1. Raven
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    Raven Banned

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    What Is Reality?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Raven, Sep 5, 2008.

    Reality is the actual physical universe that we exist in. The universe is the way it is regardless of how we perceive it to be. See Is there more than our five senses? A truth is a truth, it doesn't require that you believe it is true to be so. Perception, however, is how we as individuals, translate that reality into information that we can use in order to relate to the external world. In other words, we all have our own personal version of reality that we carry around in our heads, and are totally unable to relate to any other persons version of reality, or them to ours. But it doesn't change reality.

    Sad isn't it, that I will never know how my wife perceives the dozen red roses I give her on our wedding anniversary; to her they may be what I would describe as yellow. I wonder what they smell like to her? Does she hear the Atlantic rollers crashing onto the beach the same way that I do? or Beethoven's Fifth? When I hold her hand, how does it feel to her? I will never know. We can never know what anyone else in the world is feeling, seeing, hearing, smelling or tasting.

    We are, each of us, in our perception of the world, both unique and totally alone.

    There is absolutely no possible way for us to communicate to one another how we each perceive the world. My world, the one that my brain has processed from the input from my five senses, is in all probability very different to your world. We can both look at a red rose and agree that it is a red rose, but that's just putting a handy label on an object, it does not convey anything at all about our perception of it.

    Is there more than our five senses are telling us?

    Or are we missing something?

    We are of course all familiar with the fact that we possess five senses. We can detect by touch, taste, sight, smell and sound. Thats it, there isn't any other way for us to detect the environment around us. Evolution has decreed that we can get by with these five. Well, yes we can, but it would improve our survival chances if we had more.

    Suppose for example we were able to detect when we were in a deadly radiation field, I think that would be quite handy, a sense that enabled us to detect radiation. I'm not talking about detecting it with the senses that we have, such as being able to see radiation for example, but a new sense organ that would require a new description of how it detected.

    It's difficult, if not impossible, to imagine a new sense, we can only think only in the terms of the five we have, but try a new way of looking at things. Try to imagine that we had another organ for detection, and in the same way that we have eyes for sight, this new organ detects something that we were previously completely unaware of.

    Try and imagine that we could detect the presence of a completely silent and odourless ambient temperature remote object in a dark room. With our usual five senses we couldn't, but with our new one we can. No, not by echo location such as a bat would use, thats just using sound and hearing, but a completly new method. We can detect it because its there. I'm not even talking about getting a picture of it in our heads by whatever means, this is different, a new awareness. We just know its there. This is a bit like attempting to explain colour to someone who was born sightless, but I'm sure you follow the idea.
     
  2. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    You might enjoy The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks, a neurologist who studies perception, memory, and understanding, especially when related to traumatic brain damage and the strange deficits or alterations that may occur.

    He recently came out with another book in a similar vein, An Anthropologist on Mars, which deals less with damaged brains and more with syndromes and disorders that affect perception, such as Autism and colorblindness.
     
  3. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    Just for the record. This was totally My idea (A thread about Reality that is :p).

    A very well put together explaination of reality Raven. I do feel however that you've completely left out the most important part of preception. Everything on the earth has the sense (One or more or all of them). However I doubt a wolf will look at a tree without its leaves and wonder why the tree is that way. it will feel that the air is cold and know what when it gets cold the leaves go away but it won't know why when it gets cold the leaves go away nor will it ask itself the question. It just registers that that is how it is and moves on (At best).

    You've left out Sentience. The ability to acknowledge ones self and the world around them and ask why. Its the dividing line between humans and the rest of earth's creatures. The senses are the tools by which we take in information but it is the sentient mind that gives all those things a meaning. The senses are not preception itself.

