Santa Claus exists. And tooth fairies. And mermaids. Oh, and so do you…

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Photo by Spiros Kakos from Pexels

Small children believe in Santa Claus. They are thrilled when the presents arrive and even try to find proof that he exists by placing cookies for the saint to eat along with a glass of milk…

But we are grown ups. We know that he doesn’t exist.

And we all struggle and question ourselves. Should we let them be? Should we perpetuate the lie or should we inform our children that he is just a fantasy, along with fairies and unicorns?

Such a wrong dilemma.

Rational people tied up into the chains that they created.

Could we be more wrong?

I am not going to get into the ‘Saint Nicolas was a real person’ line of thinking. Indeed Saint Nicolas was a real person and he indeed gave gifts to the poor. One could simply argue (and he would not be far away from the truth) that it is the spirit of Saint Nicolas – a very real person that did exist – that still endures and makes all those presents be. Every parent follows his example when dressing up like Santa Claus (a name Saint Nicolas came be known by because of his Dutch nickname, Sintar Klaas – see here).

I could also go into more extreme arguments, like the quantum superposition argument. One can read here an interesting article on how Santa Claus exists and is in fact a macroscopic quantum phenomenon, with its wavefunction collapsing when into ‘dad’ when Santa Claus is observed. It is quite amusing to see how our definition of reality and the limited knowledge we have about it can give birth to multiple ideas that question the most common of our beliefs. Do not take this article as an amusement article only. Our knowledge for reality IS limited. Our senses and NOT reliable. We know NOTHING about being or existence per se. As Oscar Wilde once said, the most serious things are said in jokes…

But there is a more fundamental line of thinking that can explain and justify the existence of Santa Claus. As Harmonia Philosophica has tried to explain for years and years, asking the simple questions is the way of true philosophers. And as many of you know, philosophers have been trying to find out answer to the most fundamental questions of humankind but with no success. Many might believe that this means they have failed. But that would be incorrect. For the purpose of true philosophers is not to lead to the truth, but to make it clear that we can know nothing about it. Because such thing as the ‘truth’ does not exist. (Non-thinking is the way towards the cosmos, try to read more in Harmonia Philosophica about it).

So let us re-examine our question.

“Does Santa Claus exist?”

Aristotle once said that any question contains its answer. So true. “Does Santa Claus exist?”. A phenomenally simple and innocent question that is loaded with so many beliefs and so much dogmatism. A question saying so many things about the people who ask it. It implies that we know about existence. It implies that we know who and what exists and what does not. It implies that non-existence is also… existent. Last but certainly not least, by asking about the existence of Santa Claus we clearly imply that he might not. We wouldn’t be asking for the existence of our self for example, would we?

“Does Santa exist?”

Let me ask another thing though.

What about you?

Do YOU exist?

Foolish question it seems. But not so foolish after careful consideration. How do I know you are there? Perhaps because of some undeniable proof? Should I take your word for it? Why should I believe you are a human and not a perfectly programmed robot? How could I know you are saying because of your own free will and not because your cells are programmed to do so? Could you convince me your are not a zombie? (The Zombie argument is a cool argument by the way for the existence or non-existence of consciousness)

Mermaids exist. They just hide beneath rocks when we look for them…

~ unknown kid

What is more, what IS existence? What does it mean to exist? Philosophers for thousands of years have not solved that problem so how could you even consider saying that you exist? What IS Being? The greatest philosophers of all times failed to give an answer. So how could you be so arrogant to claim that you “are” and others not? What IS reality? Who can claim that he or she has access to that magical thing called ‘reality’ without discarding thousands of years of philosophy trying and failing to find out what that thing is? Even for the phenomena we observe, the surface of the ocean we swim in, our senses and science can only explain a minor fraction of that world we capture with our senses; let alone things that lie beyond them. So what makes you so arrogant as to ask such a dramatic question?

The only argument you have for your existence is your feeling and knowledge that you do. Feelings and knowledge that you cannot transmit to others no matter how hard you try.

Guess what.

Santa Claus exists for children for exactly the same reasons!

This is not a shallow trick-argument to solve the problem. No. As already mentioned above, our total lack of knowledge regarding what existence and being are is totally true. Our total inability to know what ‘reality’ is also is something totally true. What we really KNOW are the things we have immediate experience of. Our existence. Our thoughts. Our consciousness. A peach we eat. A lonely summer night. The love of our parents that are here. Santa Claus bringing gifts which we sleep…

Something magical.

And because of that, truer that anything can ever be.

You see, magic in life is something we forgot. And yet, it still drives our destiny.

Love is magical. Our own life is magical. Santa is magical.

But we got carried away. And again we forgot the simple question we started with. “What about you?” we asked. Tell me my child, do you exist? How do you know? More importantly. How do I know? All my science, all my knowledge, all my philosophy cry out loud that I could never be certain for the existence of anyone else than me. And yet, I am certain for your existence. More than I am certain about my own!

You see…

It is not Santa Claus that is magic.

It was never a question of whether he existed.

It is all about you my child.

It was about you from the beginning.

You are magical!

Believing in good in a place full of evil. Loving and caring without expecting anything in return.

You DO exist!

Now go get your presents.

