Hi there, it's Stefan Molyneux from Freedomain Radio. I hope you're doing well.
It's time now, ladies and gentlemen, for what we in the philosophy circles call the "blinding
recap." So before we start getting into the real meat for the issue of today's topic (which
is Zeus, actually), we are going to talk about some of the stuff that we've gone over briefly
just to refresh our minds. It's been a few days since my last post, although I know you've
been staring at the YouTube screen waiting for Big Shiny Forehead (my rap-name is Big
Shiny Forehead) to come back with some new insights, but you may not have processed everything
correctly or remembered too well, so I thought I'd spend just a moment going over a couple
of the basics.
I have my handy-dandy pad of philosophy here. We started off with the possibility that there
are three types of reality external to consciousness:
None, a demon manipulates all of our thinking, Some, in the Platonic sense, that there's
some valid, physical interpretations of reality through the senses, but it's inferior to a
higher realm, or that All of reality that is external to consciousness
is valid, and nothing which we cannot perceive is there either.
That's numero uno.
Number two, then, we went with All Reality, of course, for a variety of reasons we went
into in the podcasts on metaphysics and epistemology. Then we said, well, the human mind is capable
of error, and that error is correctable through sensual evidence, the evidence of the senses,
and logic. We went through some proofs for sense evidence, then we showed how logic is
derived from the consistency and properties of matter and energy, and therefore since
all of the ideas within our mind are derived from the actions of matter in the form of
sense evidence, concepts within our mind are always subjugated and must give way to the
evidence of reality. [crumples up his paper] Nobody said philosophy wasn't messy.
Then we talked about a null hypothesis — in other words, if a proposition has no proof
or disproof, then it does not stand in any category of truth, it is simply a matter of
subjective opinion, which the example was, (I think I said something like:) "I had a
dream about a sparrow last night," or I guess this would be last week now.
We also talked about the difference between true and false, and we derived "True" as either
that which conforms to the evidence of the senses, or conforms with principles that are
specifically derived from the evidence of the senses, logic based on the consistency
and universality of the behaviors of matter and energy. We did that.
Then we did probability and possibility, which was the last podcast, we did UFOs and leprechauns,
which I'm pretty sure you knew was going to be the topic, and today we're going to start
on the concept of "country."
The one thing that I'll say about concepts (and I know I've done the two-CD thing, maybe
you've seen that before); Concepts, and indeed human life and consciousness is possible because
of atoms. (laughs) I'm pretty sure I don't even need to debate that one. It must be fairly
clear to you already. But we can have concepts about the world because of atoms. There's
a fixed number of atoms and elements, and they each behave with particular properties.
The reason that I can look at a forest and categorize the vertical, thick-skinned, inside
plants as trees is because the atoms which go to make up those trees are common between
the trees. See, I mean generally, it's kinda cool about the mind and reality, that the
highest abstractions within our own mind are directly related to the base division of matter
down at the atomic (possibly, I don't know the subatomic) level. So because trees are
composed of similar atoms, they appear in a similar way to us through the evidence of
our senses. We can categorize a bunch of trees as a forest, or a group of trees, or whatever
we want to call it, because the atoms which go to make up each one of those trees is very
much in common with the atoms that go to make up other trees. The atoms that go to make
up a tangerine are similar to the atoms that go and make up an orange, and therefore we
can call them in the citrus family, etc.
When we have concepts at the highest level, really what we're fundamentally doing is,
we're organizing atoms. We're building the base properties of matter and energy and organizing
them within our own mind.
If we look at the concept "light-emitting," well we have the sun, which is currently lighting
me, we have the forehead, fairly light-emitting of course, we have lightbulbs, candles, and
what is in common? Well they're all spraying off photons. The fact is that when we talk
about light-emitting as a concept, what we're doing is aggregating and describing the behavior
of atoms or energy, etc.
When we are talking about concepts, we are talking about the organization of things which
have like properties in and of themselves. When we look at the night sky, we see all
these stars, well we can call them stars because they're all composed of (I guess) clouds of
gas, all giving off enormous amounts of energy. That is very important.
