The Relative Variable

The study of epistemology essentially asks – how do we know what we know? We don’t. If one were to dare grapple with the gravity of this question, he/she would ground any conclusion with his or her sensory data. Venture a step further, and one finds one’s self slipping on this slippery slope. Allow me to explain.

Attaining a level of certitude rests on –

a. The idea that there is a certitude within reach.

b. The idea that an individual’s sensory perception is also exacted by others – and, thus it is grounded in some verifiable objectivity.

The brilliance of Immanuel Kant’s thought is that he courageously questioned his own sensory experience. Socrates rested on the idea that certitude was not attainable outside of his own subjectivity. These brave souls taught us to look beyond our own subjectivity. To be truly objective. One could stomp on the floor to demonstrate the solid nature (or, parameters of said reality – if you will) of what they’re experiencing – but – does this truly validate the claim? No. Only by the literal stretch of the imagination.

Anyone who has experienced a dream can challenge such a claim.

It is only reasonable to ask at this juncture – how can one know anything to be real? This is the beauty of the relative variable. This is not something I plan to explain in great depth, but I’ll give a demonstration using the aforementioned dream analogy:

1) One exists in this dream dimension and is asked to demonstrate the validity of said parameters.

2) The claimant stomps on the floor in order to establish said claim.

3) The floor acts like a floor by halting the inertia of the claimant’s foot.

4a) Other people in the dream react to the dreamer‘s action (census confirmation).

4b) Sensory data is established.

Therefore, said floor exists.


The sensory data is established; however its validity can only be relative to the parameters of the said hypothetical dream dimension. This is the extent I feel anyone can validate any claim.

Naturally, further explanation is required on this topic.  The point the relative variable graces is, that, ultimately, sensory perception is the means one can validate any statement concerning reality.  This understanding is problematic for many reasons; however, its conclusion restricts progress and suspends all knowledge as circumstantial.  If all meaning rested on this note, not much progress could be made.  On the other hand, reaching this finality only addresses the eye of the seer, and has no effect on a reality beyond the eye.

It is only sane to ask at this point – what value does this understanding have?

The restriction is the value.  To understand that human awareness is encapsulated by this boundary – the very extent of its sight, is to understand, to a degree, the nature of knowledge itself.

Another issue that arises with this logical arrival is that it neutralizes human understanding beyond that of the individual.  It surrenders census agreement to an equal fate.  It is safe to say that, generally, knowledge is –

1) First attained by the individual (observation/conception);

2) Then, established through quantification;

3)  Finally, is seen equally by others (confirmation).

[Note:  2 and 3 are interchangeable in some cases]

Noting that each and any step in this process can be compromised, challenges the validity of the outcome.

The purpose of the relative variable as I have defined it is not to stall understanding, but to shine a light onto knowledge in a manner that reflects its reality.  To acknowledge limitation – the limits of our sight, is only, human.  And, it is equally honest.

Human knowledge is a variable.  A variable relative to an absolute.  An absolute extended from the unknown.  Naming this unknown has also stood at the heights of both human conceit, and desire.  Gravity is an example of such a variable.

The absolute, by definition, is unchanging and final in its identity; however, due to the fact that these identities are dependent on human understanding – they can only ever be relative in principle.



Filed under non fiction, Philosophy, psychology, relativity, thinking

5 responses to “The Relative Variable

  1. I really like the progressive nature of what you have written here. But I would like to pose one question regarding your final statement: Is existence ultimately absolute with an unchanging final identity, or is it an open system with the potential of infinite possibilities – a system that can all-ways change and evolve ad infinitum?

    • Great question. Though, I highly doubt any certainty can be established, there.

      The absolute can only ever be introduced to human knowledge through sensory perception – hence, my argument is leading that in the ultimate schematic, realities may exist that exceed our very comprehension and/or sensory receptors.

      The “absolute” simply carries that identity that gives it unchanging properties. The very idea is only a perception. Hypothetically, there may be knowledge yet unknown that would allow for the manipulation of gravity (our demonstrative absolute) – thus, changing its identity completely.

      Our current level of understanding, at any given time, may (again, hypothetically) only ever identify closed systems that change over incomprehensible periods of time – thus, making the finality true in both cases.

      Am I making sense? lol

  2. Whoa! This is good gritty stuff.

    Yes you are making sense. I guess my point of focus here revolves around the premise and interpretation of “absolute”. Even the Concise Oxford Dictionary in its definition of absolute presents a dichotomy. That is, on the one hand, absolute denotes that which is total, unchanging, incontrovertible, and continues to remain true under all circumstances (a totlaity answer). But on the other hand, absolute is defined as “not qualified of diminished in any way” which leaves it very open ended, because the moment we place a condition onto something which we may hold to be total, we have then qualified it and diminished it in some way.

    So continuing on the subject of absolute, I do like what you have said in your last paragraph regarding “closed systems that change over incomprehensible periods of time”. Our perception of such an identity over a short period of time would most likely conclude that such an identity was indeed grounded in an absolute principle. And, I agree that such a perception is subjective and relative to our present interpretation of what it is we are experiencing (“I Know How”: a changing variable). However, when viewed from a bigger picture, a system that could be changing over an incomprehensible period of time would then imply that it is an open system – a system that is no longer grounded in an absolute (what I believe you are implying in your last paragraph), but instead, would be more aptly referred to as a “provisional proposition”. i.e. “a truth is true, is always true, but only continues to remain true within the confines of understanding (perception) in which it was created”. This also applies to the aforementioned system – a system which is created from its own confines of understanding.

    I guess what I’m trying to say here, is that there are our changing subjective and relative perceptions of that which we hold to be objective phenomena, but at the same time, this objective phenomena is also changing. This implies there is no distinction between subjects and objects. It’s all consciousness. It also implies that everything about our reality is in in a state of flux. i.e. both our perceptions of reality, and reality per se.

    Absolutes are therefore deceptions of perception. The best we can do with our present limits of understanding and perception is to create (conceptualise – transform order out of chaos) “islands of determinability” (paradigms) that give us provisional stepping stones of certainty to navigate our existence with. This is why we cannot attain any form of total perfection in our lives. The goal posts are all-ways changing on us – the rug is all-ways getting pulled out from under us regarding our own perceptions, and the reality we are perceiving i.e. paradigm shifts.

    As Socrates said: “The only thing we know for certain
    is that nothing is certain.”

    I guess for me, the notion of an absolute undermines the spirit of this statement.
    Now I’m ranting, and probably just getting lost in
    semantics! lol
    Really enjoying your blog and the interesting debate.

  3. You’re right on target! The nature of reality is fluid – not concrete. I love the conceptual identity of Bruce Lee’s “be water.” Water maintains its principle structure when it transforms into anyone of its known 3 states, yet each state varies in properties – and, by extension; identity.

    “because the moment we place a condition onto something which we may hold to be total, we have then qualified it and diminished it in some way.”

    Exactly. Thus, the only concrete form is designed by human deduction. From a fourth-dimensional view, the boundaries of definition become relative. The reality of it all can shirk off human definition as easily as a snake sheds its skin.

    See, this is not to say that these “provisional propositions” are futile, nor meaningless – but our attachments to these ever crumbling pillars of reality arrests further development.

    I recommend wrapping your head around this:

    There are excellent comments, as well.

    I’m glad to see that your open to challenge your preferences. You have a healthy environment for growth. This dialogue helps me to further understand these elusive concepts, too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s