Woy Woy Philosophers Society

Missive #12: Do I exist?

“I think I’ve had an epiphany Joffa.”
It wasn’t that unusual for Thommo to have an epiphany – sometimes he could have up to three a day.
But there was something different about this one – I could tell by the way his left eye was twitching.
“What is it?” we all asked.
We had gathered for the opening of the new WWPS clubhouse toilet block.
It was a beautiful toilet block, five floors in total with all manner of modern facilities on each one.
We didn’t yet have a clubhouse, or any legal right to the nature reserve we’d built the toilet block on, or indeed any other registered members of the WWPS.
But we did have the good sense to get Bridget McKenzie on our board and, well, one thing led to another and here we were cutting the ribbon.
No one was more surprised than Johnno who couldn’t find a “philosophy” option on the grant form and so ticked “sport” instead.
“Well,” continued Thommo, cracking open a cold craftie. “It was like this. Late last night I was sitting inside my pyramid in the lounge room, cross-legged, meditating on Descartes’ Discourse on the Method.”
“Do you mean Rene Descartes, the sixteenth century French philosopher, father of the Golden Age?”
“That’s the one. Well, my neighbour had just shone his headlights through the window, temporarily blinding me and, then, when I tried to get up, my legs had fallen asleep and I couldn’t feel them.”
“What did you do?”
“Well, there I was, flat out on the floor, not able to see my legs … or feel them. All I could do was think. And I started to wonder: Did I even have legs? And then I started to wonder some more: Did I even exist? Or did my mind just think I existed?”
“Exactly, like in ‘The Matrix’,” said Robbo. “It’s what I’ve been trying to tell you guys.”
“You need to stop taking those blue pills Robbo,” said Johnno.
“Don’t be too hasty,” said I. “Plato said the mind and soul are separable from one’s physical body. Maybe it was one of them out-of-body experiences?”
“That’s what I thought too,” continued Thommo. “But then, it came to me … what if they’re not? What if all this soul business is just a ruse? What if our minds are just part of the corporeal substance of our bodies? What if all our knowledge comes only from what we’ve seen and heard and made logical sense of.”
“Of course they’re separable,” insisted Robbo, “How else would Polyjuice Potion work?”
“Exactly,” added Johnno, “and if they weren’t, that would mean just anybody could think as deeply and clearly as us.”
We laughed heartily at that one – imagine people from Terrigal thinking they were smarter than us folk from Woy Woy.
“But they can’t be separable,” said Thommo eventually. “You see, for two things to be truly separable, each one must be able to exist without the other. Now, we now your mind can exist without your body, otherwise Obi wan Kenobi could not have told Luke to use the force to blow up the Death Star. But there’s no way your body can’t exist without your mind.”
“How do you explain Mark Latham then?” said Robbo.
We thought that might stump Thommo, but no.
“It’s not that Mark Latham doesn’t have a mind, it’s just that explodes a lot. Too many fights with taxi drivers.”
“But if that’s true Thommo, and all knowledge comes from a person’s sense and their rational thought, then it follows that all human beings have the same potential for greatness. That would be some kind of Renaissance indeed,” mused Johnno.
“Yes, I suppose it does, except Englishmen of course.”
“Well Mr Rationalism, how then do you explain “passion”?”
“Yes, I thought about that too,” replied Thommo
“That’s quite a long epiphany you had Thommo.”
“Its quite scientific really … you see electrical signals pass from the ear and the eye to the pineal gland, but on their way to our brains, they have to pass through a big cave full of animal spirits. You know, where each animal spirit represents a basic passion – wonder, love, hatred, desire, sadness, etc.”
We all nodded – it began to make perfect sense now. I knew for sure I had the spirit of a lion inside my brain cave every time I went out to Mumbo Jumbos in Terrigal.
“There’s one more thing,” said Thommo.
“I was left with a few short words in my mind … I think it might be the answer to all of these questions on existence and consciousness.”
We waited for anticipation.
“I think …”
“I think, therefore …”
“I think, therefore I am.”
There was a long silence.
“Therefore you are what?” asked Robbo.
“Therefore you are not asleep?” I suggested.
“Therefore you are from Woy Woy?” asked Johhno.
“I dunno,” said Thommo. “I lost my train of thought just at that moment when Parko turned his lights off.”
“I think I need to take a slash,” said Boof, who always liked to chime late in a conversation. “Therefore, I am heading up to level five to the flash dunnies.”