As philosophy has expanded, so too have the philosophical thoughts which plague our existence.
We are constantly wondering why we are here and what life means. In search of answers, great philosophers have developed their own philosophical thoughts to explain our existence and how we experience life. These philosophical thoughts have developed into schools of their own, with devoted advocates and intricate theories.
Some philosophical thoughts speak to our natural intuitions, while others will make you question everything. The following are some of the most interesting philosophical thoughts which will make you question what you know, what life means, and what we truly experience.
Externalism and Presentism
Eternalism and Presentism are two philosophical thoughts which deal with how we experience time.
Eternalism is the belief that all moments in the past, present, and future all exist at once. This doesn’t mean that each is happening at the same time, but it does mean that the future is already set for us and we are unable to change it. This theory is popular in science due to things like predictability in experiments and the discovery of new data.
Presentism is the idea that the only period of time which exists is the present. The past does not exist anymore and the future does not exist yet. The only thing that exists is what is happening right at this moment. According to this theory, the future is fully within our control, but we will never be able to time travel since the past no longer exists and the future is yet to.
Solopsism tells us that the only thing we can really confirm is our own existence. It also inspired films like the Matrix.
The brain in a vat thought experiment illustrates this theory. This thought experiment outlines a scenario where the brain does not exist within the body but is simply suspended in a vat of life-sustaining liquid and connected to a computer. This computer provides it with the electrical impulses which we see as connected to our bodies. What we experience as our bodies and the world, on the other hand, are a product of these impulses.
Although this thought experiment implausible, it highlights that the only thing we know to be real, definitively, is ourselves. We cannot prove the existence of objects, or our environments, or even others. It could all just be a product of the brain in a vat.
Following Solipsism is Phenomenalism. By this theory, we cannot say that anything exists beyond our experience of it. We can say that we saw something but not that the thing was actually there.
Phenomenalism is a lighter form of Solipsism. Phenomenalism allows you to experience things beyond your own existence, which Solipsism does not, but only your experience of them. If we were to follow Phenomenalism, we are unable to prove the experience of others really exists.
Moreover, we cannot say that an object itself truly exists. The fact that we cannot know exactly how others think, feel, or experience reflects the theory of phenomenalism in real life. Instead, anything that we see, hear, or feel, can only be said to be a sensory stimulus.
Similar to Solipsism, Phenomenalism suggests that we can only trust our own experiences to be true. But it also means that we must reject scientific theories performed by other people.
Hedonism and Nihilism
Hedonism and Nihilism are the two main philosophical thoughts which tell us which things in life have meaning.
Hedonism is the belief that the only thing that has value is that which brings about pleasure. Hedonistic philosophers pursue happiness and pleasure as the ultimate goal in life and do what they can to bring pleasure to the lives of others. It is said that hedonism is the closest thing to human instinct as we naturally perform the things which make us happy and enjoy bringing happiness to others.
Nihilism, on the other hand, is entirely the opposite. Nihilism states that nothing in life has any value, and therefore life itself has no purpose. Although undesirable, philosophical thoughts such as Nihilism are what humans are afraid of.
It is Nihilism which causes us to constantly question why we are here because we are afraid of a Nihilistic answer. Modern Nihilism, however, states that it is for this very reason that we must make life as meaningful as possible while we have it.
When it comes to our existence, no one really has the answers. We do not know why we exist, or how we even experience the world around us. Philosophy is the search for knowledge into how the world works and what we base our knowledge on. It can help us open our minds to the world around us, but it can also bring about more questions than we had in the first place.