Santa was here while you were asleep…

Calculating probabilities.

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Our whole life we must make decisions and weigh up probabilities of different events. By learning to estimate which event is more likely to happen, we become better at analyzing risks and benefits to guide our actions. But when do we start to gain a sense of stochasticity? Are babies even able to determine likelihood?

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig and the University of Uppsala, Sweden, discovered that even six-month-old babies can estimate probabilities. “Six months seems to be the minimum age at which infants start to deal with probability information. One previous study showed that babies at just four months old were not able to perform this task and therefore seemed to not yet be sensitive to this information”, says Ezgi Kayhan, neuroscientist at MPI CBS and leader of the underlying study.

The neuroscientists investigated these relations by presenting animated film clips to 75 babies aged six, twelve and 18 months. These short movies featured a machine filled with balls, most were blue, some yellow, which in a second sequence ejected lots of the mainly available blue balls into one basket, and into another container mainly yellow balls. In this context it was 625 times less likely that the machine chose yellow balls instead of blue. Therefore, the basket being filled with mainly yellow balls was a very unlikely event. The infants stared longer at the unlikely option independently from the tested age group to which they belonged. (1)

We inherently understand that some things are improbable.

We a priori know that some things should not be.

We are alive.

And we keep wondering why…

And we question what is the meaning of it…

Perhaps deeply inside we know.

We know that we should not be…

We know that we should not be seeing the light…

We know that we belong in the darkness.

Where the moon is shining bright…

With the cosmos already full of light.

Kids philosophers. Not so good… (But better than you think!)

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New research by the assistant professor of animal behavior, ecology and conservation (ABEC) at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, reveals that pets are more than just animals to children.

“They often see themselves as the center of their pets’ affections”, says Russell, who conducted one-on-one interviews with children between the ages of six and 13. “They describe their pets as siblings or best friends with whom they have strong connections”. Α 13-year-old boy was shaken by the sudden death of his cat, even though it occurred two years earlier.

Children “have a distinct sense of existential fairness around whether or not an animal lived until an appropriate age”, Russell explains. A short lifespan “is normal for hamsters and fish,” according to the children interviewed, “but unexpected for dogs, cats and rabbits”.

“Children whose pets lived the extent of their potential lifetimes – or beyond – expressed acceptance upon their deaths,” Russell says. The children also suggested that euthanasia “was the moral thing to do when a pet is suffering”. Conversely, children whose pets died unexpectedly “described it as emotionally and morally unfair, and had a much more difficult time reconciling the loss”.

In all instances, family and friends helped the children cope with the loss, while moving on to a new pet for some children seems right and for some not.

A kid summarized it best, Russell concludes, when he said, “Sometimes death is tragic, like when a cat is run over by a car. But ultimately, death is part of life and life does go on”. (1)

How cute.

Learning about life and death from small children.

Not!

Surely children have a lot to teach us. Their fresh innocent look on philosophical questions is indeed refreshing and many times to the point. But we cannot rely on them completely in order to formulate conclusions. We must try to find out what is the gist of their beliefs in order to find the core of primordial a priori truth hiding in their little cute minds. But from that point the wisdom of a grown up philosopher is needed.

Kids in the aforementioned article speak stoically about death as part of life, feel a sense of justice or injustice even without knowing why. They understand that death is just part of life – which it is – but at the same time feel devastated by death. This implies that they are too emotionally attached to life – too much to actually see clearly the truth about life and death on a metaphysical level. Their love towards their pets shows their inner values but they cannot truly comprehend these values. Their love is raw and their emotions explode when they lose their loved cat. Even the easiness with which they replace their cat with a new one or their acceptance of euthanasia is actually a result of their inability to manage their emotions.

And yet their emotions towards a dead animal show that we are not just lifeless matter wondering around with no purpose. These kids know that there is something more than matter (or else they wouldn’t feel injustice for anything or affection for matter per se, they would never put their loved ones life on a higher priority than their own) and yet at the same time they complain and feel bad as if there is nothing more than death (or else they wouldn’t think their life ended when the cat died). What this “something else” is, is a matter of analysis. What “love” is, is a matter of analysis. And so on and so forth.

Yes, the kid with the cat is a good pointer to the truth. Actually babies and small kids (rather than grown up kids like in these examples, who have already been exposed to society and affected by its norms) could be the ONLY true pointers to the truth, at least as far as our senses and perception of reality is concerned.

But Parmenides is a better philosopher.

As simple as that.

Remembering rules. Math. Blind cosmos… [Against mathematical operations?!]

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Children differ substantially in their mathematical abilities. In fact, some children cannot routinely add or subtract, even after extensive schooling. This new paper proposes that math disability arises from abnormalities in brain areas supporting procedural memory. Procedural memory is a learning and memory system that is crucial for the automation of non-conscious skills, such as driving or grammar. (1)

We learn rules.

We then learn math based on rules which we memorize.

Failure to do so makes us “bad” at math. And yet why should that be a problem? Why should we “learn rules” and memorize them? Why should we interpret or measure the cosmos based on these rules?

In a world where everything is One and non-dividable we try to learn the rules of division. In a world made out of oblivion, we try to base our civilization on remembering…

How can 1+1 even have meaning,

when One is clearly defined?