    I would also say your definition of truth is debatable. Is a truth a truth even if you don't acknowledge it? Lets say that the top score for a game of Mario Brothers is 3000. Well it would be a true statement then that you can never score higher than 3000. well, lets say i hack the game code and up the max score to 30000. Well your truth just became false. Sure there are universal constants (That for the most part would be true), but who's to say we can't go around them (Thus making them to some degree false)? So what if I cheated. I got a score above 3000, so 3000 is no longer the highest possible score (Just the highest fair score). Then again maybe I'm splitting hairs :p.
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Ahem!

    *clears throat*


    I do believe this was originally a joint discussion. :rolleyes:
     
  5. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    Well I call dibs :p.

    But yeah it was joint (I still call dibs XD). I probably would have discussed more but Raven pretty much hit most of my ideas on he head so there wasn't much point in repeating them (Other than to clarify my view on sentience which i felt was a little underplayed and to mention the truth thing).

    Care to add anything :).
     
  6. Raven
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    Raven Banned

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    Topic folks.[​IMG]
     
  7. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    Personally, I think reality is just synthetic.
    Like this is a game and someone is controlling us.
    It literally feels that way. I believe we have a six sense, but this six sense comes from the person controlling us.
    Kinda like the video game the Sims. The more and more I think about the more and more I think every video game is a real life.
    And that our reality is made as puppets and master.
     
  8. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    If I look at a rose and call it red, and look at a carnation and call it yellow, then I am alone. If someone else looks at a rose and calls it red, and looks at a carnation and calls it yellow, they are alone.

    If we talk to one another, and discover that we both see red roses and yellow carnations, then we are no longer alone. We have circumstantial evidence for external reality. Even if my friend has a perceptual problem, and sees yellow as what I would call green, and red as what I would call purple, they still see them consistently. The fact that we can look at an object and agree that it is red (whether or not we're actually receiving precisely the same interpretation from our brains) is in itself evidence of objective reality.

    Does it PROVE anything? No. Just like a trail of cookie crumbs and greasy hands on a five year old doesn't PROVE who actually took the cookies out of the jar.

    Does it MATTER if I perceive red as a bright crimson and you perceive it as a dim purple?

    Not in any meaningful way.

    Now, understanding the mechanisms of perception IS important both for practical and theoretical medical purposes, and Dr. Sacks did a lot of work in that field. In that situation, differences in perception would become very relevant, as the attempt is to understand how a wavelength of light is translated into our mental image of a color, both the mechanisms and their locations within the brain. However, this is a fairly specialized endeavor. For day to day life, who really cares? So long as external reality seems to remain consistent from person to person and day to day, then it seems to me to be very foolish to treat it as anything other than "reality," that is to say, "that which truly exists."
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, I would….

    I just got off of a call where a young, poor female client was being interviewed for food and financial assistance during her pregnancy. One of the questions was:

    “Do you have any goals for your pregnancy?”

    The young mother did not understand the question. Having fielded many calls like this, I know that the answer being sought is a rather abstract one. Whoever wrote this list of questions was in a position to be able to think about things like:

    I would like to have my baby via natural childbirth
    I would like my baby to weigh blankity-blank pounds when she is born.
    I would like to have a girl
    Etc.

    What the client answered was, “I would like my baby to live.”

    The person doing the interview was frustrated at what she considered to be a non sequitur response and continued pressing the question, eventually questioning my interpretation skills.

    The mother being interviewed of course had the intelligence to understand the question, but her reality would preclude an understanding of so abstract a set of expected responses. For her the only logical goal for her pregnancy is for her baby to survive. Everything past that, given the reality of her reality, is just abstract coffee talk. Nonsense. She was just as frustrated as the person doing the interview and for the same reason.

    These two people were viewing the world from two very different viewpoints on reality, each considering the other's take on things to be somewhat absurd.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Does reality exist apart from perception? Can something exist if it cannot be perceived through direct or indirect means (this gets into theology, i.e. does God exist?)

    At the other end of the continuum, does the notion that I perceive reality even prove that I exist? Or is "Cogito ergo sum" also a leap of faith?

    Can the Universe all be a conceptualization from a viewpoint with no physical existence?

