While I was there, this book, “Does Santa Exist?” by Eric Kaplan caught my eye in the philosophical section. Both Joey Lott and myself have used the example that just because Santa is a fictional character, doesn’t stop many from believing (at least to some degree) that he really exists. (The analogy being that our very own “self” is also unfindable, but it doesn’t stop most from believing it’s what they are). Eric raises the interesting question: is it possible for a person’s mind to BOTH believe something AND not believe it??
After reading the first chapter in the bookstore, and really enjoying the clear, conversational, and at times humorous yet profound writing style, I ended up getting it too. Well, I COULD say that’s why I bought it… but actually it’s just what happened. :)
p.s. Here’s an excerpt from the book which I too have noticed: some concepts can be linked to the thing it is pointing to (meaning it can found in our direct experience) and some can’t:
“If we want to know if Santa Claus exists, couldn’t we just look out there and see if there is an object in the world that corresponds to my belief? But what does it mean for a belief to “correspond” to a thing? Is it a clear idea or just a fuzzy metaphor that’s too murky to illuminate what exists and what doesn’t? Consider the following thought experiment:
Imagine a field so big we can play the biggest game of red rover in history in it. Imagine we could open up our skull and have all the beliefs get out and stand on one side of the field, holding arms. On the other side of the field stand all the things.
One by one, the beliefs call out what they are about. When the belief in Africa calls out his name, “I’m a belief in Africa!” the actual object— Africa— raises its hand, and they go off to a side field labeled TRUE BELIEFS. “Bees ! I’m a belief in bees!” “Great! We are bees! ” And they go off together.
“I’m a belief in the planet Neptune!” “I am the planet Neptune! Let’s get a drink!” And off they would go paired up. At the end of the day, a few beliefs would be left standing on their side of the field . They raise their hands : “I’m a belief in the lost continent of Atlantis!” And nothing answers on the other side. There is no lost continent of Atlantis.
“I’m a belief in pixies!” No answer. There are no pixies. “I’m a belief in Santa Claus!” No answer because there is no Santa Claus. The belief in Santa Claus is wrong because there is no Santa Claus to correspond to it. The first problem is that our beliefs don’t separate themselves into little bits.
How would we count beliefs? Is my belief that Africa exists a superbelief made up of beliefs in all the people, countries, and animals that I believe are in Africa? Or is it part of a larger belief that the world is divided into landmasses? Or a still larger belief that there are such things as physical objects of which Africa is an instance? All and none.
My beliefs form a web or, better yet, a world. If anything corresponds to anything , it is the whole assemblage of beliefs, all linking arms, who correspond to the whole assemblage of facts, all linking arms. My mind corresponds to the world as a whole.
But there’s a much more serious problem. When we imagine playing our game, we imagine that we ourselves are standing in the field somehow adjudicating the game. We are looking at the beliefs on one side of the field and the things on the other. But when we look at a thing and see it, that is just another way of saying we believe that that thing exists .
There is no way to step outside ourselves and examine the world and our beliefs from the side.”
-Eric Kaplan (from, Does Santa Exist?)