Philosophical perspective on the UFO concept
WHAT IS A UFO?
Asking about what, in appearance, is evident is usually the beginning of philosophy. What is life? What is it that makes things fall to the ground? What is time? These are questions that could be those of a child’s mind, since they refer to facts or phenomena that we take for granted. But, in the case of the first question, its answer is still an enigma, the second gave rise to the law of gravity, and the third is the subject of debate and research in philosophy and science.
Asking ourselves about the obvious is setting the starting point for a line of research that, perhaps, leads us to future knowledge. However, sometimes there are questions to which we turn a deaf ear, due to their apparent simplicity, because we associate them with fantasy, because they are perhaps taboo, or because of their implicitly strange nature, since they take us to very unknown terrain. But, what if an advance in the history of human knowledge was also hidden behind them? Should science reject some of these questions because of their strange character or, on the contrary, that strange character should be a reason for curiosity to awaken the scientific spirit? I pose this question in relation to one of those concepts that we associate with the strange, such as the concept of the UFO.
I believe that by its very nature science cannot exclude from its field of action any fact that is presented to the investigating conscience of the human being. Why, then, are there scientists who are disinterested in certain types of problems or even violently opposed to their study? Possibly one reason for this is the enormous amount of information that exists in all fields of science.
Science, due to its own advancement, has given rise to a large number of specialties but, at the same time, if it is difficult for a specialist to keep up to date with the literature of his specialty, it will be more difficult for him to judge issues related to other specialties. or venture into unknown fields.
Another possible cause that should be considered is that some topics have been poorly exposed by incautious vulgarizers and fans of sensationalism. Any fact that is interpreted in terms of contradiction with known natural laws can be the object of excessive headlines, the consequence of which is that they increase the healthy skepticism of the scientist, sometimes inducing him –as occurs in the UFO case– to reject information that could give lead to interesting research.
As a result, it is common to fall into a fundamental contradiction with the spirit of science, which demands that the mind remain open to the revision of all hypotheses and all theories. Thus, sensationalism or malpractice make the UFO concept a cultural concept linked more often to American movies than to a rigorous scientific study. However, it is well known that every person with a scientific spirit must act prudently and honestly and that said prudence can lead to considering that the arguments of others are insufficient or inadequate, but never to reject the study of a problem, and even less to disempower those who face it seriously. In fact, this article is born from there, from the need to inquire into the unknown, which is the same as saying: to seek knowledge.
Now, science is usually a descriptive field. It attends to the phenomena that surrounds us trying to describe what they respond to. However, any scientific advance usually goes through a good philosophical debate beforehand. For example, until we discovered the why, within the little we know, of an organ like the brain, before philosophy spoke of the soul, and from it it passed to the mind, and the debates about the mind in conjunction with the advances of science led us to establish a relationship (even today of an unknown nature) between it and brain functioning. In the same way, then, I imagine that a good scientific analysis of a phenomenon such as ufology must go through previously discussing the concepts that we are going to submit to study. And it is this challenge that I intend to face in this article.
If we want a matter like the UFO issue to have a scientific consideration, what if we first ask ourselves what we call UFO?
The question, as I said at the beginning, may seem obvious, even mistaken for absurd. Since the word is none other than a set of acronyms that seems to give a very specific meaning: Unidentified Flying Object. But one thing is the word and another is the concept behind it.
When we say UFO we are talking about aliens, parallel realities, psychological phenomena, lights, atmospheric phenomena… How is it possible to scientifically study a term that encompasses so many meanings? Furthermore, how is such a wide range possible for a single term? Are we sure that we know what we mean when we use the concept UFO?
I propose to submit this concept to a critical and philosophical review, considering that perhaps this is a necessary condition to advance in its study and that one of the errors in the investigations and hypotheses that, in good faith, are made about this phenomenon are based on error: take for granted the meaning of the concept that is being talked about. So, let’s start at the beginning: What is a UFO?
1.- DOES THE WORD UFO SAY SOMETHING?
