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Is Reality a Social Construction ?

 
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Feb, 2009 01:15 pm
@Cyracuz,
Smile.
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Feb, 2009 09:10 am
@JLNobody,
Smile back.
0 Replies
 
curtis73
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2009 01:52 am
I like to take it a step further. I'm by no means a solipsist, but on its most base level, reality can only be experienced by the individual; therefore, reality is (in my opinion) simply an individual's cognitive reconciliation of:
-the sum of all recorded and retained sensory input
-that input processed and congeled into individual truth
-then that individual truth being reinforced or refuted by further input.

The social aspect of reality is simply a community of individuals finding commonalities with their experiences. The situations in which common beliefs are found, you form bonds, friendships, support groups, or political parties. The situations in which those common beliefs are not found you form debates, arguments, fights, and wars.

For the most part we all agree on certain things; laughter is fun, poop smells bad, illness is to be avoided. But, on other topics we can only suspect that our experiences are the same. Most normally-functioning human bodies know what it feels like when you have to urinate, what it feels like to touch something hot, or what the color green looks like, but since we cannot step into one another's bodies, the true reality of what those REALITIES are like for another person are not fully comprehensible to the global community. We can only assume that those sensations are the same for everyone. But if you could step into someone else's body, you might wet yourself because the urination triggers feel different, you might run red lights because they look green to you, and roses might smell like poop....

Which brings up another murky discussion... do roses smell good because they smell like roses, or do they smell good because society has agreed that they smell good? Dogs exist without a language society and they freely and actively smell poop all day, but could care less about roses.

So my question is... isn't it possible that (although our individual realities are vastly different) we have all conformed to society's reality in most aspects?

So many times people view the societal norms as reality, and deviations from that reality exist as varying levels of abnormality. I look at it a different way. We are all given our individual reality based on how our individual brains work. How well we conform dictates our societal success. When one person breaks out and says they're gay, or psychic, or marxist, we dismiss their reality since it doesn't fit our own... but I think its just that their reality doesn't fall within the 80% of the bell curve and we therefore don't believe that it could be possible. After all, society exists within that 80% bell curve.

I don't buy it. Society conforms to that 80% bell curve. I'll stay on the 10% of the bell curve that gets dismissed most of the time. I like my reality Smile
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2009 08:45 am
@curtis73,
Quote:
reality is (in my opinion) simply an individual's cognitive reconciliation of:
-the sum of all recorded and retained sensory input
-that input processed and congeled into individual truth
-then that individual truth being reinforced or refuted by further input.


A key issue is how such "reconciliation" operates. If it operates via "language" which is a socially aquired segmentation of reality then " individual reality" is a subset of "social reality".
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2009 11:13 am
@fresco,
It's always influenced by language and culture; that's what I meant when I said our reality must include environment and gene. Gene because the chemistry in our brain as a consequence of who our parents were can make a difference.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Feb, 2009 03:05 am
@cicerone imposter,
Apologies for a belated reply.

We need to consider what Ryle called making a "category mistake" when we bring chemistry and biology into cognitive concepts. It is a truism that individuals "differ" in their physiology, but to argue that this implies differences in their "perception of reality" is another matter. For example two "universities" could have entirely different physical structures yet be engaged in "the same" degree courses such that the students of the one could sit the examinations of the other with no evidence of their differential locations. If on the other hand the physical facilities of one of the universities impeded or enhanced the learning of its students with respect to the other such that "information processing" was altered, then that might show in the examination results. However, there would be no isomorphism between a particular physical attribute of the institution and particular contents of cognition.
Terry
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Feb, 2009 08:33 am
@curtis73,
I agree that we are often judged on how well we conform to society's dictates, and so many people practice the appearance of conformity while refusing to allow society to dictate their thoughts. Die Gendanken Sind Frei.

Synesthesia (seeing numbers as colors, for instance) is one example of how biology determines our perceptions of reality.

I think a lot of our reaction to odors is socially determined. People may like foods and smells they grew up with even though those things may evoke disgust in other cultures.

