Well, I was trying to read a dense and confusing article about how to explain the mind, and I was thinking about all the things I need to get done for next week, music-wise, and I was feeling quite distracted because a gnawing question would not leave me alone. “Why am I reading this? Why does it actually matter? What, if anything actually matters?” The immediate reason why I was reading the article was because I was supposed to for homework, so I can participate in class, so I can get a good grade. But the real question is, “Why do we have to explain the mind? Why does that matter?” Why do we delve into science and philosophy to find weird answers to weird questions?
Something that struck me recently is that a lot of the philosophical ideas that I’m studying don’t always correspond with my faith. I realized, however, that it doesn’t really matter. Philosophy is largely theoretical, and doesn’t necessarily bring us any closer to truth no matter how convincing an argument is. Similarly, science may be pretty darn convincing at times, and in fact it seems that it has an answer or a reason for almost anything in the physical world (on earth at least), but how do we know that science is actually or entirely true? Science and philosophy may give us explanations and procedures that work, but just because something works, does not mean that it is true.
So this brings me back to the question of “What actually matters?” I’d like to come up with an objective answer for this if possible. In doing so, I think I’ll have to figure out what it is that everyone cares about, what effects everyone, and what the significance of such things is.
I think a good place to start is to determine what at least seems to matter to the lowest common denominator. At this point I’m tempted to jump to basic, biological necessities, such as food and water, but I think at the root of that is simply life. I think it matters a great deal that we even exist. Philosophers and scientists will spend a significant amount of time trying to decide how and why we exist, but I would like to argue that that doesn’t matter. It is a fact that we exist, and I really don’t think you need to go any farther than that. It is the reason why anything else matters to us.
Existence doesn’t happen on its own, so clearly other things matter to our existence. I think the next rung on the ladder of significance is love. It is possibly the most complicated and yet simplest thing that people and arguably other creatures are capable of. I won’t get into all the details and aspects of it because that would take up a whole other article, but I honestly think that without love, individuals and societies could not function. Without it we would fall apart, so it is necessarily true that love matters. One could argue that some people exist who are incapable of love, and there are others who may feel entirely unloved. While it is true that they can function without it, they are simply enduring, and this does not make for a happy existence.
Another thing I think matters a great deal is identity. Who and what we identify ourselves as is exceedingly important. One might argue that labels can be problematic in some cases, but I think self-imposed labels can actually be helpful. The trick is to have just a few, positive and truthful “titles,” if you will. It is important to identify with something, because it gives a person grounding. It determines how they think, feel, interact with others and go about their lives. Without it, a person can feel lonely, confused or directionless. It can also be much more difficult for people like this to relate to others. Knowing who and what you are often determines where you are, who you’re with and where you want to go.
Perhaps the thing that matters most however, and possibly the most difficult to talk about is truth. I believe that there is an objective truth; a truth that holds for every person who inhabits the earth. Philosophy doesn’t give us an objective truth because philosophers argue amongst themselves and some simply argue that truth is entirely subjective. Science doesn’t even give us an objective truth because in science, certain things are only sometimes true. I recently watched a video in one of my classes that explained that electrons sometimes act like particles and sometimes act like waves (I don’t remember the name of the video, but you can probably look up “electron slit experiment,” or something to that effect on YouTube. It was a cartoonish video). Before I go on, I need to make the point that an objective truth does not have to be something that everyone agrees is true. I believe that all people seek objective truth, and all people are capable of finding it.
These are the four things that I believe matter and matter above all else: the fact that we exist, the giving and receiving of love, personal identity and the search for and acquisition of truth.