When we're talking about water, as a concept, we're talking about two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. The
chemical formula, or the atomic formula H2O, represents "water." Because all water is composed
of this particular atomic constellation, we can then abstract and describe the behavior
of water as common across all material objects which are composed of this particular configuration
of atoms. Oxygen, same sort of thing, breathable air versus non-breathable air. I'm sure you
get the idea. A solid and a liquid are conceptual descriptions of behaviors of matter and energy
in the material world, transmitted to our mind through the evidence of our senses.
The reason that concepts, and indeed human beings, are possible, is because matter is
divided into specific atoms which appear in regularly-occurring constellations and have
specific properties which maintain themselves over time and can't be changed without some
sort of external force being brought to bear on them, the principle of inertia. The idea
is that we have concepts because there are atoms, and because there are universal physical
laws. We have a concept of "falling" because things that fall down, because of the existence
That's something I wanted to point out. The most itty-bitty, tiny, tiny little things
in the universe are directly the cause, because of their uniformity and regularity and regularly-occurring
constellations, are directly related, and the direct cause of the widest conceptual
abstractions within our own mind.
That having been said, there are concepts that are directly related to matter, and then
there are things like "a country."
We're starting to zero in on some — (laughs) I'm being delicate, I'm trying to circle around
some of the more startling conclusions that a rational, empirical, scientific philosophy
will bring to bear on things that you believe in. I'm trying to be gentle about what's coming
out of this, so we're gonna start with things that you probably have some emotional investment
in, but we'll save the biggies for a little further down the road. You know, it's important
to turn the volume up slowly when it comes to the (laughs) old "symphony of truth," so
Let's look at something called a country. Let's take a fairly non-controversial country,
where this podcast may not be on regular rotation: Iceland. When we think of Iceland, we think
of a geographical location. Now we should be starting to get the hang of learning what
is true based on what is real through sensual evidence, and what is not.
We have a country called "Iceland." Now, "Iceland" is a description of a geographical location.
If you live near a mountain and say "Yonder mountain," then you are describing a particular
geological extrusion or buildup called a mountain, so people know what you're talking about.
The mountain exists. When you say, "yonder mountain," you're not talking about a hallucination,
you're not talking about some phantasm within your own mind, you're not talking about a
mirage (although a mirage exists, in terms of light waves, it doesn't exist in terms
of what it describes in the location where it looks like it's describing it), but when
you talk about "yonder mountain," you're talking about something that actually exists in the
real world. So that's a pretty valid thing to do, and a very valuable thing to do.
When you talk about "Iceland," you're talking about a particular location in the world.
Does that location exist? It certainly does exist. "Iceland" can be used in the same way
that we describe a mountain.
When we think of the 49th parallel, the largest, yea, the largest undefended border in the
world, between Canada and the United States, there we're starting to talk about a little
bit of a difference. If we talk about Malta or Australia, we're talking about islands
that are bounded by ocean, so where Australia ends, the sea begins. So it's fairly understandable
that when we talk about Australia we're talking about, potentially, the discrete physical
entity that has arisen from the ground and been populated by undesirables, at least historically
to a large degree. Although, I'm sure Australians are wonderful now (their Winnebagos and their
When we talk about America and Canada, though, we're talking abuot something quite different.
We're not talking about geographical regions that are divided by an objective and specific
physical occurrence. The 49th parallel doesn't exist like a cable running along the ground.
If you look at the earth, you don't see the latitude and the longitude like in huge canyons
or ropes across the earth. These are just things put on maps for the convenience of
sailors and pilots.
When we talk about Canada and the United States, then we're talking about two entities separated
by... By what? Well, they have different colors on the map, they have different governments,
they have different histories, I guess you could say (although each house has a different
history, as well, in terms of who's lived there).
So, divided by what?
Well, philosophy, of course, when you examine these kinds of things in rigorous and scientific
detail and keep going even past our own historical.. what we've been taught is important, then
we realize that Canada and the United States don't exist. Don't exist in reality. This
is very important. This is some of the radical stuff that philosophy can really help us understand.