Dogs may dislike the odor of poop but override it in order to gain vital information about other animals in the neighborhood. Our aversion to poop, vomit, and such may serve to protect us from contact with germs, parasites and poisons they may contain.

0 Replies
 
Terry
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Feb, 2009 08:36 am
@fresco,
Quote:
I intend as perhaps my final comments to you on this thread to remind you of the paradigm which works (=truth in your parlance) for me aspects of which I have gleaned from far greater minds than mine. With the exception of No.1 which is held by all non-dualists, some or all of these ideas are held by many others.

1. Observer and observed are inseparable. Existence of the one requires existence of the other.
2. Language , the social currency, shapes "reality".
3. "Self" is evoked by the grammatical requirements of language.
It is a "subject" among subjects.
4. The conceptual qualities of "self" and those of "external reality" mutually change and redefine each other.
5. Language serves the cognitive impulse to predict and control by embodying "concepts" as "words" whose apparent permanence gives the illusion of an "objective reality".
6. "Knowledge" is an expression of confidence in predicting the outcomes of relationships. Such relationships are bound to "concepts" not objective things.

I do not claim this list is exhaustive or fully self-consistent. I do claim that it is an advance in our understanding of the term "reality". Such understanding may come at the price of dropping some of our views about ourselves and our concerns with "ultimate truth"


1. True in the strictly grammatical sense. What prevents an un-observed universe from existing before conscious entities evolved to observe it? Where else might the observers have come?

2. Agreed that language can affect the “perception” of reality by human beings. How can language/consensus change physical things such as impending hurricanes, diseases, and drought? Agreed that it can change how we react to them, but in what sense can it change what I would consider the material world? What sort of shaping are we talking about here; for instance, could you and your social group eliminate AIDS simply by agreeing that it doesn’t exist? If so, why is there so much human misery in the world?

3. I would say rather that we invented words to communicate the sense of self that most of us experience. What sort of “self” might be experienced by animals without words for it?

4. If we make that “perceptions” of external reality, I agree. Our experiences in life change us (by modifying the wiring in our brains), and that in turn changes how we view the world.

5. Why do you suppose that we invented concepts and words for things if there were no objective reality to evoke those words and concepts?

6. Agreed that our minds create concepts of people/things and relate to their concept rather than the objective thing. Many relationships go bad because the concepts (knight on a white horse, for instance) have little correspondence with the actual object of their fantasies.

So how does this paradigm work for you in everyday life? Do you choose what happens to you, such as cancer or losing much of the value of your retirement funds in the stock market? Obviously there is no social consensus about which lottery numbers should come up, but how are such things ultimately decided?
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Feb, 2009 09:27 am
@Terry,
1. The question is meaningless. YOU are observing that "unobserved universe" in your mind's eye.
2. "Physicality" is an aspect of relationship not a "property of things". It for example involves concepts of groups molecules being impeded by other groups of molecules. But group membership is temporary and relative to the observers lifespan and intentions.
3. Impossible to answer. Probably none.
4. We seem to agree.
5. The origins of language are obscure. Since man is a social animal, group activities were presumably accompanied by convergent vocalizations which came to re -present aspects of those activities. (Note "re-present" implies triggered internal reliving of the activity).
6. We seem to agree.

In general such philosophy has little impact on common-sense notions of an objective reality except perhaps in a therapeutic capacity. However, to take the pension fund case which has had some impact on my personal circumstances, I needed to revue my "expectancies", i.e. my relationships. In other words "I" changed. As regards the lottery,
there is obviously social agreement about "physical events" in sofar that the range of possible descriptions of events (1 to 49) has already been anticipated. Note that "anticipation" is a prerequisite to "meaningful observation" as in boundary physics.


Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Feb, 2009 09:36 am
@fresco,
I see the cunning linguists are still aplenty.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Feb, 2009 09:50 am
@Lightwizard,
A feller or two I used to know would have given more detailed answers ! Wink
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Feb, 2009 09:59 am
@fresco,
fresco, What I was trying to imply was that chemistry in the brain can change the observers thinking that we may consider out of the "norm." Look at homosexuals and individuals who feel their body is the wrong gender. Some chemistry in the brain has altered their thinking. Some people go into depression for no outward reasons. These kind of chemical differences in the brain can greatly alter their lives.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Feb, 2009 10:48 am
@cicerone imposter,
Agreed, but "gender identity" is only "an issue" within particular social environments... compare with Ancient Greece for example. Similarly "madness" is seen by some cultures as evidence of "communication with a spirit world"...the psychotic becomes the medicine man.

Both of these are macro-examples how society "deals with" statistical variants.
Explanations of the commonality of the micro-experience are perhaps more of a challenge.
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Feb, 2009 10:55 am
@fresco,
That may be so, but the individual goes through mental anguish most often than not based on their personal observation of society at large.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Feb, 2009 11:03 am
@cicerone imposter,
ci
One therapeutic solution to the "mental anguish" is for the sufferer to understand that internal states fluctuate such that self1 will alternate with self2 etc, (giving reality1, reality2 etc) . It is the misguided belief that "self" ought to be an integrated self-constent unity exacerbate the anguish.
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Feb, 2009 11:08 am
@fresco,
Yes, but how many of us are capable of such "independence?"
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Feb, 2009 11:19 am
@cicerone imposter,
...hopefully those who who are pointed to the right material are in with a chance.
It would seem to be a phenomenon of "Western Culture" which has solved the problems of daily existence and has the dubious luxury of choice of modus vivendi.
0 Replies
 
dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Feb, 2009 03:06 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

"To the metaphysician who doubts his senses, i recommend that he begin each day by stubbing his foot against a rock . . . "

(Or words very much to that effect -- Samuel Johnson.)


I've been looking for this quote high and low, but can't locate it. Do you know any more details - which book maybe, or what occassion did he say this at?

I'm pushed by my editor towards what i think is a rather extreme deconstructivism on ethnic identity/collective memory (groups don't really exist, collective memory is neither collective, nor memory) - which (deconstructivism) is useful to some degree, but at some point it becomes a useless academic self-endulgment (if that's a word)... so i need to sneak a quote of this sort in there...a reality check.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Feb, 2009 03:29 am
@dagmaraka,
Dagmarka,

Speaking of rocks and social reality, did you come across reports of those South Sea Islanders who assign title to large immoveable rocks and use them as as currency ? Presumably this avoids inflation suffered by caraway shell economies !

Seriously though , Wink , "reality" is always "reported on" with socially aquired linguistic categories based on common physiology and cultural need. The blind man who collides with a "lamp-post" may not know how to make such a report to a sighted man. In a "blind world" there would of course be no lamp-posts, but who is to say there would be "rocks"...perhaps only "hard things" and "soft things". (I am reminded here of the Hopi having two words for different kinds of "water" etc). And as Kuhn implied by his analysis of "scientific paradigms" ,
Quote:
shifting transactional reporting
about "reality" is all we have access to, and that reporting is about relative permanence with respect to our ephemeral existence.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Feb, 2009 03:38 am
@fresco,
Dagmarka,
(LAST POST RE_EDITED)
Speaking of rocks and social reality, did you come across reports of those South Sea Islanders who assign title to large immoveable rocks and use them as as currency ? Presumably this avoids inflation suffered by caraway shell economies !

Seriously though , "reality" is always "reported on" with socially aquired linguistic categories based on common physiology and cultural need. The blind man who collides with a "lamp-post" may not know how to make such a report to a sighted man. In a "blind world" there would of course be no lamp-posts, but who is to say there would be "rocks"...perhaps only "hard things" and "soft things". (I am reminded here of the Hopi having two words for different kinds of "water" etc). And as Kuhn implied by his analysis of "scientific paradigms" , all we have access to is shifting transactional reporting about "reality" , and that reporting is about relative permanence with respect to our ephemeral existence.
 

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