Ahh, yes, the age old question every philosophy teacher will ask. How do you prove your existence? The true fact behind the matter is that you can’t. You “win” this argument by turning tables and hoping you can stump the other person by thinking faster. I’ve had this debate with my friend Kyle, who runs a great philosophy blog that’ll give you food for thought, and my friend David, who should really guest blog because he has the mind of a cloud.
So one night, David asked me, how do we know if we exist? I thought. I pondered. I was thumped. I’ve never studied philosophy or metaphysics, so maybe I’m all wrong. Feel free to correct me, but I exist because I am here, in this moment, with a conscious stream of thought, right? Well, yes – kind of. How do I now prove that I exist? I don’t know. My interactions with David, though over Skype, were real, or at least they seem real. But is it possible that my mind has created all of this and the world that I live in is not real at all? That you, my audience, have been created by my conscious as cannon fodder in this fabricated universe I see? And I am just a figment your imagination has created and we don’t exist at all?
Sure, it’s all possible. Yet somehow I am me. You are you. We are here. We exist. But how do I prove to you that I exist? From a physics standpoint, I am physically here. Millions of atoms and ions and small bubbles of matter have come together to form me. From a biological standpoint, I burped a second ago. That burp erupted from me. I created it. I am here. But from a metaphysical standpoint, damn, I don’t know.
Do you have an answer for this? Because I don’t. Although, to branch off a little bit, isn’t it comforting to know that you may in fact, possibly not exist? This sounds crazy, I know it. Hear me out. If this world that I am in, this universe of politics and violence and reform and love and peace and invention and everything that makes up the world as we know it, if this world that I am in, is nothing more than the abstract manifestation of my conscience, than I have nothing to hold me. There exist no limitations greater than that of my mind, no boundaries that I cannot change, no rules that I cannot break. For if this is no more than a manifestation of my mind, than my future is no more than a game of chess that I am destined to win, I just need to choose how.
It’s like having a book with a beginning (birth) and an end (death), but endless chapters between. This is how you should look at life. Maybe not from the perspective that the world is nothing more than an idea of your brain, but that even if it were, you would live no differently.
Though they say that writing is eternal and in my words, I form a legacy. You can externalize yourself into thoughts and sentences and embed yourself within words to remember the past, remind the present, and guide the future. Writing is an amazing skill. So maybe that’s how I prove my existence to you. My existence is sewn into my words and my soul lodged in these scribbles of thoughts like horcruxes strewn across the internet. My conscience immortalized in these posts and in the 4am conversations rambling nonsense over the phone. Maybe this is how I prove myself. But then again, maybe I’m just a phenomenon of your mind. We’ll never know, will we?