Descartes; In a Nutshell
Firstly, I’m going to say that what Descartes wrote in “Meditations of Philosophy”, the documents from which the famous quote is extracted, does not govern his beliefs. The statements provided in these documents are resources regarding solipsism and scepticism, but he does not believe in solipsism, instead he merely believes that it’s a possibility considering that external truths can not be proven to the extent that they are infallible (for example; my senses are always playing up on me, how do I know that my senses are manipulating and I’m simply misinterpreting them?)
The conclusion which Descartes brought in his writings was very conclusive, and it basically rationalised both realism and extremist philosophies such as solipsism by integrating the two. Essentially, what Descartes was trying to say is that; even if people do not exist, or if the external world is the legitimate reality, it does not matter. It does not matter because we can still observe the external world, even if it isn’t real, and we can still obtain knowledge which is compatible with pieces of knowledge.
In a sense, the resolution which Descartes founded is much like semantics: It doesn’t particularly matter if a word may not mean what I believe it to be, so long as I can identify with it and use it as though it is a legitimate, fully functional word. Descartes, in some respects, refuted solipsism and radical sceptical beliefs with these meditations. As well as that, he helped carve the future for science and modernist philosophy in western culture, and that’s why a lot of people hold such realist beliefs. Whether or not this reality is “real”, or if we cannot absolutely prove the truth of things, it is still aside from the fact that we can still perceive something and, from that “something”, gather truths which don’t conflict with other truths and consider them as knowledge.
Reality is only real inasmuch as our definition of “reality”; generally people’s definition of reality is true existence, or true life – Descartes would say that reality is no more than what we can perceive and evaluate.
“Believe in order to understand.”
Augustine (born 358AD) was a young man and a brilliant teacher of rhetoric. At age 15 he read Cicero’s Hortensius, as well as other sacred texts of his mother’s religion of Christianity, but found them repulsive and contradictory. This led to a feud between Augustine and his Mother regarding their differences in belief. Augustine thought that the human emotions and interferences of the Christian God were inappropriate. The semi-Christian sect of the Manichees took in Augustine, where he used logic and rationality to become celibate. Manichaeism was a radical dualist organisation which rejected the primitive God told in the Old testament, which governed a lot of similarities to Augustine’s belief. The Manichees, as well as Augustine, promoted the self control of passion and instincts, and claimed that reason on the intellectual plane offered freedom. However, Augustine lost faith in the organisation because he believed that its Astrology made no sense, and embraced ancient scepticism to further pursue his career.
In Milan, Augustine became acquainted with Platonist Christians after meeting the country’s Bishop, where he was baptised (29 years). Platonists Christians had a non-literal understanding of Scripture yet maintained their Christian beliefs. During Augustine’s time, Western civilization commonly scrutinised the Christians because the common belief was held that Christian theology was no more than mythology. However, due to a shift in only allowing Christians to join the military, a sudden surge of people joined the Christian Church. Because of this, the level of piety in the Church was radically reduced and many pious Christians, including Augustine, started a Monastic movement in Egypt. Before the time of his death (430AD), Augustine abandoned his Philosophical aspirations and pursued the life of pastoral care as a Bishop of Hippo’s Church.
Quantum Immortality is the theory that, no matter what you do, you will live indefinitely assuming that there are an infinite parallel universes. For example, you could be in the electric chair, and you will almost definitely become electrocuted; but, in a parallel Universe, under investigation of all possible consequences of pulling the chair’s trigger, the chair will cease to work — leaving you to be conscious in another parallel universe without any recollection of your death in your “original” Universe.
You could have died infinitely, in an infinite amount of possible ways, already, but you keep switching from Universe to Universe — leaving you, essentially, immortal. Of course, you could argue that perhaps your consciousness will eventually pick up on accidents – but the case cannot be true, since only the potential for any possibility can leave you to survive death, and any explanation for your survival, such as the electric chair’s malfunction, can be explained rationally by past events that took place in that Parallel Universe.
There is the case that you could purposefully attempt Russian Roulette. In one Universe, you may have died from the game; yet, after gradual attempts, including buying a new Revolver to replace the possibility of malfunction, you could die. But what if you regained consciousness in a Universe where a series of events could have outright banned the production, and possession, or any guns, while leaving you with a recollection of your new Parallel being’s consciousness? Or, what if a man were to grab your Revolver and stop you from doing it in another Parallel Universe? Perhaps, provided there is such thing as using medicine to keep oneself alive indefinitely, you would theoretically live forever — since an infinite amount of Parallel Universes, all differing by a Butterfly effect, leads to an infinite amount of possibilities for life.
One should be cautious when considering the Quantum Immortality theory so as not to delve into a Quantum “woo”. The quantum woo is often perpetrated by New Age spiritualists with a lack of scientific understand, where they talk about ridiculous claims (i.e. electric brain waves, chakras, astral projection etc.) and then attempt to justify the claims by expressing a profound lack of understanding about quantum physics.