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Is Reality a Social Construction ?

 
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Dec, 2002 08:29 pm
Don't you think we all have our own, subjective, realities? My perception of something IS my reality. Somebody else seeing the same thing may perceive it differently, but it's still their reality, isn't it? We all come with our own baggage, abilities, and skills, which influences how we perceive things. My perception may be wrong, but it's still my reality. Most of us have limited knowledge in many things. It limits our ability to correctly conceptualize what is truth, but it doesn't change our perception of it - until we are educated or somehow come across people most knowledgeable about the subject brings it to our attention. Even then, we may remain skeptical about what is being proclaimed to be the truth. c.i.
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Ethel2
 
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Reply Mon 2 Dec, 2002 08:39 pm
Yes, c.i., but our own truth is still only a truth. All individual truths are subjective. Truth is different from objective or subjective. It implies no observer at all.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Dec, 2002 09:19 pm
Lola, Without any observer, it doesn't make any difference. c.i. Wink
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Ethel2
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Dec, 2002 09:45 pm
It only makes a difference to those of us who strive toward it, but can never see it completely
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fresco
 
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Reply Tue 3 Dec, 2002 01:09 am
c.i. hits the spot when he says "without an observer there is no difference".

Consider the modern consensus that "the Earth orbits the Sun". For most practical purposes we "live by" the reverse and presumably for navigating birds or African Bushmen the reverse is "the only truth".
In fact (sic) the heliocentric Solar System merely makes the equations/predictions simpler for the paradigm we call "astronomy".
Neither view is "objectively true".
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patiodog
 
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Reply Tue 3 Dec, 2002 10:28 am
But we are able to observe other systems where we can see that smaller planets do in fact orbit around larger stars. Is it not reasonable to assume that, calculations aside, our own system does not look the same from the outside?
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 3 Dec, 2002 01:43 pm
patiodog

What do you mean by "in fact" ? (Actually nobody has "seen" another planet yet as far as I know) However let us suppose that planetry orbits are a "universally" verfiable model. What does this mean ? Does it mean we "know" what this mysterious force we call "gravity" is ? This invisible elastic/invisible distortion in space-time which underpins the orbital model ?

No! Our concept of orbits is functionally meaningful (hence "true") for the specific purpose of local trajectory predictions, but it raises more questions than it answers.

Explanation/Understanding/Prediction/Truth are related concepts which utilise elegance and simplicity. But simplicity at one level does not imply simplicity at another. On the contrary as we extend outwards from our species specific perceptual range (in a micro or macro direction) "truth" can only be understood with respect to "specific perceptual purpose".
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patiodog
 
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Reply Tue 3 Dec, 2002 01:48 pm
Yep.
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dyslexia
 
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Reply Tue 3 Dec, 2002 03:37 pm
this desk may very well be nothing more than patterns of weaker and stronger atomic forces of sub-nuclear arrangements but it makes a good place for resting my feet.
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Setanta
 
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Reply Tue 3 Dec, 2002 03:39 pm
I'm wichyou, Boss . . . ah, relaxation . . .
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Ethel2
 
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Reply Tue 3 Dec, 2002 05:54 pm
so, you're saying there must be an observer in order to imagine an absolute truth? And to use the concept to make a better place to rest our feet?
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fresco
 
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Reply Tue 3 Dec, 2002 06:06 pm
Lola

Exactly ! "Absolute Truth" implies "Absolute Observer"(and at this point we hear a heavenly choir in the background ),
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Setanta
 
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Reply Tue 3 Dec, 2002 06:25 pm
Now we're gettin' inta the ridiculous realm of Archimedes, he was askin' fer a place to stand, and a long-enough lever, in order to move the earth . . . foolish man, with our budget deficit, we'll never be able to afford the program . . .
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dyslexia
 
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Reply Tue 3 Dec, 2002 07:27 pm
i hate to sound trite (not really) but not unlike the "puzzle) of the tree falling in the woods there is an obvious answer in that sound is not an "event"unto itself, it is a process with an origination (tree falling-acustic generation=ear drum receiving)culmination. ergo "reality" is participatory. on the other hand if a man speaks in the woods and there is no woman to hear him, yes he is still wrong.
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Setanta
 
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Reply Tue 3 Dec, 2002 07:28 pm
If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around, do the other trees slag him unmercifully?
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fresco
 
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Reply Wed 4 Dec, 2002 01:27 am
(...enter Mrs Einstein who at a reception observing some scientist writing notes to himself all over a several large table napkins allegedly remarked "Albert just uses the back of an envelope")
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Setanta
 
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Reply Wed 4 Dec, 2002 06:41 am
I've always been fond of Fermi's quip: "Einstein should stop telling God what to do . . . "
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fresco
 
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Reply Wed 4 Dec, 2002 10:48 am
Perhaps I should attempt a synopsis to date.

It seems there are no serious objections to the thesis that "reality" may be a "social construction" if we allow for the term "social" to include an observer debating with himself. The potentially antithetical views of Steven Pinker have been raised and I have now had time to read at least part of "The Language Instinct" where he attempts to demolish the Whorf-Sapir hypothesis that languge influences thought. However he appears to do this from an essentially "passive" view of perception despite the fact that he completely embraces a Chomskyian "active" language device. Nor does he seem to answer the fundamental issue of whether the world appears like it is merely because we are like what we are.
(However I read on)

Assuming therefore that the thesis is potentially viable are we merely stating a nihilist postion with respect to "knowledge"? I don't think so. Whether or not "knowledge" is essentually "agreed predictive power" we still need to investigate where the source of such power lies. This is where I see the "rules of interaction" and "perceptual purpose"as an alternative to "objective truth". However what CAN be said from such a position is that where there is no consensus, it is "perceptual purpose" that is likely to differ, not the rules.
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2002 01:14 pm
This topic is rising a bit over my head, but let me drop the following: There is the question of whether or not "reality" is a HUMAN construction, that is to say, does it come to us "given" or is "it" (what we experience as it) a matter of thought, symbolic manipulation, etc.. If so--and I cannot imagine it not being so--it only makes sense to argue that such constructions are made on the basis of CULTURAL resources made available to the individual. I do not know of any human individual whose perspective on the world is to a large extent, at least, reflective of a collective world view. Here anthropology is as relevant as the psychology of perception or knowledge. The "world appears like it [does not] merely because we are like what we are"--that too just as it undoubtedly appears differently to ants and lions--but also because of the society we are raised in. The world is a cultural construction, a subset of human construction.
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Lightwizard
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Dec, 2002 01:35 pm
Nature is reality and reality is nature, but humankind has constructed a civilisation which certainly alters our concept of reality. We have made "natural" and "unnatural" things out of nature. I think fresco is addressing a concept that we all see, hear and feel our own reality but if one studies general semantics, that reality is skewed by outside human forces such as religion and philosophy. The talent of a politician is to be convincing in warping reality so that we will believe them and elect them into office.
It makes me wonder if the concept of reality isn't more manipulated than constructed.
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