As is well known, the acronym UFO refers to an apparently specific definition: “Unidentified Flying Object”. I propose an exercise in this regard, to be able to approach this definition from a philosophical perspective. This exercise is the same one that I learned from Edmund Husserl, father of phenomenology. This author proposed a method of knowledge, the phenomenological method, which broadly can be summarized in two steps. The epokhe and the reduction.
The epokhe (term from which, by the way, the word skeptic comes) means putting in brackets the reality that we usually take for granted. The reduction is the subsequent step, attending to the meaning of that reality having left behind the previous judgments we had about it.
Let’s look at a simple example, we all know what a path is. He has it on his mind. But if we ask a physicist: what is a path?, he will say that it is a set of atoms, If we ask an engineer, she would say that a road is a strip on the ground of certain dimensions. These seemingly self-evident answers are not actually saying what a path is, they are saying how and what a path is made of. The question “what is” is a philosophical question, rather than a scientific one. And if we put in parentheses (epokhe) what we know about the path and ask what is a path?
Considering its meaning, the truth is that a path is what it is because it is used for walking, it has been formed by walkers, and it invites future walkers to the same activity. That is its meaning, that is what defines a path. How have we defined the word path?
Putting in brackets (epokhe) what science says and reducing (reducing) its meaning to its why, which does not give rise to a discourse incompatible with science, or with the experience of walkers, quite the contrary, it gives us a definition that accepts the given descriptions.
In the same way, I invite you to look now at a phenomenon of which we all have prior judgments, a concept of which we all have an opinion but no knowledge. What is a UFO?
I invite you to put in brackets the reality that we take for granted and associate with this concept, to try to find its meaning. And hoping that you do it with me, we start looking at the same word with which we name it, the meaning of its acronym: Unidentified Flying Object.
If you have left behind all the images and previous judgments you have about this phenomenon, does this definition really tell you anything? That is, if you had never read this concept, if by putting it in parentheses you imagine that you know absolutely nothing about it, what would this definition tell you? That the UFO is something that flies and doesn’t know what it is. Is it possible to make a scientific hypothesis based on it? Would you go to a physicist and tell him to study things that fly and you don’t know what they are?
It was this same exercise that led me to consider the need to renew terms, or to reconsider defining what we are referring to with this phenomenon. For this reason, I invite you to continue with this attitude, while we explain its possible meanings.
So, continuing with what we have, the definition associated with the acronyms, let’s go a little deeper. Because it is still possible to find out more in relation to the popular definition that we give to this term. Let’s stop, in fact, at the first word that tries to delimit its meaning: object. Apparently UFOs are objects, let’s see if it’s true.
2.- IS THE UFO AN OBJECT?
Sometimes they are lights in the sky with anomalous behavior, other apparent ships, manned or not, other meaningless artifacts, others a kind of nebula that we cannot see well, or it may even be an apparent star with an anomalous behavior.
There are UFOs, apparently, according to the people who claim to have witnessed their appearance, of many types. And according to the definition that we give them, we are talking about, first of all, objects.
To find out if this is correct we have several ways, one to look at all the testimonies that exist, and ask those people if what they saw is an object and what they mean by the word object. That is to say, are you talking about a “thing” or are you referring to the fact that it is an unknown “something” and in order to understand its sensation of materiality, it is called an object?
This work is not only not safe but, due to the odyssey that it would imply, I believe it is not possible. But we have another way to find out if the UFO is an object. And it is attending to the very conception of the word object.
Again it may seem absurd, how can it not be an object? Are you telling me that UFOs are imaginary?
Someone will ask this question at this point because they have ceased to be in epokhe, that is, to keep in parentheses what they know about the phenomenon.
There are many things that exist that are neither imaginary objects nor phenomena, take photosynthesis as an example, which is real but is not an object but a natural process. The duality is in the forejudgment, and dualisms usually lead to dead ends, ask Descartes when he wanted to explain the relationship between the mind and the body.
