Do you see what I see?
“Sweet and stinking commonly serve our turn for these ideas, which in effect is little more than to call them pleasing or displeasing; though the smell of a rose and violet, both sweet, are certainly very distinct ideas. Nor are the different tastes, that by our palates we receive ideas of, much better provided with names.”
John Locke – An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Ch 3 – Of Simple Ideas of Sense
Is there a single reality we all perceive differently? Or a diverse realm of possibilities that invert qualia on a quantum scale of supposition? Let me rephrase that:
Does subjectivity originate from within us or exist despite us? Do sweet flavours exist without a tongue to taste or a nose to smell? The crashing of waves and the rustle of leaves in the wind sound alike – how can we tell the difference without eyes that can perceive the distinction between the two?
Phenomenal experiences consist of what we are aware of through our senses. It is the very core of our existence; scents that take us back to childhood, the tastes that sooth our soul. If sociality is a sense that some of us lack – or perceive differently – then this too must be the subject of qualia.
What is happiness? How is it expressed? Why does psychology believe that there is a correct way to perceive this subjective state in others – that is only perceivable through facial expression? Every social interaction is separate and distinct – even with the same person. My pleasant expression hides my inner turmoil and sometimes when I frown, I am trying not to laugh hysterically.
Intention and the consequences of social moments can be perceived as qualia. This intersubjectivity exists in a quantum realm whereby a state is determined through observation – and determination. The state can fluctuate depending on time, space and interpretation.
Whenever someone asks “Are you ok?” I never know what to say. Most of the time I simply smile and say yes, even when I am not. Being economical with the truth has its benefits in some contexts. This type of dishonesty would seem inconsequential to most people. It never settles right with me.
Perhaps this is the categorical imperative of truth that has imprinted upon me unconsciously. I loathe uttering even the smallest lie. The utilitarian in me argues that untruthfulness can be for the greatest good – as long as it causes no harm.
The problem with utilitarianism is that it is impossible to determine all the consequences of our actions. The chain reaction that a simple smile could illicit is exponential. The performance of normality can affect internal states. Who has the right to declare a smile sweet or venomous?
Intended actions have consequences that are beyond our control. Sometimes intended consequences manifest – other times the same intentions can have varying results. To be happy one must act happy – if this is true, does it follow that when we are sad we are only so because we act like we are sad?
Do our emotions determine our actions? Some philosophers would imagine that reason influences our actions – yet we are all inherently emotional creatures. Maybe we can use our head to control our hearts but we do so to our detriment.
The possibility of inverted social qualia on the quantum spectrum means that at different times, we need to explore different tactics to achieve the greatest good. Sometimes that means standing beside the categorical imperative, other times it means becoming flexible to the utility of new ideas.
Understanding that it is possible to be happy and sad at the same time will enhance our experience. Accepting that sometimes we need to rage against resistance so we can strengthen our resolve will improve the quality of our achievements. Even if that achievement is simply getting out of bed each morning – it is still worth acknowledging as such.
If we suspend judgement on the morality of social actions entirely, more harm than good would ensue. Sometimes, it is necessary for self-care to completely remove sociality from the equation.
There should be no taboo in this.