Reflections on Appearances

The French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard once said of a famous American director (I quote from ancient memory), “He points the camera somewhere, I suppose, but he doesn’t see anything.” Today, four billion would-be cinéma vérité auteurs are pointing their own cameras “somewhere,” as we may suppose, but the assumption that all this pointing and shooting constitutes seeing, or revealing, anything — let alone anything true — is a folly possible only to our late modern materialists, evolutionarily adapted as they are to reducing truth to something they call facts, and knowledge to sense data.

Appearances are deceiving, we forever say, and forever forget. Two-dimensional appearances are not even appearances in the full sense, but rather images of appearances, or imaginative interpretations of appearances. As for genuine appearances in the full sense, the radical doubt, Nietzsche’s question, as to whether there is in truth anything behind the appearances, or only our “interpretations” themselves, seems to answer itself by implicitly presuming a perspective beyond both the appearances their interpretations, from which perspective alone his question may be understood as meaningful.

If consciousness is an illusion, and in fact all our individual awareness, experience, and thought mere effects of material determinism, then that conclusion itself, and the hypothesis of material determinism upon which it depends, is also an illusion. And for the deterministic materialist to respond, “So be it, that only proves my point,” is too cute by half. It proves no such thing. On the contrary, and almost self-evidently, the hypothesis’ unavoidable susceptibility to its own reductionism swallows the materialist’s argumentation and inferences whole. This does not mean that there is a straightforward answer to the question posed by materialist reductionism, but only that the materialist-reductionist’s own answer is the least straightforward of all to maintain. Ockham’s razor pesters it to within an inch of its life, at least.

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