And on the other hand, if we continue in the state of epokhe, paying attention only to the word, remember that a little later it is said that it is an unidentified object, that is, that it is not known what it is. If you don’t know what it is, how do you know it’s an object?
If we pay attention to what this concept associated with the UFO really means, perhaps we will see more about its own nature, or, on the contrary, about the inadequacy of the UFO concept for research.
3.- WHAT IS AN OBJECT?
This term comes from the Latin “obiectum” (meaning in its origin: what is put in front, the opposite). At present, an object is understood, in general, as the end of any relationship or activity, that towards which it is directed or denotes. That is, what we refer to, for example we can say that health is the object of study of medicine, that is, what it refers to and gives it its meaning.
Remember again that I have invited you to a philosophical attitude towards the UFO concept, to practice the epokhe, to forget everything you know about that term. If we pay attention to this meaning of the word object, we would be saying that a UFO is: what the spectator refers to, that flies and is not identified.
This definition is the same as saying nothing. However, we know that the word object can give more of itself.
Let’s continue with our analysis to find out if the UFO is or is not an object. If we look at its history, it should be noted that the term “object” was not used by classical philosophers, it was introduced by the scholastics to refer to the content of an intellectual or perceptive act. Consequently, for these philosophers “being objective” comes to mean having a content of the soul, and not something external to it, which was assumed to exist.
Let’s go back to the UFO as an object. From this perspective, a UFO would be: a content to which the viewer refers, which belongs to his mind and is real as its content, which flies and cannot be identified. How could something like this be studied? It is clear that this definition does not help either. Let us continue with the object concept.
It was modern philosophers, such as Descartes and Hobbes, who inverted the meaning of the term (which generally persists today) by applying it not to representation, to the content of the intellectual act, but to the thing or entity represented, which it is considered external to the soul. That is, if you are looking at the computer screen, there is a representation of it in your mind and the physical screen would be the object that projects that representation.
From this perspective, a UFO would be: something real and external to the spectator that causes a representation in his mind of an entity that flies and that cannot be identified according to its conceptual framework. Possibly the latter is the definition that most reminds us of what we generally call UFO. In fact, multiple hypotheses have been created around it about its nature.
However, we are in a state of epokhe, we have put in brackets everything we know about this phenomenon. Let’s imagine that we go to a physicist and tell him to investigate: something real and external to the viewer that causes a representation in his mind of an entity that flies and cannot be identified by himself. That is to say, a thing that flies and does not know what it is.
Considering the definition that we have given, the physicist will ask: and what is the relationship between the external thing and the representation? That is, what if we are facing an error in our perception?
With this, this phenomenon would be relegated to psychology, perhaps. In addition, we continue in the same: what do we mean by a thing that flies and is not identified. I see bugs that fly and I don’t know what they are, since I didn’t grow up in the countryside, and that’s not why I call them UFOs, I don’t even call them objects. As we see, the definition is insufficient.
But perhaps the “fault” is not the UFO in this case. For the same philosophy reconsidered the relationship between external things and the mental representation regarding the word object, so we still have hope, since this is not the last definition.
Kant also used the term object preferably in this sense: as the result of “thinking” what is given in sensitive intuition, external to the subject. But later Brentano and Husserl will reconsider this conception of the object, reintroducing some of the applications and nuances that the scholastics had given to the term. Perhaps in this new, more complex and attentive appreciation, we will see what we mean when we describe the UFO as an object.
4.- THE OBJECT THAT COULD BE
In a well-known and widely quoted fragment of Ideas I, Husserl states: «In a certain way and with some caution it can also be said: “all real units in the strict sense are units of meaning”.»
Now, what does this mean? Does it mean that there is a certain element of subjectivity in the determination of what we call an object? Do you mean that the world is a kind of construction of consciousness? It is important to attend to this in detail, since with this Husserl intends to distance himself so much from realism that he does not question the interpretive dimension of experience, as of radical idealism, which reduces the world to sensations and ideas. And this, passed to the concept that we plan, presents us with an interesting path, we would not talk about an object from time to time, something physical independent of our experience, but we would not relegate it to a psychological question either.
