Hands

The claim I will be defending is that I have hands. This is an important claim and belief that is very dear to me — truth be told, I do much of my work with what I believe to be my hands. In the interest of conserving space, I will not examine this claim piecemeal, i.e., by proving the existence of the self (“I”), arguing property rights (“have”), or by arguing that there are such things as “hands,” onto-epistemologically. I will say upfront that my investigation is not purely reason-based or a priori, and is therefore subject to all reasonable objections to combining reason and material experience as a method for evaluating the particular claim that I have hands (e.g., the verification principle).

I have several reasons for believing that I have hands. First, however, I will address some potential concerns with the idea that I have hands: Examined closely, the specific actualizations of my hands are subject to change, and frequently, especially due to the temporary nature of the epidermis and the fact that organic creatures and their prehensile appendages are typically subject to cycles of growth and decay, and that these processes are largely outside their willful control. I must concede that some of the secondary properties of my hands are mutable and automatic, but this does not disprove their existence, their responsiveness to my will, their relation to my central person (i.e. my body), or their singular connection to my sense experience; these things constitute, perhaps, the phenomenological essence of those appendages which are the referential object of the term “my hands.”

These concerns and potential objections aside, some of the specific reasons I have for believing that I have hands are as follows: I am currently typing with prehensile appendages located at the end of a pair of arms. I am experiencing the effect of their actions in the form of sensory feedback (e.g. the tapping of keys and words appearing on-screen in my word processor, the experience of texture). When I will these prehensile appendages to move in a particular direction or perform a particular action, they do so, to the degree of dexterity that I have trained myself to possess. This I can prove by example, if necessary. If another person wills them to move, they do not respond. It therefore follows that these prehensile appendages are hands, and that they are mine.

These reasons are not only grounded in evidence, proof, or fact, but they are such. Prehensile appendages at the end of arms below the wrist can only be hands. Hands organically attached to me that I move through will alone can only be my hands. When I will them to act, I experience sensory feedback, sensory feedback which is relayed to no one but me — this would not occur if these were not my hands. The statement “I have hands” is therefore reasonable and defensible.

My belief can be evaluated deductively. The argument in favor of the conclusion that I have hands seems to be both valid and sound. I am aware that my argument rests – at least partially – on my having arms, although I have attempted to circumvent this valid contention by defining hands as prehensile appendages at the end of arms (not merely my arms), and deductively proving that an ability to directly exert will over their movement and receive tactile, sensate feedback causes them to be considered my hands, rather than their attachment to what I do indeed consider to be my arms.

For these reasons and based on these arguments, I consider the belief or claim that I have hands to be justified and true. As reasoned, it should also be considered an objective belief, as the premises would not vary from person to person insofar as they refer to an experience common to all people who employ will to control their prehensile appendages.

My belief is not an opinion because there is no room for reasonable uncertainty or alternative explanations if my arguments are well-reasoned, nor is it based on faith, although I understand that it is based upon certain metaphysical and epistemological assumptions regarding the nature of being, ownership, will, and knowledge.

My belief is actually acceptable, and further, actionable, because I have justified reasons, good evidence, and sound reasoning, as outlined above.

As a philosopher, academic, and iconoclast, one should wonder at my pretensions to critical thinking if I could not adequately defend a claim as elementary and apparently self-evident as “I have hands.” As an aspiring functional and stable person, however, one should wonder at my pretensions to sanity and reasonableness if I should move through life in this way — if I should claim to genuinely live in the mode of skepticism, or even if I should comport myself in a pedantic and overly critical manner.

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