    I have for many years been fascinated by this idea, and yet I have no notion as to how to disprove it, or even if it is theorretically possible to disprove it.
     
  11. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    Whereas I find Wreybies' question to be interesting and worth exploring. What does it mean when our constructed realities - the social and political and economic world in which we live - don't match up to physical reality? What does it mean when a person forced to deal with reality on a more primitive level - "I want my baby to live" - is encountered by someone for whom that level of reality is automatically assumed to have been dealt with and swept under the perceptual carpet? Clashes of the realities we construct interests me.

    Questions about the Ultimate Nature of Reality? I don't care. They can't ever be proven one way or the other, so why bother worrying about whether I really exist? I feel like I exist, and that's enough for me to get on with my life. In the end, it doesn't affect much of anything. This isn't the Matrix, where we can take a pill and suddenly see The Truth. (In fact, this is probably why I reacted so negatively to the Matrix, even before the lackluster sequels; that movie was very concerned with Ultimate Truth and the Layers of Illusion.)

    I'm with Samuel Johnson on this one.

    *bangs on the pub table*
     
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  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The Universw is just a fantastically complex quantum wave phenomenon. Matter is an illusion.

    But the beer still tastes like beer. :)
     
  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    In my line of work, I am the proverbial fly on the wall. I peek into snapshots of people’s lives that are not on TV, not subject to media exploitation. These are real life situations that always, because of the nature of my work, include the coming together of peoples from different cultures.

    It surprises me how often we (the greater we) live inside only our little craniums. I remember studying in sociology a concept called theory of mind, wherein is described the moment (around 3 1/2, 4 years of age) we suddenly have a secular epiphany that makes us aware that others around us are separate from us and have their own knowledge, wishes, desires, and impulses apart and distinct from ourselves.

    It seems to me sometimes that this theory of mind becomes degraded with time and with the level of complexity that we face in society. People become perhaps numb to the idea that individuals are separate and may very well have completely different responses to stimuli, or may have the same responses, but for utterly different reasons.

    We may be as different, one from the other, as a dog is from a fish.

    We become encapsulated in our inner sense of the world around us. I understand the argument that says, “Well, I can only perceive the universe from my little corner, so of course I am encapsulated in my version of what is going on.” But still I am forced to ask, if a four year old can make such a quantum leap of perception, why not we as adults?
     
  14. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    That would explain why I can't remember anything prior to my fourth birthday XD. Interesting that that overlaps with the common appearance of the "Why Phase" of a child's life where they begin asking massive numbers of questions about how things work and why.
     
  15. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I used to belive life is an optical illusion, I now however, think it is a cultural illusion.
    Reality to me is what I can see, smell and feel.
     
  16. Yukarangz
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    Yukarangz New Member

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    Reality is what we perceive it to be. Life within modern culture and life outside it are as different as... well, as trees and television sets. Modern culture dictates reality, it tries to force us to see things in one way, even if the truth is quite different.

    A friend of my father had an interesting theory:

    The first time we see a tree is the last time we see one. We look but don't really see or notice the unique aspects of everyday things. Our brain narrows the window of perception as we grow, to those things we are taught to respect or have interest in. It edits out the detail because to process every tiny, irrelevant thing would get in the way of established routines. In short, our brains are lazy, partly because we never need to stretch them any more. We rely on comfortable familiarity so much that when change happens too gradually we fail to notice.

    Reality is purest when you're a child, because you have yet to form these images and you have no preconceptions. It's all downhill from there.

    Meh... it's just a theory, anyway. :p I'm not sure what to make of it, myself. I focus on the things that are real to me, and if other people want to call me mad, let them!
     
  17. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    Your father was, consciously or un-, referring to the theory of schema, first officially proposed in 1926, but dates all the way back to Plato and his notion of the Ideal form.
     
  18. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm of the opinion that reality is reality no matter how you percieve it. It is independant of us and how we philosophise about it. I also think that it is what it looks like for the most part, just that there are layers of complexity that are not obvious on the surface.
     
