In J1: Uncle Featherway Jay interviews the conspiracy theorist with tinfoil lining his fedora. Uncle Featherway’s impression of Virgil Blue happens to involve space-aliens and cargo cults, just like the grand unified theory he outlined for Faith in C1: The Sheridanians. Like he tells Jay, sometimes we see what we want to see.
Jay doesn’t seem to take Bob Featherway’s conspiracy theory too seriously. Jay humors Bob by saying things like “huh” and “hm” and “how insightful.” But as I said in this commentary, I find the idea of an objectively true philosophy philosophically unfounded. As Jango says, there are no coincidences; maybe Bob’s onto something with his aliens.
So let’s talk about conspiracy theories.
In a broad sense, everything we think we know is a theory. When you’re trapped in Plato’s cave you have to guess at the form of some so-called ‘reality’ based on your sensory perceptions. We assume there’s something called an ‘I’ because we have to assume something at some point, if we want to say anything about anything. This relates to Hume’s problem of induction, which calls into question our ability to ‘know’ anything in the first place.
That’s not to say that everything is a conspiracy theory—just that everything is, in a philosophical sense, unproven. A conspiracy would require some agents behind the scenes acting to fool us. So, in the case of whether sensory perceptions can be trusted to assure us of our personal existence, we have to ask who could possibly be pulling the strings.
Rene Descartes said Cogito Ergo Sum, I think therefore I am. He reasoned that even if God or some all-powerful demon tried to deceive him into thinking he exists—well, he’d have to exist, in order to be fooled.
Is that a conspiracy theory? It’s sort of a mathematical proof which obnoxiously proves a point without providing a satisfactory reason. It shows that we exist because, for contradiction, if we didn’t exist, but we believed we exist, then the thing which is believing is the thing which exists, which we can call “I.”
Can “the thing which is doing the believing” be called a conspirator? I don’t see why not. It’s the thing which convinces us we exist, whether or not it is our self. If “I” exist, the conspirator convincing me I exist must exist as well.
So in order to keep up the illusion of a self which exists, we must add things to its definition. Things become self and non-self. Our nose? Probably our self. Our feet? Yeah. The food we eat? Maybe, while it’s inside us. Our heritage? Of course. Our religion? Equal to reality, which we call the self. Our ideas? Well, what else could be called self?
But once our ideas become self, other ideas become non-self. Suddenly every theory you don’t believe is a conspiracy theory by virtue of its propagation by the “other,” the “outside.” We form social circles like cell walls to maintain the integrity of the ideas we associate with ourselves, which has suddenly become a group self. We cease to be individual organisms and become amoebas of ideas whose pseudopods are all our bodies, and whose sense organs are all our minds, and whose interstitial fluid is media distributing rhetoric.
Maybe this is what Krishna meant when he spoke to Arjuna of the science of uniting the personal self with the universal self. Or maybe this is what Krishna meant for Arjuna to avoid, in associating with a particular group instead of with the whole. Or maybe both are the same.
Personally, I’m a trivialist. I believe all things are true. I understand there are a great many arguments against trivialism from brilliant philosophers through the ages dismissing the idea as “absurd” and “pointless,” and I totally agree with them. I agree with everything; everything is true. Everything is also false, and every other possible state, and in a super-position of all values at once, because all categorization is meaningless, including meaninglessness.
Relating this back to the sense of self, surely I exist. I also don’t exist. I am realized and derealized. I’m a non-sentient automaton and the one true God peering through everything’s eyes at once, and any other statement you’d like to label me with. All comparative statements are tautological.
But that’s just, like, my opinion, man.