An object, in the Husserlian sense, implies both aspects. And being so, if the UFO were an object, in this sense, we would have some information about what it is. I invite, therefore, to tear a little more about Husserl’s conception of the object. Know that for this I will take as a reference, fundamentally, the 1907 lessons of this author, published under the title Ding und Raum (Thing and Space).
Going deeper into the question, it should be remembered that with Husserl the consideration of the object refers, in the first place, to the way of giving itself (Gegebenheitsweise) of the same to consciousness. This would be that the object refers to the way in which this giving always implies an act of interpretative apprehension (Auffassung) of sensation contents.
What do I mean by it? The dimension of meaning in the object is recognized by Husserl, in the first place, when he affirms that it is not given to consciousness from a mere accumulation of sensations, but also requires an act of interpretative apprehension (Auffassung). That is to say, we cannot forget that the object is always captured by an active subject, who interprets what is presented to him, and has, not a few
From this perspective, the object is a unit of meaning that is maintained in the change of sensations. What does this mean? That what we perceive -for example, a tree- is found, according to our
position, closer or further away, the light conditions that allow us to see it are modified, the point of view from which we look at it is also modified. All this implies a change in the sensations presented to us by that object. However, this does not prevent our consciousness from apprehending it as “the same tree” that it is. In short, the capture of what we call an object through our senses, that is, the dynamics of objective apprehension, is not hindered by the change in sensations, rather the opposite, it requires it. That is, we see what we call an object in motion, from perspectives, subject to change, but we identify it as the same thing. Thus we see that when we are talking about an object we are not talking about something that is outside and we transfer it to our mind as if it were a photograph. This is not how we perceive. Rather, the moment we see an object there is something outside and our active consciousness is acting in that process. For this reason, the object is neither inside nor outside, it is in that relationship that we have with reality when we try to capture it through our senses.
I insist, that the object implies an active consciousness is not to say that it is built or elaborated by the subject. The affirmation that consciousness brings order and structure to the chaos of appearances sometimes generates confusion and misunderstandings. Consciousness, rather, constitutes a sense where in principle there are only sensations. And what happened to a hypothetical UFO encounter would be to say that there is an external stimulus to which our consciousness tries to make sense. But does he get it?
For this we must continue delving into the issue. But we can already intuit that when we talk about a supposed UFO encounter, what we are talking about, in the first place, is a perceptual experience, something that seems banal, but is not. Since perception is the object of study in fields such as physics, psychology, philosophy, optics, and an anomaly in it, it can be interesting to know the framework of how we know the world.
But let’s continue. Based on the Husserlian perspective, what we are saying is that when faced with an external stimulus, the human being has sensations that his conscience orders in search of a meaning, and that he will grant the category of object to that which remains despite the changes that occur in said sensations ( such as color, size, perspective, etc.). It should be noted in this regard that sensations, for Husserl, although we present them as qualities of the object, are not identified with them. It does not make sense, for example, to say that the green of the tree is a sensation of green or that the sensation of green can occupy a place in space.
An object can in no case be within consciousness as a content of it, in the same way that an accumulation of sensations can never constitute by itself an object of the world. That is to say, the qualities that we would grant, in this case to the UFO, are not those that form the object, nor are they an arbitrary creation of the spectator. We are talking about an active relationship between what is presented and the interpretation of those who are faced with said perceptive experience.
In short, how do we perceive an object according to Husserl? An object is perceived based on changing sensation contents, from different points of view, in varying visibility conditions.
There is, however, a consciousness of identity that arranges these diverse contents in the unity of the same object. This important Husserlian finding points to the need to study the acts of consciousness when accounting for the phenomenon of objectivity itself. Thus, the study of objects in general refers from the beginning to the study of the unity of the constituent acts of consciousness, the acts of identification and distinction.
In the words of Husserl himself, “the thing is constituted in consciousness, it is an intentionality (…) what gives meaning to it and to its being-truth.” And now, returning to the UFO case, what would it imply from this perspective to qualify it as an object? We strayed from the literal.
