A journey to overcome rationalism?

Article ID: 26

Content warnings: Science mysticism, bigotry, transphobia, republicans, vomit, Descartes, Hegel, questioning existence, rationalism, intuitionism.

Some preamble and background

Yesterday at my summer school we were watching a spiderman-related movie. I have no idea about how these works relate to each other, so that’d my best effort at describing it. I wasn’t paying full attention, but I heard a school teacher teaching that there are many parallel universes in a quantum physics class. This is likely a reference to the Many Worlds Interpretation. It’s an *interpretation* and teaching it as “the truth” bothers me a little, but I suppose that’s not too bad on its own. But later in the movie there was “time traveling through dimensions” where the “dimensions” are described as parallel universes under Many Worlds. I don’t understand quantum mechanics, but this is still utterly senseless in my basic understanding thereof, i.e. the non-communicating nature of “branches” (although I dislike this terminology I find it intuitive) and it breaks energy conservation laws (though arguably this is not really a law, prohibiting actions which may bring empirical evidence to falsity it). We also discussed, in the light of Dr. Davies’ lecture, on how most films prematurely depict characters into a structural binary opposition between the benevolent and malicious. We didn’t finish watching the movie, but it was an interesting discussion.

Further content warning: Things are about to get much worse.

I was coming out of the classroom, the other groups who went shopping or on tours came back at around the same time. I was going to the place where we check-in to being on-campus. Near the steps of the cafeteria I heard A saying to B, that A believes that B is a right-wing extremist. B is my roommate who holds relatively different political beliefs than I do, such as antifeminism. Without much context, I told A that saying people are “right-wing extremists” is ad hominem and should be avoided, even though I knew that I would probably disagree with whatever B was talking about.

I was tired of politics for the day. I already took four US Letter size pages of notes during the day, in two precepts, one seminar, and three lectures, most of which were about political philosophy. So I just listened in to what another group were talking about, which if I remember correctly had to do with their shopping trip and was not political. Then I heard B shout, loud enough to frighten me quite a bit, that “IF YOU WERE BORN MALE YOU ARE MALE, IF YOU WERE BORN FEMALE YOU ARE FEMALE, IT’S COMPLETELY INVALID TO CHANGE IT.” and “THERE ARE ONLY TWO GENDERS”.

Before, when talking peacefully, I was fine discussing about my opinions (clearly completely opposite from B’s), and considering B’s arguments on traditional family values, even if I consistently believe that these values have no merit in contemporary society and are inherently misogynistic, which was also encapsulated in his express support for patriarchy. But this time, when I heard it shouted out loud, I couldn’t take it anymore.

I felt sick. I almost threw up immediately; I went to a bathroom and vomited, not a lot, but I still did. It’s a weird feeling of bring completely alienated, worse than any normal dysphoria that I could conceive.

I asked a random member of staff, if they had vomit medications. They said no, asked me if I knew why I was feeling sick, and offered to chat with me for a while after I explained the course of events. They are also nonbinary, and had similar experiences. We agreed on the argument that cisgender people who do not experience gender dysphoria or euphoria cannot soundly assume that the trans condition is fake and made up, as it is a personal experience, not a external trait.

Gradually the conversation shifted to whether it’s necessary to prove my own existence. (This deviates from the transgender-related discussion; proving my own existence in terms of my mind, is different from proving my, or the general concept of, transgender experiences, but it’s nevertheless a topic we landed on.) I mentioned Descartes’s Cogito Ergo Sum, and we discussed what “existence” means in this context. The conversation moved on to other parts of the Meditations. They interpreted the Third Meditation as not an argument for God in the religious sense, and described it as something resembling that, in my opinion, resembled my understanding, from today’s precept, of Hegel’s absolute spirit. He stipulated the existence of an entity that is the state of the world which could be interpreted as either ideal or current, rather than a conscious coherent person-like entity being the deity. I’ll probably have to re-read Meditations with this caveat in mind (or perhaps with a literal s/god/something/i and at least try to understand Hegel which would be challenging.

Later on, I explained my argument that in general I do not accept assertions that are unreasoned, and I suppress the “gut intuition”, even for seemingly basic assertions such as “I exist in a physical world”. The teacher explained why they believe that rationalism is an inconsistent theory, and importantly, that personal experiences cannot be rationally deconstructed and attested, nor do they have to be rationally proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

And perhaps this is when things start clicking for me. Perhaps I could, under my own conscious will and conscience, whether free or controlled, loosen my grip on rationality, logic, and proof.