I'm not saying it's comfortable to think about, but it's very important to, if you want to
think about how the world could be saved and improved, and how human beings can be happier
and less conflict-ridden, etc., then it's very important to understand that Canada and
the United States do not exist in reality.
Australia, as a land mass, does exist in reality and is bounded by the sea, etc. But Australia
as a country, with particular politics, governments, etc., none of that exists in reality. There
is no atomic or energy-based, sensual-based evidence for believing that any of these sorts
of things exist outside of matter and energy. Let's take a look at the United States.
What exists in the United States? Like, what exists for real? Not what's in our head, or
what we've been taught is real, but what exists for real, that can actually be objectively
measured and proven?
Well, two things fundamentally exist within America:
One is material objects: trees, roads, sno-cones, people, pets, fences, of the white picket
variety usually. Material objects exist within the United States. Matter and energy exist
in a geographical region we can called "the United States." That exists, for sure.
The other thing that exists in the United States is people's belief that the United
States exists as a country. Not just as a bunch of things you are putting an artificial
boundary around within your mind, but as a country which has a moral and almost physical
reality independent from or greater than the sum of its parts.
So when we think about a dozen eggs, to shift our metaphors a little while here, what exists?
What exists at an atomic and energy level, at a sensual level, what exists are 12 eggs.
Unless it's a baker's dozen, in which case I think you get 13. What exists are 12 discrete
shells with potential flightless birds inside. That exists as individual, discrete things.
The concept is "dozen." "Dozen" does not exist in the real world. As I mentioned in the podcast
on concept-formation, if I say:
"I'm gonna sell you a dozen eggs."
And you say, "Great! I'm gonna sell you a dozen eggs."
And I say, "Fantastic, it's gonna be $2."
And you give me $2 and I give you the dozen eggs. I give you the concept "dozen," I give
you the idea "dozen." Well, you can't fry the idea up in a pan, you can't make a Concept
McMuffin out of it, and so we all recognize that the concepts kind of exist within our
own minds, and they're useful for organizing material objects so we don't have to constantly
say, "1, 2, 3, 4... This many eggs!" We can say "a dozen," and everyone understand what
We know that each individual thing exists, but that the idea is something within our
own mind, and that the idea, since it is within our own mind, and we've already established
that all ideas within our own mind must bow to the actual facts of reality, that whenever
there's a conflict between ideas within our own mind and what actually exists in the external
world and is real, sensual evidence, measurable, etc., whenever there's a conflict between
these two things, what is within our own mind must give way as false, as erroneous, until
there is actual backup from sensual evidence in the real world.
Just psychologically, there are kind of two worlds that we inhabit as human beings:
We inhabit the physical world, of course, but we also kind of inhabit the social world.
This is a really loosey-goosey way of saying it, and I apologize for the lack of precision,
but we inhabit the social world, which means that we inhabit or we get reflected to us
through sensual evidence other people's beliefs. This is very important.
We'll get to the question of God's existence, although you may be fairly sure of where it
is we're going to head in this area, but it's a very different question if I say, "Does
God exist?" it's a very different question from saying, "Does religion exist?" These
are two fundamentally different questions. One is a question about the objective existence
of a deity, and that is a question which would be answered relative to objective, material
reality and should be able to be answered independently of asking somebody else. So
if I say, "Am I wearing a dark t-shirt at the moment (because it's not topless Fridays)?"
then you would not have to go and ask someone else, "Uh, is he wearin' a black t-shirt?"
You could directly, through the evidence of your senses, perceive that I'm wearing a dark
brown or black t-shirt. We'll see how it comes up. Dark, let's just say.