  19. Eoz Eanj
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    Eoz Eanj Contributing Member Contributor

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    Welcome to metaphysics

    where everything exists as an idea.
     
  20. Raven
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    An yet the conception of that Idea is so very different to everyone and yet in some strange sense we see the same thing but not in the same context.
     
  21. Eoz Eanj
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    Eoz Eanj Contributing Member Contributor

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    The thread should've been given a definition of existence, or rather, been named, 'the nature of existence', because really we can't debate about anything if we're yet to define what it is we're debating on. Although so, it seems we're all going for the definition that existence is defined in terms of actuality- the 'actual presence' of something- which you'd find, inspite of what Raven suggests, is an exact, or very similar shared experience we have with each other (by 'we' I'm referring to the people of the western world, just to clear that potential contextual misunderstanding up).

    For example, if I went up to a chair and asked Raven, 'what is this?' and he answered me, 'A chair', then obviously we've come to an agreement as to what something is. Although so, we've got to ask ourselves, what does the question mean, 'what is this?' The simple answer. 'a chair' is usually the best answer in any case, however, if we go further to debate, what makes up a chair ect we'll always find ourselves in a sticky situation when we realise that we're too often using the chair's function as criteria for its existence (which is misleading, because heaps of things have the same function as a chair).

    The 'what is' question is where we often get caught up in trivialities, like, function, use, appearance and whatnot, when really, none of these things have anything to do with what something is. Going back to the chair, the simple answer to 'what is a chair' is that it is an idea. It is a concept taught to us by our parents and guardians when we were growing up- and this is true, because if you were to teach any child that a spoon were a fork and a fork a spoon, then that is what those objects would be. This is the same with reality, 'what is reality?', reality is an idea- it's that simple. The 'nature of reality', perhaps could lead into some debate, but even then, we'd too often find ourselves being lead back to the conclusion that reality exists as an idea.
     
  22. ChimmyBear
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    ChimmyBear Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay...in keeping with a completely Chim point of view...I am not reading the responses past Cog's response on page one.

    I love these kind of discussions because there is no right answer, only fantastic points of view. My thinking is this...

    It's kinda like the Ocean, when I am standing in front of it, the mighty power it possesses is awesome. Nothing roars quite like it, nothing can move me the way it does..it compels me to splash in its waves, feel of its cool water, and yet makes me feel completely small in the grand scheme of all things created. I am always humbled by it.

    When I am not standing in front of it, watching it move upon the shore line, does that make its reality any less real? I think, No, it is constantly roaring and moving, even if I am unable to watch it with my own eyes. It might be experienced differently by another, but its reality is sure.
     
  23. Raven
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    Raven Banned

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    Heres a question. Sound. when we hear a whistle do we all hear the same sound or is that sound different to each of us. Like a dog barking do we hear the same function of his noixe and words though we understand the language are we hearing the same words.
     
  24. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    Logically and analytically yes we are. But there is always the unknown fact we can't read one another's minds so who knows. That sound wave is the same through out. If you think about it, our preceptions are not just shaped by our minds but by the preceptions of those around us. Ask your parents what color a rose is and they say red. Well know you agree with them, the rose is red.

    It can be assumed that because we are so interdependent on one another for understanding things as we learn and grow that we are all precieving the same things in very similar ways. But then again thats just logical flow and we still can't read each others minds.

    Its a question that can't really be answers.
     
  25. ChimmyBear
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    ChimmyBear Contributing Member Contributor

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    You know Raven, I guess the sound waves are scientific, but what our ears are hearing could be perceived differently, one individual to the next. I could hear a coaches whistle, my friend could think it's the alarm next door...BTW~true story :)

    We can hear the neighbors children yelling out from their fenced backyard. I might hear them "arguing", you might think they are in "pain, scared, and needing help". The reality is they are playing in the pool...and only their voices can be heard across the street.

    Our minds have tricked us, but we were so "sure". ;)
     

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