On the Realness of Movement

Some people suffer from a rare condition called akinetopsia, which means motion blindness. These people cannot perceive moving objects the way others do. To them, moving objects appear as static objects, disappearing and reappearing in different places along their paths. For example, normal people perceive a train passing them by in one fluid motion. People with akinetopsia perceive the train as snapshots of a train ‘jumping’ from one spot to the next at certain intervals, but without movement in between. Like taking a photograph every other second.

Most neurologists, brain doctors, would say a malfunction of a certain part of the brain causes people to suffer this condition. But there may be a different angle. What if what these people perceive to be the absence of movement represents real reality? Is it possible that movement does not really exist, but that the human brain evolved to render movement, helping us to make sense of an absurd, Salvador Dalían reality?

I find this an exciting possibility. It means our brains may act as movie projectors that render the world around us, which would implicate that different people may perceive reality qualitatively differently. Also, it invalidates much of what we call science since even basic instruments such as rulers would only measure the illusion that our brains rendered for us, but not real reality. (The ruler is part of the illusion.)

If movement is not real, perhaps time is not real either. Time acts as a tool to help us predict movement, i.e. change. In that case, movement and time both come from renderings our brains evolved to “see”, in an evolutionary attempt to make sense of whatever reality is “out there”.

But if movement and time are not real, what does that say about German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s famed work Sein und Zeit? Then perhaps Being (das Dasein) is a self-induced illusion. And to what end? Is it possible that, in case of movement, being and time are illusions, there is no such thing as a real reality, and what we perceive is an ever-changing consensus on some collective illusion that we as individuals merely contribute to? Meaning: the universe does not come from “out there”, but from within us—we are both spectator and performer, painter and model, driver and passenger.

What does that say about free will? It means that through exerting our will we can influence the aforementioned consensus. People with a strong will influence the consensus more than others. Those lifeforms without any will are dead. Groups, societies and other collectives channel their wills, mediating the impact of individual wills, thereby rendering stability and continuity: the thing we call reality.

Martin Heidegger cites in Was heisst Denken? someone else (Schelling) who wrote, “Wollen ist Ursein”. To that, I would add: Wille ist Wirklichkeit.

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