Nothing Matters. Yet It Does

RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR

The idea of being conscious and having sensory qualities, or perception, are independent of each other. This is autonomous of the sensory qualities that we all know — physical stimulus, physiological response, communication, psychological, or emotional experience. What does this signify? That our sensory qualities, whatever their character, or essence, are distinctive of the types of sensation they represent — something which we all can, but not necessarily, always be conscious, more so in a suitably direct, or instant, manner.

The big question is — what are the factors that quantify the conventional impression of any sensory quality, not to speak of our long-established dilemma related to that principle? There is just no single riposte to resolve the quandary, or complexity. The best thing, as most philosophers and mind scientists ‘prescribe’ is to ask whether sensory contexts, in a given or not given situation, address the idea of being truly qualitative. There is, of course, more to the complexity than what meets the eye, or the mind. This is simply because having a clear idea, or a qualitative sensory graph, is not everything, although the basis of it all is essentially the mode through which our consciousness, including our conscious awareness, is revealed.

Let us bring home the point through a simple hypothesis — the colour properties of physical objects. All of us know the qualitative expression of colours — even when they are appreciated by way of our perceptual consciousness. Whatever the appearance, or shape, of the object, one can, without difficulty, attribute the character of its qualitative colours to its physical presence. We can, by the same token, decipher the clear qualitative character of the physical colour inside the object from the deep precincts of our mind. This is what that takes us into and also leads us to identify and express our visual sensations, whose properties are as distinctive as the colours we see, or perceive — with, or without, glasses, or contact lens.

This is also the principle through which nature helps us to conserve the idea that colour is qualitative. It is all right for one to sometimes reject the idea of qualitative colour with physical objects because they have anyway accepted that their qualitative character is apparent. You could call it everyone’s rational intuition — the ability to hold on to the colour patterns in our mind and, in so doing, safeguard the component of reality so long as we are convinced that our rational intuition reflects how things appear, rather than how they really are, in the best manner possible.

It is our logic, along with our rational intuition, that tells us the essence of our sensory qualities and our sensory states. It is also this fine quality of perception and balance that all of us are endowed with that helps us to distinguish our innumerable sensations, from the most important and significant to the most trivial, such as an itchy feeling somewhere. This is how we become instantaneously conscious of them.

It is our knowing, in the first instance, through our conscious state, that ‘taps’ our sensations, or sensory perceptions, within our conscious framework. The common argument is our sensory contexts cannot be derived non-consciously. They cannot also be sustained without conscious involvement. The big point is we do not have the scientific support to refute that our sensory qualities cannot occur non-consciously. New research suggests that non-conscious sensory states not only resemble, but also disagree in the same manner in which our conscious sensory states do. What’s more, new studies show that they may also differ when one conscious activity is ‘mindful,’ and the other is not.

This brings us to yet another aspect — mindful quintessence. Most people today, as in the past, are often content with moral relativism. Yet, the fact is such relativism relates to the acceptance that “nothing really matters.” The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called this philosophical relativity as ‘nihilism.’ You’d, perhaps, dub it as the refutation of intrinsic values, albeit this, in its whole context, isn’t true — because, the big question would emerge sooner than you’d take to say hello. If nothing really matters, what is the point, if not the purpose, of being moral in the first place?

While freethinking, scepticism, atheism and dereliction are catchphrases of modern life and existence, they aren’t the ‘thoughtful’ engines that drive, or propel, moral relativism. This is primarily because there are as many people who endorse moral relativism, just as much as others who believe that the whole idea provides them with a position of convenience, if not strength, to being ‘tolerant’ of themselves and also others. To use a simile, in the context — the whole metamorphosis is just as good as not saying that “I’m right and you’re wrong,” but articulating the diplomatic, “Everyone is entitled to their own view, if not opinion.”

Well, to look at the whole thing differently — “nothing really matters” is recognised by more than a handful of contemporary philosophers. What is also obvious is such philosophers aren’t relativists with the nihilistic tag, or label. Such philosophers believe that reason could be given the credence to dwell on the essence of morality — it isn’t just the other way around. What does this connote? That whatever the slant, our so-called good values exist with individualistic preferences. Yet, the paradox is simple: Nietzsche was a nihilist in the garb of being an anti-nihilist, although he identified the decadence of culture everywhere, rather as a position that he never wanted, but yet aimed to seek.

It is a fact that nihilism seems to be all-pervading in contemporary society, wherever you look, or turn. It signifies the destruction of all meaning and significance for values — for whatever they are, or whatever they express. It is this domino effect, or belief, that idolises the doctrine that nothing really matters anymore — although everything that matters always matters.

— First published in The Himalayan Times, Nepal