It is common that it is the descriptions and interpretations that we take for granted: “I have seen a physical, material spaceship.” Fine and what? Maybe it is. But the very study of perception implies understanding that we are an active subject that interprets. This is so when we look at a table, a chair, a person, why should it be less when we talk about a UFO?
We cannot, therefore, leave fields such as psychology out of the study of this type of perceptual experience, so it is necessary to incorporate a dialogue in which the intentionality of consciousness is kept in mind in this type of research. In addition, we must take something into account, what consciousness does is order (not invent) looking for a meaning to what it perceives. It is the very reason that sometimes
Let’s see clouds that remind us of elephants in the sky. We compare with
what we already know, we look for information in our memory, which
it helps us to order the sensations and, thus, we give meaning despite the change in them.
That is why, considering how our perception works, trying to define a UFO, if we accept that it is an object (since someone could also interpret at this point that it is not such), would necessarily imply asking ourselves about that interpretative meaning. And ‘since we have said that the object is a unit of meaning. What is the meaning we give to a UFO?
Be careful, this is not, what is its meaning per se, a chair has no meaning until a human being gives it to them when they are going to sit on it, but it can change meaning when we exhibit it in a museum considering it a collector’s item or a contemporary work of art, although the object remains the same.
We can then affirm that the object does not come with a prior meaning, and if so, to get to it we must start with the meaning that we give it when perceptually relating to it. Let’s do it by following the only description that we all accept of what we call UFO. Let’s continue with its initials, having accepted as a hypothesis, for the moment, a possible conception that would fit with the qualification of object, let’s look at the second characteristic that is given to it. Apparently, we are talking about flying objects.
5.- ARE YOU SURE IT FLYES?
Do they fly? Are you sure? Taking into account, according to the above, that we are facing a perceptual experience, it would be more correct to say that we interpret that they fly. And if they are planning? And if they float? Let us remember that until recently we did not understand how it was possible for animals like the bumblebee to fly, even if we knew it from direct experience.
It is not easy to understand the physical procedure of the flight, much less it can be affirmed with the naked eye. Perhaps it is more correct to say that this object is normally presented to us in the air. Or even that other times it appears on the ground, but leaves in the air. And considering that we are, hypothetically, before an object (in the Husserlian sense, if we have accepted the previous part of the argument) perhaps we can learn a little more from Husserl to know if this really has relevance.
Let us remember that we have accepted that we perceive sensations of what is outside, changing depending on the movement, the environment, etc., and that what remains despite these changes is called an object, that is, it is an object insofar as there is an external stimulus. and a subject that interprets. Consequently, the qualification of flyer is a mode of this interpretive relationship. It is a sensation, belonging to perception, that we have before what is presented. And with this I do not say that it is false. I say that we must delve into the question because it is even possible that this characteristic is not so prominent as to guide the study of this phenomenon. Something that we can begin to delve into when attending to this characteristic that we give it is that it itself implies that the UFO, as a hypothetical object, occupies a certain place in space, the aerial one.
If we pay attention to the fact that we are addressing it as a perceptive experience from the Husserlian perspective, the truth is that we can continue with Husserl himself to find out the implications of it. In the first place, it is important to point out that the perceived thing, which we call an object, is never isolated or given as a pure individuality, disconnected from any type of relationship. That is, when we look at a chair we see the wall in the background, the table next to it, etc. This is that the perceived thing, without ceasing to be a differentiated unit, always appears in the midst of an environment of things (Dingumgebung). This environment, although not specifically addressed, is also perceived. It is not possible, without mediating some kind of abstraction, to separate the perception of individual entities from this broad and complex view of a scene of objects arranged in such and such a way.
We see objects with a background, in the middle of a stage. In the same way, at least as a possible object, we would see a UFO. Let’s add that in this scenario we are as an I-Body (Ichleib) that moves, that approaches or moves away from the object, that changes its perspective. As we have already indicated.
