Torii

Not Knowing

The scientific name for human being is “Homo sapiens.” Homo sapiens means “knowing man.” This name signifies that the most discerning aspect of human beings as a species is ‘the ability to know.’

A human being does not, in a fundamental way, know who he is or why he exists. Yet ‘knowing’ is essential to being human. This discrepancy is the reason why identity and religion are so important to us.

Identity is an attempt of our ability to know, to find the answer to the question “Who am I?” Religion is an attempt of our ability to know, to find the answer to the question “Why do I exist?” The strength with which people cling to the given answers to those questions shows how essential knowing who we are and why we exist are to us.

So the necessity of having an identity is caused by the same mechanism that causes the necessity of having a concept of God. At the basis of this mechanism is the attempt of our thinking to know its existence by finding reference points like identity and God.

Descartes was satisfied with “I am thinking, therefore I exist.” Inherent in that statement is that there is a self who is having the thoughts. But Descartes didn’t bother to explain what that self is. The existence of that “thinker behind the thoughts” is obviously such implicit knowledge, that nobody has to doubt it.

But if we investigate that which identity and religion refer to, it turns out that they are very doubtful. For the existence of that self and a God is no scientific basis whatsoever.

But even pointing to science as proof for the non-existence of that self is, on a psychological level, making the same mistake as pointing to a religion as proof for the existence of a God. That mistake lies within thinking itself, not outside.

The mistake is we overlook that we need personal identity, religion and science as something to believe in. We need a point of view to identify with. Something to fill the bottomless gap of our fundamental epistemological ignorance...but finally even that notion can become another idea to cling to...