exist.
DR: Well I’ve found a soul mate! How do you explain that?
PS: There are no soul mates because there is no soul. The soul is just electrical impulses in the brain. Love is just hormones firing in the brain, that’s all.
DR: You’re diminishing what it means to be human by saying that! That’s such a nihilistic perspective!

And here is where I get lost.

Notice how DR is the one who says s/he believes in things like love and the soul, while PS is the one who claims not to.
And yet PS is the only one that is pointing to a physical, measurable something that either love or the soul could be, while DR insists they have to be invisible, unseeable, unmeasurable, untouchable.
Catch my problem here yet?

What I don’t understand is how in the bleeding hell we managed to get so twisted in our logic that we accept that if something is invisible, unmeasurable and untouchable makes it more real, while claiming that it can be seen or measured makes it less real. That is why I called the second generic person in this back and forth “presumed” skeptic, because despite being seen as the nihilistic atheistic person in this exchange, they are making just as much of an illogical argument as the first person is.

What is so bad about finding the chemical, measurable source of love? Doesn’t finding that, measuring that, by definition prove it to be real? Why are so many people, PS-es out there included, so ready to dismiss the natural world as less-than? But more than that, how did we get here? Isn’t it amazing that if tomorrow scientists came out and demonstrated a measurable compound which causes the feeling of love, and demonstrate that that feeling of love can be viewed in the brain beyond a shadow of a doubt, so many people would throw up their hands and cry “well that does it, love doesn’t exist!” ??!!

I believe that there is a physical, natural source for love, and therefore I believe that love exists. Interestingly, I was always on the outskirts listening in when this particular debate came up in my childhood, because I hadn’t quite made up my mind about it.

Now I realize that the reason for that is because I was truly in the middle.

Comments

  1. kagekiri says

    I barely see the illogical part of the presumed skeptic, except that they’re kinda antagonizing the romantic with their context.

    The PS is not making a value judgement about love in the lines you give them: they’re just saying the physical world and strictly physical love is all there is, and that’s offending the romantic because the romantic is saying there needs to be more than the physical for the romantic to feel okay about love/life.

    The PS just saying “true love doesn’t exist in the context of fate/destiny/souls” isn’t at all the same as saying “love doesn’t exist or mean anything at all”; not to me, anyway.

    Love IS “just” hormones to me, and I still end up agreeing with everything you say, too. I find no disagreement between your statements on love being real/physical/measurable and the PS’s statements on the lack of true love.

    Saying “true love and souls aren’t things” is disclaiming them because they are specifically claims that we’re more than the physical, and that the physical is worth less or even worthless. I don’t think you can call brain reactions “true love” or “the soul” without changing their meanings entirely and still failing to please the romantics.

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