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No Title (Draft)


January 2014


Some say that God, the seer of all, created the human being in His own image. That said, I find it ironic that some are born without eyesight, and that got me thinking about sensations. No doubt Helen Keller once wondered how looking at the brownness of a wooden coffee table would feel. But how could one mentally create a sensation she has never experienced? Obviously such a sensation exists, but how would you go about explaining it to her? "Well, brown is a mix of green and red." Like, what's red?


And that got me thinking about knowledge perception. Despite our ability to reach into every crevice of the universe, there are still some questions we seem unfortunately incapable of answering, such as "is there more?"


I heard of the Internet when I was six; by the time I was twelve, I heard of methods for fighting cancer, of prosthetic eyesight, and of other things created by the collaboration of brilliant individuals/minds. I kept wondering, "What else is there to be discovered? How could we progress more than we have already?" At seventeen, however, when I still ask, "What else?" I am not talking about technological advancements. Instead, I am talking about something more fundamental, our epistemic limitations. How much closer we are to confirming god's existence? Is morality cognitive or non-cognitive? [Or maybe on a more personal level: “who am I?” for the speaker of the word “I” is a continually self-reflecting collection of ideas, manifested in a physical entity.] All these questions brew discussions of great depth. With the following anecdote, I draw out the parameters as well as the implications of the barriers we have.


In 2010, I was inspired to become a vegetarian. Initially, I made the transition for a moral purpose. That is, killing non-human animals violated some ethical boundary. Along the way I heard some rather absurd objections to my new diet: “Animals were meant to be eaten.” “Well, plants are alive, too.” These ended up being questions I would entertain myself with at the dinner table. But I was never quite able to articulate my responses into sentences. It was like when a child cannot quite describe the phenomenon of an apple falling to the ground because she hasn’t learned of the word “gravity” yet.


Four months later, I entered high school, where I learned about the Speech and Debate team. One form of debate, LD, was philosophy-oriented. I was introduced to logic, ethics, and politics in a dimension that was endlessly, fascinatingly rigorous. “Consequentialism.” “Peter Singer.” “Principle of Generic Consistency.” “Alan Gewirth.” “Pragmatism.” “Richard Rorty.” Indeed, there was a whole language for things I was feeling and there were philosophers who discussed them. Singer, for example, talked extensively about animal rights, and reading his essays elicited a sense of, “he knows my feels, brah.” He provided answers to objections against vegetarianism for me.


My experiences led me to a simple point: our development is limited; we can be restricted, or at least static from change, by our disclosure, beliefs, and cultures, similar to how an engineer can be restricted by the technology of her generation. This is why an atheist might fail to understand his religious fellow, or why “retard” has become so colloquially synonymous with “stupid” that some people can’t explain the difference between the two. On a macro level, this explains our attraction to this notion that there is something greater than ourselves that we can find, a set of furniture of the universe we can touch and feel, and this may bring into question how our metaphors are formulated or how they affect the way we perceive. Some of us are limited because of this drive to look for an all-encompassing, all-answering panacea. Our answers to questions aren’t in blacks and whites. I am not saying that those who think otherwise are ignorant necessarily, just that acknowledging the existence such a barrier encourages critical thinking and new approaches to said inquiries.


I initially thought that if Humanity were a white cane, such inquiries would be like a gene error that blinded us, taunts us; as we come up with these questions, we realize how difficult they are to answer. However, “disabled” does not quite fit our description as people, for humanity as the set of qualities distinctly for humans and those inquiries are one in the same; they are inherited, and are both parts of the mechanism we use to move ourselves around and wander about the spatiotemporal blobject we label as the “universe.”

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