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Is Reality a Social Construction ?

 
 
fresco
 
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 01:11 am
blatham

Thankyou!

JLN

"God" clearly has "reality" for those who "form a relationship" with such a concept. The problem for those that don't is with their relationship with those that do, and vice versa.
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cicerone imposter
 
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 09:52 am
JLNobody, The concept of god(s) were 'created' by many cultures since recorded and oral history. Even in Egypt, some pharaohs considered themselves a god. I think the most common god for many cultures was the sun. c.i.
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blatham
 
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 10:06 am
fresco

So, stirring up trouble over here too. To have been expected. There is rather a lot that might be said on this set of issues.

As you note, language can trip us up. It even seems true to say that language MUST trip us up, being itself necessarily limited, and being the product of a limited potentiality (human mind), and because - as you suggest - language (perhaps even consciousness) seems to be possible only within a community of minds. Thus, partial apprehensions are the best we can hope for.

It is, of course, a leap to go from that position to a claim that no independent external reality can be posited at all. You won't do that, will you? I'd fight ya tooth and nail.
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Ethel2
 
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 10:39 am
returning later
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fresco
 
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 10:53 am
blatham

My thesis is that "reality" is the interaction/mutual dependence of what we call internal and external states. Neither has "existence" independently of the other. There is no "observed" without an "observer" to categorize it and define the "event window". (Berkely evoked "God" as an omniscient "observer" to get round this one)
Now given that we are social beings often using ostensibly a "common language" and a more often common "perceptual apparatus" then there will be much consensus on the nature of "external states". However, change the language, or the motivation which drives active perception then consensus breaks down.
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JLNobody
 
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 11:08 am
Blatham, I'm grateful for your challenge to Fresco; it gave him the moment to underscore a central feature of his argument (and mine as well) that there is "no INDEPENDENT external reality"--it is totally dependent on an internal observer, classifier, etc. At the same time, I want to stress the valid point YOU make, i.e., that there is "no independent INTERNAL reality". There can be no subjective mind without an objective brain (and the very notion of brain is a mind-construction) Both the objectivists-materialists and the subjectivist-idealists are wrong--or only half right. So far, in my limited experience, only the mystics have escaped from this either-or trap.
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blatham
 
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 11:12 am
fresco

We seem close, as usual. I have to run, but could you clarify one point. Your 'mutual dependence' sentence suggests an equity. That is, you may be saying that the external world is as dependent upon the presence of consciousness for its (real) existence as consciousness is dependent upon a physical universe for its emergence. It's a notion which a Hindu wouldn't argue with, and one which some physicists consider quite possible. I do too.
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JLNobody
 
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 11:16 am
social construction of reality
But it should stress, Blatham (and pardon me Fresco for reiterating your points; I know you can and do speak for yourself), that your point (the dependence of the internal on the extermal) is also Fresco's point. The mutuality or INTERdependence of the two is the point, as I understand it. The Indian philosopher, Nagarjuna, pushed this point to its extreme, thus making way for Buddhist philosophy.
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JLNobody
 
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 11:36 am
social construction of reality
Blatham, I see you were making your last response to Fresco while I was writing mine to you--my point was thus rendered virtually redundant. Nevertheless, I want to stress that the mutuality of internal and external is more than a simple mutuality, in the sense of a two-way or dialectical relationship between two essentially independent dimensions. They are really two sides of the same dimension. This is why it is so hard to talk about this aspect of reality. They are not distinct variables about which we can conduct experimental or analytical manipulations. The issue is, as I suggested, a mystical one. Philosophically we can point up the problem, as Fresco has, but the solution must be "acquired" at a different level of experience.
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fresco
 
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 12:37 pm
blatham

"Equity" seems to be philosophically problematic as the "transcendent observer" of mutual dependence seems to imply that "consciousness" has a priori status, and consciousness is generally conceived as a species of "internal state". However, the "quantum consciousness" movement is based in part on the idea that consciousness exhibits similar properties to some "physical" phenomena which seem to defy specific locality in space-time. In this sense, then "equity" may be valid, bearing in mind that normal logic based on simplistic "causality" is forfeit.
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Ethel2
 
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 02:16 pm
OK, you guys, this is very interesting.