We are, therefore, before a reality that is presented to us in foreshortenings, always partial, so that the object always has something of the unknown. But it also presents itself as a being-there that is constituted from this multiple giving of itself to perception in foreshortenings that, as such, are always foreshortenings of something, moments of a unit that contains them.
The object, then, is what it is only insofar as it unifies and systematizes such foreshortenings and possibilities. And all this is presented within a framework, a background that helps us place it on the left, on the right, above, below or, in this case, in midair. It is this background that helps us qualify the UFO as a flying object.
But so is the previous information that we use when interpreting what we have in front of us. Let’s remember, when we see a cloud we look for shapes, we can say: “it looks like an elephant”, because we know what an elephant is and our intention to interpret the world compares and gives us that information.
We can assume that when looking at a UFO the subject does the same, “it seems to fly”, because the information he has about objects that do not touch the ground remind him of other known objects when flying. Does it fly though?
The truth is that if we pay attention to the fact that the acronyms continue to allude to the fact that we do not know their nature, it is something that we cannot affirm. So, if at this point we wanted to propose a scientific investigation on this we should say: investigate objects that seem to me to fly and I don’t know what they are. It seems that we have not advanced, but the precision in the words can help us to know what we really want to investigate. Hence, the philosophical analysis of concepts is important.
However, even so, we are faced with tremendous ambiguity and, furthermore, there is still something to be noted about the background. When we describe it as a flyer, we are placing it in a place in the world.
As I have already indicated, this object is presented with a perceptual background. But it should be noted that, although the acronyms do not accept it, as the researcher José Antonio Caravaca indicated to me, the background in an encounter with this type of object presents peculiarities.
It is common for the witness who claims to have seen a UFO to say things like “the sound stopped”, “it seemed like I was in a vacuum bell”, “the birdsong disappeared”, “two hours passed and it seemed like a minute” . That is to say, the background in which the UFO apparently appears seems wrong, anomalous. Perception also involves sounds, touch… and whoever describes an encounter of this type affirms that this background has disappeared. The alleged UFO shows up breaking it. How is it possible? Is it then that it is not an object that occurs under normal conditions?
Objects are presented with a background. Look around you. No doubt. Wherever you look there is a perspective, accompanied by sounds, textures, smells… Either the UFO is not an object and we only interpret it as such, or that object is presented in an anomalous state of perception, and in a state of this type: Is it reliable that we affirm that it flies? If we don’t hear the sound, how can we make such a strong statement? The background has been lost.
At this point we must recognize that if we accept this, when we talk about a UFO we are not sure that it flies, but considering its relationship with the environment, even now we are not sure of its condition as an object, however, there is something that cannot be doubt: it is an anomalous perceptual phenomenon. However, what kind of perception is this?
Let’s use the same acronyms with which we usually define it. With this we approach a possible conclusion about this complicated term.
6.- UNKNOWN TO WHOM?
The following acronyms that make up the term UFO allude to what, in my opinion, is the fundamental question: “Unidentified”. But it is worth asking: not identified by whom? according to what theoretical framework?
Such a general statement is surprising that it generates so much interest. When I see an unknown bug, I am not saying that it is alien, but that we still have a lot to learn about nature; when I see a light explosion in the air in the middle of a storm, I am not saying that it is an intrusion of other realities, but that I am left with a lot for not knowing the storms. Why then are perceptual phenomena that occur in the air and that we are unaware of are culturally interpreted as something special, something that has required the acronym UFO? That is where we could begin to unite everything exposed to try, finally, to define what we mean by such an ambiguous concept.
If we look at what has been said with UFO, we are not talking about unknown flying objects, without more, but we are talking about the possibility of the existence of objects that are not known from the current scientific framework, and that cannot be interpreted from the present state of any of existing scientific fields. Which makes me think that more than unknown we are talking about a perceptive phenomenon of an unknown nature, which calls for an interdisciplinary dialogue and a philosophy that can unite all the foreshortenings that compose it in order to make a serious approach to the issue.
