Demonstrable Experience and the Question of Why

Is demonstrable experience more “valid” or genuine than non-demonstrable experience? In short, no. However, in order to fully explore this question we must examine how and when such experiences begin to motivate action and application – both internal and external to the mind. For example, when designing a jet engine, I must be able to translate my internal experiences and ideas into language that can be consumed and understood by others. If I do so successfully, my design can be translated into specific actions: the production of a jet engine. Thus, it is easy to see how demonstrable experience brings much to bear on practical matters. Indeed, demonstrable experience is necessary to cultivate collective human achievement. Indeed, the advent of writing demonstrates this point quite well. In order for human beings to move beyond a nomadic lifestyle, it was necessary for them to be able to transmit complex ideas through writing in order to coordinate the complexities of government, the beginnings of engineering, and basic commerce. Thus, it is plain to see that demonstrable experience is vital to a functional society because it facilitates both human coordination and communication.

A key property of demonstrable experience is that it allows us to form and maintain a consensus of mutual understanding. Through the demonstration of ideas we can identify, or at least approximate, both cause and effect: If I touch a lighted match to gasoline, the gasoline will burn. Of course, by demonstrating this fact I have done nothing to answer why such a cause and effect exist, only that they do, in fact, exist. Yet, in many cases the answer to why is of no practical importance. Whether this cause and effect exist due to a complex chemical reaction or because invisible magic fairies transfer from the lit match to the gasoline in an act of spontaneous celebration, does not change the fact that a lit match will cause gasoline to burn. An understanding of why is not requisite to appreciate first the existence, and potential implications of a causal relationship. More importantly, this causal relationship exists regardless of the answer to why. Fairies or no fairies, it is best that I keep a safe distance when a lit match is applied to gasoline.

This is not to suggest that the question of why is unimportant. Under certain conditions it may be of incredible importance. However, it must be understood that why is often a function of purely internal experience contextualizing what is observed in a causal relationship. In most cases, it has absolutely no bearing on the relationship itself.