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The Concept of Independent Reality in Discussions of Philosophy

 
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 03:04 am
@Procrustes,
Forget that question which is peculiar to philosophy seminars. It has the same nebulous status as "can anybody honestly tell me what "blue" is" ?

In "cognitive science" for example, the focus has shifted away from "informational models about an external reality" which have failed, to a concept of "embodiment" which involves whole body activity in bringing forth a "species specific reality" mediated by common physiology, or a "culture specific reality" mediated by a common language.
(Google for example Varela on Color Perception).

So philosophically the term "independent reality" either encapsulates "naive realism", or it involves a God's eye view of reality as an interactional soup which God is observing with detached indifference. Wink






Procrustes
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 03:47 am
@fresco,
So it's like asking if a tree falls in the woods and no one there to see it, what sound does it make? Thanks for the clarification fresco.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 06:13 am
@fresco,
fresco wrote:

Forget that question which is peculiar to philosophy seminars. It has the same nebulous status as "can anybody honestly tell me what "blue" is" ?

In "cognitive science" for example, the focus has shifted away from "informational models about an external reality" which have failed, to a concept of "embodiment" which involves whole body activity in bringing forth a "species specific reality" mediated by common physiology, or a "culture specific reality" mediated by a common language.
(Google for example Varela on Color Perception).

So philosophically the term "independent reality" either encapsulates "naive realism", or it involves a God's eye view of reality as an interactional soup which God is observing with detached indifference. Wink


Good explanation. Thanks, Fresco.

I have often wondered, however, whether your term "naive realism" has a negative connotation. Aren't you making a judgment when you say that?
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 08:19 am
@wandeljw,
I have said elsewhere that I think this is a judgement. It signifies a simplistic philosophical approach which assumes that "things" can exist without "thingers". Just because I operate on the assumption that "my car" (plus or minus a few molecules) will still be there when "I" (minus a few neurons and molecules) next need it, belies the point that that is a statement of interactional expectancy which ignores the second law of thermodynamics, which would render both cars and selves ephemeral temporal phenonena. I may call it a statement about reality in contradistinction to a "delusion", but the word "reality" signifies nothing expect in contexts of contradictions of the expectancy. Failure to understand this conditional use of the word "reality" further justifies the term "naive".
Shapeless
 
  3  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 08:30 am
@Eorl,
Quote:
You don't seem to be responding to my point that's it's only a wall by consensus, not an objective thing that can be proven to exist in it's own right.


What I said both times is that the consensus over the wall is universal, in practice if not in theory, and a universal consensus that there is a wall is indistinguishable from an objectively real wall. The difference is semantic rather than empirically meaningful. I don't see what is gained by fussing over a consensus that nobody, not even people who deny objective reality, dissents from. Again, despite what we might theorize about it, find me someone who honestly acts as if the wall were not really there--I don't mean someone who merely says it's not objectively real, but who acts like it is--and I will take seriously the notion that reality is not objective.

Let's try another thought experiment. Suppose you ask me how to get to Bakersville, and I say, "Take that road over there. However, when you turn around the bend, it's very important that you close your eyes for three seconds." Suppose you do exactly as I say, and when you reach the bend you close your eyes, thus preventing you from seeing the part I left out of my instructions: there is brick wall obstructing the road.

Since I didn't tell you about the wall, you are not aware of it; and since you don't see it as you're driving toward it, it is not something you are directly experiencing at that moment. From your perspective, it doesn't exist at all. As far as you're concerned, there is nothing to form a consensus over. What do you think will happen as your car continues toward it, and why will it happen?


Quote:
Ask a physicist just how sold the wall is, and he'll tell you it's mostly empty space.


And yet the knowledge that the wall is mostly empty space does not prevent the physicist from referring to an "it" in the first place, nor from taking its measurements, nor from averting his trajectory if he sees his car is heading toward it, etc.


Quote:
If you existed in a time scale of millions of years, the wall would have burst in and out of existence without your notice.


So you admit there is an existence for it to burst in and out of?
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 08:49 am
@fresco,
fresco wrote:
Just because I operate on the assumption that "my car" (plus or minus a few molecules) will still be there when "I" (minus a few neurons and molecules) next need it, belies the point that that is a statement of interactional expectancy which ignores the second law of thermodynamics, which would render both cars and selves ephemeral temporal phenonena.


I agree. I once parked my car on a Chicago street. When I returned, it was gone!
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  2  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 09:15 am
@fresco,
fresco wrote:

I have said elsewhere that I think this is a judgement. It signifies a simplistic philosophical approach which assumes that "things" can exist without "thingers". Just because I operate on the assumption that "my car" (plus or minus a few molecules) will still be there when "I" (minus a few neurons and molecules) next need it, belies the point that that is a statement of interactional expectancy which ignores the second law of thermodynamics, which would render both cars and selves ephemeral temporal phenonena.

This is such a classic, undiluted fresco-ism, it almost brought a tear to my eye. Not only does it contain the usual amount of metaphysico-mumbo-jumbo so typical of his writing, but it also (oh joy!) contains a reference to a scientific law, the basis of which is a belief in the same "naive realism" that the law is somehow supposed to contradict. Yea, verily, I weep with delight.
Eorl
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 09:26 am
@Shapeless,
Consensus over the wall is not universal. Some humans and some animals may understand what it is, and how it should be responded to, and those who interact with it, (in my case through my sense of touch, however suddenly and unexpectedly) will also join the consensus. Even those who have never seen it, and trust your word, are likely to agree to the consensus.

