What did modern philosophers teach us about our existence?

For the evaluation of the concept of human existence I have chosen to use the illustration featuring the idea of Richard Walker “How your brain, genes and body work together to make you you? Who am I?”. It expresses the idea of a human existence through the existence of material substances like brain, genes and body work. Also, it all can be proven through scientific researches, but is a human being just an existence of material concepts which produce thoughts and ideas? To find an answer to this question I am going to take an approach of George Berkeley and David Hume.

Every morning when looking into the mirror we see a duplication of ourselves. Does the “second self” exists because he has the brain, genes, and body, which is identical to you as well as your movements, while you cannot touch it nor have movement differences between “self” and the reflection (“second self”)? We would all give this question a negative answer because of our common sense, which often limits our ways of thinking about the world, which limits me of being of like “me”. If we could forget that the mirror exists between me and my reflected me, then we could possibly claim that the identical twin of mine would exist, because just a physical look does not mean that every single person has to look fully different. Based on the quote, we could even say that if the perfect replication of myself would exist in the world then the answer to who I am would be the following: "I would be a material “object” and the replication could be counted as a separate me, or a separate human".

Based on the thoughts of Berkeley it is not exactly this way. He emphasizes the unique existence of the immaterial substance and says that any existence of the material object in our minds are also just ideas. While looking into the mirror, we see an example where the other person doesn’t exist as a separate person, but thanks to the interpretation of our mind we see him being the same “me” as I am in real life. Even though, hereby we could askif a person could ever see himself’s reflection from the first perspective, because while looking into the mirror it blurs the lines and we might claim that whatever we see there can never be the true “me”.

The classic rationalist like Descartes would claim that the existence of any “object” described can only be explained through the reasoning of the existence of those material substances. How do we know that we have brain, genes or body-work? It can be justified through the scientific research, but as human being observing the world from the first perspective we cannot understand or connect ourselves with the knowledge measured by machines. The only direct way of understanding the existence of the brain by looking at the results of the brain-work. If the brain would not function as a brain should function, brain cannot be the brain, as we see it to be. Us doubting that we exist indicates that the brain is doing what it's supposed to do, therefore we exists. Also, when looking at the physical appearance of a brain, the shape is never visible, but it might be seen in some artificial ways. We might see that the figure we observe with our eyes has the shape of a brain, but now imagine a brain and the brain in which case one is a plastic toy and the other an actual brain. Our senses would not sufficed to explain the situation and make a difference between the two, while different ways of reasoning will make it more accurate and is always part of our daily life. It is involved when counting sides of objects and details to identify them and divide the differences, it is part of any sensation, and any sensory experience.  

Going further we previously saw how in order to explain the importance of reasoning in identifying objects we had to add a verb to the existing noun. The manipulation of the language presents how to describing an object  requires us to know the true and full story about it, the fully true background. Nobody can know that something exists if the knowledge about it is false. This kind of false knowledge situations are also explained by Plato’s allegory of the cave, how actually the knower can only consider to know something if it is true. Reasoning should be seen as a major part of the true definition of any material existence.

Putting the definitions together would not answer the question “Who am I?”. I am who I am and who I feel being. I am never the same as I have been in the past and I am never anything to be observed by someone else’s eyes. I just cannot be defined from the third person’s perspective, because then I am not who I am, then I am who someone wants to see me because of his personal intervention. I am a soul with a reasoning, skills and knowledge. No words can explain my existence, only my whole life journey, thoughts and energetic connection, mainly with myself.
— Valev Laube, inspired by David Hume

Published: The Adriatic Times (Philosophy), January 2014