Things that you can experience directly through your sensual mechanisms, with the evidence
of your senses, you can determine their existence or non-existence on your own. If I say "Yonder
mountain is not real, it is an illusion," then if you felt like verifying, you could
go over and climb it, and put a little bit on your mouth or whatever, and view it in
the changing light, etc., and once you had climbed to the top and sifted your fingers
through it and jumped up and down on it, and tasted it, and listened to its... "mountainness"...?,
then you would be fairly sure, actually you would be positive that there's no other particular
criteria for proof than consistent and reproducible sensual evidence, then you could be sure that
that mountain existed in the real world. And you wouldn't need to ask anybody else whether
that mountain existed. You could directly perceive it yourself. And there's some gray
areas, which perhaps we'll get into a little later.
When we're talking about "Does God exist?" then direct sensual evidence, consistency
with logic... We'll get into this in a later podcast, but you can reason through these
things on your own and try to figure them out. You may make mistakes, etc., but you're
capable of doing it for yourself.
If I say, and you've never met him, "My friend Bob believes in leprechauns, is that true
or is that false?" Well, you can't reason this out. If you knew that Bob was, I don't
know, raised by a leprechaun, maybe that would be an example of how you could, but basically
when it comes to understanding other people's opinions, you kind of need their input. It's
not something that you can work out logically. These are the two types of truth statements
that we live in: things which we can independently verify according to logic, our own logic,
or the logic that we've learned from the senses, or the direct evidence of the senses.
So if I say 2+2=4 to a kid, and explain to him how to work it out, and then say, "Is
7+3=10?" the kid can work it out and doesn't need to go and ask somebody else.
In the question "Do countries exist in reality?" we can figure that out for ourselves. If you
go to the Canadian-US border, and let's just pretend that this side, south, so I'm on the
American side, then I take a step over, and then I'm on the Canadian side, I take a step
back, I'm on the US side, I look down, and there's no differentiation between these two
things in reality. As we said before, in reality we could say that Australia at least is bounded
by an ocean, and therefore when we say Australia, we are dividing between land, and water. These
have different atomic components, etc., so different sea levels, obviously. When we're
stepping back and forth between Canada and the United States, and we look down and there's
no physical differentiation between the two, then I think we can say that these two things
do not exist in reality, because there's no transition. You could say that the 49th parallel
is a transition, but that itself is a concept that doesn't exist in reality. For sure, the
difference between Canada and the United States does not exist in objective reality in the
same way that the difference between Australia the landmass and Australia the sea exists
in reality. That's one answer or way of looking at it.
The second way of trying to examine the question, and what confuses us so often when we're not
deeply versed in a rational kind of philosophy, is we say, "Well, but I mean there are stamps,
there are flags, there are government buildings, there are different colored maps, there are
treaties, there are songs, there are birthdays of the country, there are... You could go
on and on! Of course these two countries exist, look at all the evidence! That evidence is
in the senses, it comes to me... I look at a flag of Canada, I look at the flag of the
United States, they're different! I look at the map, there are borders! There are guys
with guns, if you cross the border without getting the right paperwork or having the
right permission, or having the right whatever, you're gonna get shot! Of course they believe
Well, that doesn't tell you that that exists in reality. All that tells you is that people
act as if it did exist in reality. I'm not trying to mince concepts here, or fine-slice
the onion to turn it into a kind of vapor. This is a very, very important distinction.
What exists in reality we can determine for ourselves through logic, etc. What other people
believe can't be reasoned out by ourselves. We've got to interview people, etc.
People's beliefs produce an enormous amount of evidence in the real world. So we all know
this idea or joke in psychiatric circles that some guy in the year 2006 comes into a psychiatrist's
office with a cowlick and puts his hands in his jacket and says, "Doctor, I'm Napoleon
Bonaparte." And he will maybe buy the costume, and maybe marry a woman named Marie, or whatever.
Maybe he'll go and live on Elba. But these are all things that are evidence of his belief
that he is Napoleon. This does not mean that he is Napoleon. For obvious reasons, Napoleon's
dead. This guy can't be Napoleon.
When we look at trying to divvy up true and false statements, it's very important in my
mind to really be clear about the differentiation between what exists in reality and what exists
only as a belief (and what exists is the effects of a belief).
