If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it: did it make a sound? Better yet, if no one ever saw that tree from its life to death: was it really there? This is the realm of the existential philosopher. “Es es percipe” means “to be is to be perceived.” Perception is reality so when something is not perceived it doesn’t exist. I told my wife I was going to a movie and when I came home I was accosted with questions of where I was because she never “HEARD” me tell her. Since she didn’t hear it, it wasn’t real.
We now base our existence, our reality, and our laws on what we can perceive. We make judgments about people and things based on what we see, feel, and hear. We base our reality on what our senses tell us but are they the best way?
The problem is that we all have filters or sunglasses that taint our perceptions. We can both look at the exact same thing and come up with a totally opposite perspective of that reality. If you don’t believe me find a mixed group to join when a president is speaking: one group will hear only negative and the other only positive. Whether you listen to Bush or Obama you will only hear and see what your filters and sunglasses will allow you to. Every now and again something happens to knock those perceptions out of our heads. But it takes an event like 9/11 to do that and it only lasts for a short period of time. Witness people now saying 9/11 was a conspiracy.
So if we both perceive the world in totally different ways how can we get at the truth? In our court system we have a judge and jury who are supposed to look, listen, smell, touch, and taste the evidence to come up with a consensus on the truth. That’s the best we got now. We all know of people who bought their way out of the truth, people who lawyered their way out of even being judged, and people who lied so convincingly that our perceptions changed. Our laws our now based on our PERCEPTIONS and no longer on something outside ourselves. We say it just “feels” wrong or right.
We fight. We argue. We cajole and cry. We try to come up with some consensus and seem to spin our wheels on the grease of compromise. What can save us from the wretched state of our own perceptions? Wouldn’t it be nice to have some kind of standard of rule and measure that we could compare our actions to; where we would know for sure if it is right or wrong, true or false, good or bad? Something like our Standards for Weights and Measures where we know and can check if a pound is a pound and a yard is a yard. Maybe it would be some kind of standard that we could hold up to our politicians to see if their actions are right or not. Or maybe some kind of standard that we could impose on Wall Street and our corporate moguls that would keep them honest and treat their employees fairly. Or even some kind of standard of behavior that we could teach our children in school so that when they get to running this world they will have a rule to guide their actions.
Where would be get such a standard, such a rule of behavior. If we could find one I think it would be EXTREMELY important to make sure we post it wherever people gather and in our courts and in our schools. It would be great to find a standard like that because until we do we have reality based only on our perceptions and we are now finding out how flawed they are.