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The Philosopher's Trap -- The Delusion of the Universal

Updated: Apr 17

Much of what we see as objective is actually widely accepted subjectivity. From norms to rules to tradition to laws -- much of what we see as truth or falsehood is the product of very wide agreement on things. That is because true objectivity is very hard to grasp, when anything you or others claim can quickly be labeled as their own subjective opinion.

However, the fact that an opinion is transcended into a wider agreement, doesn't cancel its own original subjectivity. With or without research, the universe is too dynamic, and uncertain, to actually reach any universal, eternal truths about anyone or anything. When we believe that we exist to reproduce, that is also a subjective belief, even though many believe it to be the truth; When we believe that food must be eaten with a fork and a knife, that too is a subjective belief made out of tradition.

In other words, there is no "one" way of doing things; no "one", higher truth that is true about anyone or anything. There will always be, at least for the most part, an exception, that will make you see that your objective perception isn't that way at all. Existence is so diverse, so wide, and so uncertain, exceptions can easily disprove any belief that has once been seen as an objective truth; AKA, a truth that is wider than your own opinion.

And even if something is your own opinion, that doesn't make it any less true or false than an opinion that is commonly held as truth. The validity of an opinion isn't something that is based on the number of people who hold it as truth; that is a logical fallacy called ad-populum. The eccentric, the exception, might always be there, somewhere in the world -- in the universe, even -- that might as well show your universalized belief to be but a local thing.

Since reality is ever-changing, even beyond the realm of humanity, it is difficult to come up with a universal statement that is true regardless of the age and state of being people are currently in. Even if something becomes a habit, from belief to activity, that alone does not mean that it is correct. The truth does not care if you're comfortable with it or not.

Truth is but a trait of things and beings, and truths can be prone to change at any time under any circumstance. Even if you reach the truth, something that is hard to do, after a while it will no longer be relevant! It will no longer be relevant because nothing is truly certain, and even in this world of infinite information, many things remain undiscovered; unknown; unseen; unanswered.

The Philosopher's Trap is this: as a truth seeker, once you believe that you are able to reach truths that are eternal and too powerful to be altered by reality, you WILL delude yourself by doing so, because reality is not like a monotonous stream of water; it is an ever-changing reality; an infinite struggle of chaos, where tiny fractions of order are made, like on Earth, like the Solar System, and like modern life. The fact that we have embedded ourselves, so deeply in our own orderly systems, does not indicate that the whole universe works that way, or that any other place on earth is independent of such systems.

As the cliche says: the only thing you can be sure of, is that existence is uncertain. One day, the office building you work in, might be a stardust of a new planet after millions of years; your beloved cat may desert you; your child will die; an asteroid will land on your house. Nothing is truly certain, and the concept of a higher truth, eternally universal to anything else in existence, is simply not true, and the search for it is futile. Questions such as "why do I live", "what is my purpose", will always be met with answers that are either subjective or subjective under the cover of wide agreement among a following of like-minded people.

So what are philosophers left with? They are left with bringing insights into the world that are limited in time; and those could be useful until something happens to cancel their usefulness. To be a philosopher is simply to see from within the mind, and share with the world, whether the things they have seen are indeed correct on a universal level. Therefore, it's called an insight -- a sight of the potential that lies within the inner world.

Philosophy is no longer as accurate as science, simply because of how easy it is to find wide disagreement in this field among philosophers and their readers alike. Even science may not be accurate, because even scientific observation could lead to incorrect results. Nonetheless, both fields are growing in an infinite way towards the search for truth, even if that truth is not universal to everyone or everything.

Why, then, seek the objective, when the object is always in a state of change? Of course, that change might not be imminent, but it will happen eventually. Even if the change does not happen to the object itself, it will be felt by the people who perceive it. After all, this existence is but a product of our mind's stimulation of it; a stimulation that we can't, arguably, see beyond our very own perception. We may theorize about how existence is beyond our individual or collective perceptions, but if we don't have an actual, purely external existence at hand, we will always see things differently, and delude ourselves, that this difference is the undoubted truth.

The philosopher's weapon in seeking the truth, therefore, is not the striving for pure objectivity, as that is practically impossible, but doubt. The more you doubt and examine things that are seen as true, the more likely you are to reach the conclusion, that such "truth" is nothing more than a product of agreement. Use another perception, and you will reach another agreement, not with the pure product, the pure object.

Even if you use research in your work, you will use information that is not universal at all; information that is prone to the changing of reality. You may convince more people, and be seen as more reliable, but ultimately, that is not the goal of the philosopher; to convince, to appear more appealing. A philosopher's goal is to reach what he believes to be true by logical means. That is why I see little need for research, when the only required tool for philosophizing is the mind and its capabilities. Philosophers are not s*x workers; their aim is neither to please nor to displease. Their goal is to contemplate and publish these contemplations, so someone, somewhere in the world, will be able to make use of them.

And indeed, the high regard for research, is also a subjective construct, and the same goes for those who rely mainly on their own minds when writing. Socrates wasn't a scientist, and he didn't read books. All he did was venture outside and examine the world around him. It's something everyone can do if they are prepared enough to interact with strangers. There were no books, no sources, and no external articles. And yet, his mind was so significant, that humanity has crowned him the "Father of Western Philosophy". How ironic, for a society that currently highly regards empiricism over rationalism.

We should, ultimately, stop looking for "the ultimate truth" when truths are elusive and prone to change with time and reality. What if there was never such truth to begin with? What if everything is non-designed chaos, that creates tiny spheres of order? How can the realization of the truth be that way if the entire universe has yet to be discovered? After all, any truth in any known place, might as well be a complete lie in another part of our unexplored universe. It is hard to make any universal claim to be ultimately correct when we have no complete knowledge of all of existence to begin with!

And hence why I don't pretend to give you the "ultimate truth", simply because I have no ultimate knowledge of existence where that truth applies; no one has, because no one is omniscient! All I can give you, are probable cases of truth, called insights, reached through much philosophical contemplation. Anyone that attempts to label their observations as factual, might not be aware that facts too are ever-changing, not only as objects, but also in perception.

Remember when slave-trading was considered luxurious, but today it is seen as immoral and evil? Who can declare, with absolute certainty, which perception is correct? Truths, after all, are not determined by the time one thinks about their possibility, and modernity, or a lack of it, has no effect on truth, for "the truth" is independent of such subjectivities!

The problem with philosophy is that any other philosopher may disagree with you, and it is extremely difficult to determine which philosopher is the most correct one, because another philosopher can come, and disagree with us both! It is all a pile of disagreements, and no ultimate truth is being officially declared by any philosopher, not even myself. That is the problem with this field when it pretends to seek the universal in anything and anyone.

Philosophy is infinite in the sense that it shows us how elusive the truth truly is. It is elusive because humans aren't "made" to see; we are "made" to believe what we think we see. Even sight is subjective to humans! Who said that the way most people see is the correct sight of the external world? Who said that only humans see the world the way it truly is?

What we all have in the end are subjective truths with bigger or smaller amounts of following. That is the truth from religions to politics to morality to law to social norms to any other field where philosophical remarks can be made.

That is what makes us humans flawed – we are wholly subjective and tend to see the acceptable as the correct. This is why it is easy to convert people to your local religion, make you love music that others would see as pure noise, see certain articles in certain ways because of your initial beliefs, and so on. We have layers upon layers of glasses that we use without our own awareness.

So, what is it like to be truly objective? The best option I can give is to disconnect from this world, and see it from an eagle's point of view, beyond the many, many biases bestowed or forced upon you throughout life. Like with democracy, it isn't the best we got, but it is the least bad.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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