Clare asked me a question which was a rebuttal to my own question of “How do you prove that we exist?”. Her question was, “What does it mean to not exist, and why would it matter?”.
I will tackle the first question, and then move on to the second after I have laid the groundwork for it.
What would it mean to not exist?
Well, to put it simply, if we did not really exist then nothing would have a point whatsoever. Keep in mind that I do not necessarily believe that we don’t exist, I simple accept the fact that existence cannot be proven. There are a number of factors that contribute to this inability.
For instance, one can progressively ask “why?”. An example: “What is the purpose of life?” an answer a religion I know of says, “To test us.” To which one can reply, “Why do we need to be tested?” The answer to this can always be followed up with a “What is the point of that? Why is that important?”. You can continue to answer any reason with this question, and you will never get to the end of it, meaning that one cannot finitely define to purpose of life, meaning that there is no finite definition.
No finite reason for existence, no reason to help provide evidence for existence.
Likewise, there is nothing to substantiate that we are not all hallucinations, or dreams of someone else. Why can I say that when people have clearly proven that they are not hallucinations or dreams? . . . that’s exactly the point, if we are hallucinations or dreams than can that proof not also be the factor of hallucination or dreaming?
Now, I am not saying I believe that we are either a hallucination, or a dream, but what I am saying is that there is no way to provide evidence to the contrary.
At the same time, we cannot provide evidence that we do not really exist either. We cannot prove either way, and that is the nature of Nihilism, whether it be applied to morality, or existence. We believe that there is no way to know anything inconclusively, and so we live as if nothing is concrete.
Why would it matter if nothing existed?
It wouldn’t matter, and that is precisely why it would. Nothing would have a point. No action that we performed would be of any actual significance if we were all merely figments of imagination or hallucinations. Because of this it allows some of us freedom.
I am freed by my belief that nothing is conclusive. I am freed because I know I can change myself, and that change is the power of the universe. It is the vehicle by which all things occur, so if we embrace ability to change, then we can allow ourselves more freedom regardless of our situations.
For instance: I am male. I have always been male. If I had been born in a female body I would have still considered myself male. I understand that this sort of situation does occur for people. There are certain people among my friends and acquaintances who have this sort of dilemma. I know some who took this very hard and find themselves incredibly trapped in that world, one in particular who sees his male form and hates it, and wishes to the ends of the Earth that he could be a woman. He does not try and do anything to affect his mindset, he simply complains and let’s his fear and anxiety control him/her. Another person I know in this same situation has chosen to embrace what they consider to be their natural gender. They refuse to let their physical form stop them from behaving the way they wish to, and they act all woman despite the placement of their sexual organs being on the outside. The first person is stuck in a mindset where everything is concrete, that the universe is always “one reality”. The second person has freed themselves from that mindset, and accepts that the universe is change, and that there is nothing concrete to tell them they can’t be who they want to be. They have embraced the transient nature of the universe.
So why would it matter? It wouldn’t matter, but accepting the possibility can certainly change one’s mind about a few things.
I don’t know if that adequately answered your question Clare, but I don’t know if I can do any better.