At this point, if we stop, we see how the idea of an unidentified flying object (UFO) has been transformed into that of a perceptual phenomenon of unknown nature (FPNI).
The first vision encourages you to look for things in the air, the second invites you to study stimuli that could cause an anomalous perception in the viewer that is not yet explained from the current scientific framework and, therefore, its study could imply an extension of it.
Thus, the perspectives from which they are studied would be very different. Why bet on this change? For the reasons presented, but also because it is necessary if the phenomenon is considered as it is described, especially taking into account the bell of unreality described by some witnesses, to which I have referred in the previous section, which shows that we are before an abnormal perception.
Also, what would be strange about an atmospheric phenomenon that we do not recognize, an unknown military prototype…? What really makes the UFO stand out is the experience of a viewer who refuses to give conventional meaning to that perceptual experience. That he insists on his abnormality. This being the case, let us recover the indicated base of how we perceive the world, with which we will see that this is not without importance.
We have said that following the Husserlian theory we are a subject that interprets reality. We have sensations of what is presented to us and our conscience puts order and seeks a meaning to it. Thus, despite the changes in sensation, color, perspective, situation, we call what remains an object, and we give it meaning.
But we have also said that this occurs against a background, which is abnormal in this type of experience, because it seems to break. And on the other hand, we have warned that what we call an object does not come with a meaning per se, but that we give it a meaning from our memory and human experience.
The purpose of a chair is to sit, but it changes if it is exhibited in a museum. This shows that meaning depends on the human world.
Now let’s place a supposed spectator before a perceptive experience that we usually describe as a UFO. He has a series of stimuli, sensations, the background is abnormal, and he is not able to make sense of it from his human perspective, he can only make small approximations, so he will describe it by saying: it looks like a ship, it looks like a star, it looks like a plate that flies…, he says it seems, but it is not. He fails to make sense from his human perspective. Not even to the perceptual experience in relation to his background: it seems that the birds stopped singing, it seems that he was in a bell…
At this point it should be considered that the characteristic of what we call UFO is the rupture of meaning. Not so much that it flies, or the type of object. The only common thing is that the witnesses do not give it a human meaning, that they recognize the experience as out of the ordinary, something extraordinary that appears without apparent meaning or to which they are unable to grant it.
He calls it an object in the sense that it is what his mind refers to, and insofar as his mind addresses it as such, trying to establish the perceptual relationships that it faces with the other things that are presented to it. But that relationship is broken, because the viewer, from his intention, seeks its meaning, as if asking him: what are you?, and does not find a coherent answer according to his cultural parameters. Is it for this reason that we look for extraordinary answers to these experiences: aliens, parallel worlds, angels, beings from other worlds, who depend on our culture?
Keep in mind that what in the West is described as a spaceship in another corner of the world is the visit of the spirits of our ancestors. The only thing that unites them is the attempt at an extraordinary explanation insofar as the perceptual experience is interpreted as extraordinary. In fact, this is perhaps why the concept remains despite advances in the investigation of some cases.
Sometimes something has been taken for a UFO that years later has been explained thanks to advances in meteorology, or knowledge of military prototypes. In those cases we say that, then, that experience was not a UFO, but we continue to look for UFOs as something extraordinary, not as something unknown to us, but explainable according to the conventional parameters of science.
When we refer, then, to the UFO, we are not referring to an unknown object that appears to us in the air (this could be a bug, an object that we are unaware of due to our position of ignorance, etc.) we are referring to a perceptive experience of unknown nature without obvious meaning.
It seems that this does not mean progress, but the truth is that with this we set a starting point from which to investigate it: that of perception, also elements to highlight and differentiate between this type of phenomenon and others that in the future could have an explanation. more conventional, meteorological, military, technological, etc.
In this case, we pay attention to what does not present an obvious meaning from these parameters, looking for elements in the experience that make us see a perceptual anomaly, then we will have to look for the cause of this anomaly, which interacts with the perceptive subject.
