Everyone has opinions about a great many things. This much is obvious, but I think there may be a relatively small number, perhaps a few dozen underlying ideas, that shape most of our separate opinions. I know I have them, although I’m not entirely sure I could make an accurate list. They can be thought of as philosophical spectacles because it is through these ideas that we see the world and ourselves.
Our philosophical spectacles are important. They can tint what we see to a lovely rose color or make it appear dark and foreboding. They can distort it, bring it into sharper focus, or obscure it entirely. What we see depends as much on our perceptual filters as the thing we are looking at.
I’m not talking about brain chemistry. Our brains take the signals transmitted by our senses and impose meaning on them based on our neural construction, our instincts, and our experiences. This is the only way we can experience a mass of subatomic particles and electromagnetic waves as something like a table, or an apple pie, or anything else. That is a different aspect of subjective perception. What I’m talking about here is more personal, more philosophical than scientific.
Everything we have ever seen, read, or experienced has gone into creating our philosophical spectacles and has shaped whom we are today. I don’t think we normally even consider how our previous experiences alter our current perceptions. We tend to assume that we observe things, events, and ideas as if they are unobstructed, as if we somehow witness them objectively. We don’t, and because we don’t, it seems to me to be a good idea to try to recognize what our philosophical spectacles are made of.
As a means to examine the components of my own philosophical spectacles, I’m planning to write occasional blog posts in which I will try to identify the big, overarching ideas that most affect how I see things. Since I’ll be looking at my spectacles through my spectacles, there are likely to be inconsistencies and contradictions in my observations. That is also a good reason to do something like this. If we discover that the components of our spectacles don’t fit well together, it may be time to change some of them. What we end up with may not clarify our worldview, but at least it will distort it consistently, possibly showing everything slanting a bit to the left or a bit to the right.
What I’m going to focus on in this series of blog posts are those basic thoughts and ideas that I suspect shape my view of the world, things I think are important to remember. The first of these big, overarching thoughts is that we all have philosophical spectacles.