Fresco,

If you are saying that neither subjective thought nor objective could not exist without each other, i.e. they are mutually dependent or interdependent, then I agree with you. Because a belief in the existence of absolute truth, or pure objectivity is required in order to support a belief in subjective truth. As you bring up "practical matters," let's take science as an example. In science, as you point out, we settle for "less than certainty." As a matter of fact, if we do not allow questions of the certainty of a theory to be asked, we have only dogma and no science at all. But if we do not believe in an ultimate or absolute truth, an independent external reality, as Blatham says, then there is no basis for the search for knowledge. Is this what you're saying?
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Setanta
 
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 02:21 pm
Sorry if this offends anyone, but this is a lot of tail-chasing here. Given that so many people so many times have "discovered" and described identical physical phenomena, as simple as the existence of an island in the ocean, or as complex as a replicable empirical experiment, i cannot take seriously any contention that reality has no existence independent of our ability to perceive it. Cultural conditioning cannot explain it--the Chinese Admiral who "discovered" Madegascar found it in exactly the same location as Europeans who "discovered" the island. While this is all very interesting, it's awfully egocentric, without my intending to cast aspersions on the character of those posting.
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Ethel2
 
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 04:28 pm
Thank you, Setanta for sharing. I also feel some impatience with social constructivist theory. In science a theory can be functionally considered to be a fact if it has stood up to replication over time.
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fresco
 
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 05:33 pm
O.K So the challenge is "what" is it that is discovered, and how come "the same discovery" is made by different seekers?

IMO if I define reality as the interaction of the internal and external there is no reason to assume interaction routes are arbitrary. The "genetic epistemology" I advocate can follow a "natural route" just like a river follows the countours of a landscape. And what determines the course of "the river" ? Does the water carve the route or is the route determined by the landscape ? It is a mutual interaction subject to "natural constraints". In the Piagetian sense "intelligence" is "that which structures" and the "that" does not need to be person specific. We are mutually contributing to and sharing "knowledge" and any one of us can be in the particular state of perceptual set which is "required" to make "a discovery".

And indeed what is "same" as in "same result" or "same discovery" or even "same person"? We are assuming a state of equality or permanence within incessant flux. I claim that such assumptions have only "functional significance", and no objective reality. Note that trivially ANY two items are logically "different" (because there are two) and "similar" (because we have selected them). Hence the claim for "similarity" can only be for a particular purpose, which may have social consensus. There are many interesting anthropological anecdotes to illustrate this point. (Azande concept of different "waters" for example). BTW the "same person" issue is well illustrated by my previous courtroom example of "whether X was in his right mind".i.e. we allow for the possibility that X was not the "true X" that normally occupies "the body of X" ....or the X that pulled the trigger could be "different" from the X that could be assigned FUNCTIONAL EQUALITY with members of the class of "guilty persons"
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fresco
 
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 06:13 pm
BTW

Setanta I think misses the point that unless the Chinese Admiral INTERACTS with the European Admiral, or with some mutual third party, then the "sameness" of their discoveries is meaningles. Similarly "same location" assumes a common reference system.
(Compare the celebrated debate over the "discovery" of Venus being "both" the "morning star" and "the evening star")
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Setanta
 
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 06:47 pm
That "meaninglessness" only applies to those who must have the evidence of their senses affirmed for them by consensus. I go along with Samuel Johnson on this one, when he advises the metaphysician who doubts the evidence of his senses to begin each day by stubbing his foot against a stone . . . You might contend that it is only by our interaction that we confirm the existence of the stone, but i guarantee you i will not be "feeling your pain," regardless of the current popularity of empathetic relationships . . .
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cicerone imposter
 
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 07:36 pm
I wonder if Einstein's relativity theory puts him in a league beyond most humans ability to understand reality? c.i.
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blatham
 
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 09:09 pm
Setanta

I truly understand your skepticism here. But there are aspects to language and to consciousness (such as fresco points to) which do seem to parallel a quantum view rather than a newtonian view. If I was less tired this evening, I'd try making the case. If you can get hold of the September issue of Scientific American, a special issue on time, it poses some related questions.
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JLNobody
 
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Reply Sun 1 Dec, 2002 12:47 pm
social construction of realityI'
I've been away since last Wednesday and will return in a couple of days. I've just had a glimpse at the discussion and find it fascinating. Can't wait to be able to participate again.
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Setanta
 
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Reply Sun 1 Dec, 2002 08:42 pm
BLatham, i undestand that point, i just reject its validity. That's why i used the term "tail-chaing" . . . and genuinely not wishing to belittle or offend . . .
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