I don't think this is a matter of semantics at all (anymore). It has very real and important implications, such as witnessing of events. It's impossible for two people to have the same POV, or even if they did, to have identical recollections of an event. An increasing number of witnesses may bring you ever closer to a practical, acceptable approximation of the theoretical "fact". Then there's all the information that our senses don't collect. Wind speeds, ultraviolet light levels, etc. To have all the facts, the complete truth of any event requires all the data of the universe from it's birth, and for that to be understood requires the external god-like perspective from outside.

So, again, sure, it's practical to accept, up to a point, that a wall I hit is a wall I believe in, and all the extra information not required for the present discussion can best be ignored for the sake of brevity... but it's always possible that the wall isn't actually a wall at all, I could be hallucinating, I could have been tricked in a variety of ways, or...it could be a mere hypothetical construct that only exists on an internet forum.
Eorl
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 09:37 am
@Shapeless,
To try a different approach, (and to attempt to respond more directly to the OP)..
Can we all first accept and agree that we know this much at least... that everything in the universe is made up of the 4 basic elements, Earth, Wind, Fire and Water?
Do you think they had any idea at the time how far away from knowing "objective reality" they were then? Are we even a tiny fraction closer now? Is it possible we ever will be? If it can never be known, then what is "it" anyway?
So, it seems to me, objective reality exists only in theory and not in practice, rather than the other way around.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 10:03 am
@Eorl,
Eori, excellent post!
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  0  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 10:03 am
@Eorl,
Eori, excellent post!
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 10:05 am
@joefromchicago,
Of course.
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  0  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 10:05 am
@joefromchicago,
Of course.
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  0  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 10:15 am
I weep for Joe. Such a waste of inelligence.
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 10:16 am
@joefromchicago,
Of course the second law of thermodynamics is part of naive realism! Laughing The subtle point which seems to escape you is that naive realism is thereby inconsistent because it cannot account for the maintenance of identity! So weep on with my blessing
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 10:24 am
@Eorl,
My response may not be satisfactory. I think you and others are talking about "Reality" and some of us are talking about reality. Either way is there any benefit to denying Reality (reality)?
joefromchicago
 
  2  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 11:17 am
@fresco,
fresco wrote:

Of course the second law of thermodynamics is part of naive realism! Laughing The subtle point which seems to escape you is that naive realism is thereby inconsistent because it cannot account for the maintenance of identity!

The second law of thermodynamics doesn't make "naive realism" inconsistent. The law is perfectly consistent with the notion of an independent reality. Indeed, it relies on that notion for its validity. The second law of thermodynamics, on the other hand, is inconsistent with your position, which makes it all the more ironic that you choose to use it as a weapon against "naive realism." Indeed, 'tis the sport for fresco to be hoist with his own petard. My amusement knows no bounds.
Shapeless
 
  2  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 11:32 am
@Eorl,
You keep accusing me of not answering your question, even though I have done so several times. You say I am ignoring your claim that reality is objective only by consensus. I am agreeing, with qualification: we consent to a thing called reality because we have no choice. If you think you have a choice in the matter, then please answer my question: what happens when you drive a car into a brick wall, even if you have not given your consent that the wall is objectively real? And why does it happen?

Quote:
Do you think they had any idea at the time how far away from knowing "objective reality" they were then?


Of course not. All this demonstrates is that we don't completely understand, and may never completely understand, the ultimate nature of reality. Nobody doubts this. As I noted above, you are conflating the understanding of reality with the existence of reality.

What I am claiming is that our failure to understand completely the ultimate nature of reality does not prevent us, even you, from treating it as if it were real. To say we will never understand it is entirely gestural. Reality may exist only "by our consent," but consenting to the inevitable is a matter of pure semantics. If you think it isn't, then show me how withholding your consent about the existence of the wall changes the consequences of driving your car into it.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 11:34 am
@joefromchicago,
If it should ever dawn on you that an observer is required to measure "order" and "disorder" then you might understand the limits of your understanding of how the second law pertains to naive realism.
Shapeless
 
  3  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 11:41 am
@Eorl,
Quote:
Consensus over the wall is not universal. Some humans and some animals may understand what it is, and how it should be responded to, and those who interact with it, (in my case through my sense of touch, however suddenly and unexpectedly) will also join the consensus. Even those who have never seen it, and trust your word, are likely to agree to the consensus.


The first sentence is totally at variance with the rest of the paragraph.

Quote:
but it's always possible that the wall isn't actually a wall at all, I could be hallucinating, I could have been tricked in a variety of ways, or...it could be a mere hypothetical construct that only exists on an internet forum.


Nobody doubts this either. It is possible that something whose existence we have given our consent to--a hallucination, a mirage, whatever--is not really there. But the claim that reality is real only by consent also implies the opposite: withholding our consent is enough to cause something not to be real. If you agree with me that this simply doesn't work when it comes to the very real brick wall our car is about to crash into, then you and I are not all that different, which is my point: denying objective reality doesn't actually change anything.
 

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