If I say I am an American, I don't change the physical nature of my being. I currently
live in Canada, I was born in Ireland, I grew up in England, I spent a little time in South
Africa, then moved to Canada, and through all that process of being different citizens,
being in different countries, etc., my atomic nature didn't change at all. If I go for a
green card, and somebody gives me one, and I now have the right to work in the United
States, it doesn't change my atomic nature in the way that like having a sex change or
dying would change my physical construction. There are genetic differences between races,
for sure, there are genetic hormonal differences between men and women, but when you change
from a Canadian to American, you are not changing your physical structure in any way based on
this sort of change.
All that means is that now, because I have the right paperwork, I'm not going to get
aggressed against for having a job in the United States. When we look at all of the
paraphernalia that is associated with people's belief in things that don't have an objective
reality in the world, all we're doing is looking at a vast amount of detritus that is produced
by people believing that things exist when they have no actual existence in the real
world. It's a very, very important thing to figure out.
If I say, "Does my friend Bob believe in leprechauns?" you can't answer that without going to talk
to Bob, and Bob might lie, and there's all these complications. Whereas if I say "Does
this mountain exist?" you can go walk up the mountain and figure it out for yourself. You're
not dependent upon another human being's consciousness to tell you the truth, and you can figure
it out without going to talk to anyone, and all this kind of stuff.
[phone rings] I knew that was going to happen sooner or later. (laughs)
When we talk about the difference between what is real and what is not real, it's important
to look at these three categories, two of which are sensually evident, and one is not.
The first category is things which exist in the real world which are independent of your
consciousness, which are received to you directly through the evidence of your senses, etc.
The second category of things are things that exist within other people's minds, as a belief,
and which are not correlated to the existence of things in the real world. So if my friend
Bob believes in leprechauns, then he can say, "Yeah, I believe in leprechauns," and that's
something that you can believe in or not believe in, or whatever.
But then there are material things in the real world that are produced through people's belief
in things that don't really exist. This is what gets people so confused. So there are
things like a mountain. There are things that exist like an American flag. An American flag
is an honest-to-goodness, physical, material thing that exists that is produced because
people believe that a conceptual entity called "America" actually exists. Because a lot of
people believe this, you get the production of lots of patriotic this, that, and the others,
and it is used as a very fundamental moral argument, which we'll get to when we talk
about morality, for a lot of behaviors that people will put into practice that we would
never countenance from an individual, but because they are associated with a country,
we will allow that to occur.
If you're an atheist, say, and you're having a debate with a religious person, I think
that you would not accept, if you didn't believe in the existence of God, that there is a valid
argument which goes something like this:
"God exists, because there are churches."
That would be putting the cart before the horse. In philosophical terms, it's called
"begging the question." You could say that if people believe that God exist, there will
be churches. But the fact that there are churches, only proves that people build churches because
they claim to believe in God. It does not prove that God exists independently of people's
beliefs. You're simply pointing out the evidence of a belief, which does not prove the tangible,
So when you look at flags, songs, patriotic this that and the other, all it does is prove
that people believe in countries. It does not prove that countries exist. It's a very
Given that we are at 30 minutes now, thank you so much as always. We'll get into this
a little bit more in the future, but it might be a worthwhile exercise for you to think
about things in your mind, and things in the real world, and just try and work on exposing
this dividing line between things that exist in the real world, and things that exist in
other people's minds and the things that exist in the real world that are only a product
of beliefs in other people's minds, but does not prove what they claim to believe in.
I hope that's a helpful differentiation. We are making extraordinarily rapid progress
towards developing a solid understanding of that which is real, so that we can do what
is the basic goal of philosophy, which is to make sure that the beliefs, propositions,
values, ethics, politics, everything that we put forward is based on reality and not
based on opinion, because then it wouldn't be philosophy, it would be something called..
modern politics? Or I guess politics throughout history. And we wanna be a little bit more
rigorous than that. So we are making extraordinary progress. Thank you so much for listening
and I will talk to you soon.