With this we invite the entry of a philosophical, psychological and physical study of the phenomenon, which goes beyond the accumulation of cases. As we can see, we are faced with the unknown, now what remains for us to ask ourselves is: if so, is any of the hypotheses that are proposed as an explanation of the phenomenon valid?
7.- THE SEARCH FOR MEANING
The truth is that answering this last question is complicated. For this, let us look at the most well-known hypothesis in the West: the extraterrestrial.
Let’s imagine that an alien ship lands tomorrow, that even the event is broadcast on television, and of course by some curious people on YouTube and social networks.
That some beings from another galaxy greet us, have been studying us and know our language. Furthermore, let’s imagine that the spaceship they land on is shaped like a flying saucer. What would we have in front of us? An alien ship in the shape of a flying saucer. Could it be an unidentified flying object? Not as soon as the alien visitors explained their technology to us. Now, would this explain all the cases that we qualify as UFOs? It is unlikely considering the diversity of the phenomenon.
Quite possibly we would continue wondering about UFOs of another nature, because if we look at the variety of anomalous aerial perceptions of this type, it is unlikely that this was the case. Thus, this case that I have proposed as an example would become like those that have sometimes been explained thanks to advances in astrophysics or meteorology. An error of interpretation, but of a very different nature from that which responds to ball lightning, for example. Which shows that the word UFO is a kind of box in which we put every object that flies and is unknown to us.
If that were the case, we would only have to wait for science to advance and begin to explain what would be perceptual errors, and in that case the word UFO would be an empty concept, like phlogiston, doomed to extinction. But what if we ask ourselves about those cases that detail anomalous perceptions? This no longer makes us search only in the sky, but in ourselves, something that some wise men who preceded us like Jung already tried.
To do this, I propose to look not at the apparently external object, but at the witness. Pay attention to the fact that we are facing a phenomenon of an unknown nature in which meaning is broken. How is it possible?
Attending to it is leaving the literalness, not looking for an object in a Cartesian sense, not even in a scholastic sense, but the possibility of a process that does not stop being natural when we experience it from our human nature. A phenomenon that in another time, was sometimes described as shamanic trance, which according to the culture is interpreted according to certain codes (which shows the active role of the spectator) and which leads us to the daemonic, perhaps, to the most hidden places of our being
I propose to turn our gaze towards the human being, with an anthropological approach beyond the accumulation of cases, undertaking a search for the meaning that escapes us. What difference does it make if it flies or not? Isn’t it more important to know its meaning, the place it occupies in human experience, its why and what for?
A philosophy willing to unite the perspectives of different disciplines can make this possible. Just as the path is what it is because of its meaning, because it is used for walking, and its definition is compatible with the descriptive discourses of science and the experience of walkers, it is possible that searching for the meaning of this phenomenon allows us a fairer definition.
For this reason, rather than giving hypotheses from the literal point of view, I invite you to attend to the possible metaphorical meanings that we find in said perceptive experience, as the witnesses of the same recount.
For the moment, rather than attending to explanations that allude to literality, such as alien or interdimensional ships, I will start looking for aerial perceptions of unknown meaning (PASI). Considering that in this term emphasis is placed on the human experience and the recognition of the lack of meaning, as a possible orientation to undertake a new perspective from which to study this issue.
Therefore, I eliminate the UFO concept because the term object invites literalness, even though it is not the characteristic that makes an object be such a thing; because the fact that it flies matters little to me; and because their non-identification opens up the spectrum of cases too much. I look for the unknown, the rupture of meaning, which occurs through a strange perceptive experience of which we do not know its purpose. And this is looking for the ins and outs of a living reality, which interacts with us, and which opens up the possibility of a new dialogue that can be interesting to engage in.
In short, this possibly translates into leaving the accumulation of cases, leaving the explanatory hypotheses that allude to some kind of materiality that is taken for granted, taking into account that we do not know much about our reality, to undertake the search for meaning based on elements as the effect that said experience provokes in the viewer. Perhaps it is a new path from which to look at a foreshortening of our reality.
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Article published in El Ojo Crítico nº 95 November 2022 Spain.
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