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No Reality Outside Our Own Existence

 
 
Reply Sat 17 Apr, 2004 11:21 pm
I read Decartes' opinion on this and I have never been more indifferent to anything else in my entire life. Anyone have any strong opinions on this?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 3 • Views: 19,095 • Replies: 387
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Apr, 2004 01:35 am
It would be useful if you could expand your point a little, perhaps by reference to this:

http://www.anselm.edu/homepage/dbanach/dcarg.htm
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Heliotrope
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Apr, 2004 10:10 am
Personally I subscribe to a subset of the general quantum mechanical view that one creates reality as one goes along.
There is no tree in the forest to even think about falling over if I'm not exchanging information with it. In fact there is no forest either for the same reason.
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 Apr, 2004 12:10 pm
I generally agree, Heliotrope. However the Descartes discussion pre-dates the concept of "information exchange" so we are not yet sure what this question implies.
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Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2004 05:03 am
sorry. error. I posted a message here that shouldn't be here...
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2004 05:14 am
Heliotrope wrote:
Personally I subscribe to a subset of the general quantum mechanical view that one creates reality as one goes along.
There is no tree in the forest to even think about falling over if I'm not exchanging information with it. In fact there is no forest either for the same reason.


I have a problem with this point of view. That observers separated by time and space will obtain the same results suggests a continuity to reality which is independent of the observer. Frankly, i see it as the old "shadows on the cave wall" trollop, tarted up with a new dress and some cosmetics . . .
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2004 05:54 am
I say merely, "so what"?

We shall all continue to behave as though all is real - and quite rightly so.

I think constructivism and such is all very well in its place, but it has a rarefied place.

And what of the argument that, to know that we exist, we must know of ourselves as knowing something that is not ourselves, otherwise the concept of self versus other would not come to be?
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2004 11:25 am
Setanta and dlowan,

"Sameness" or even this very conversation implies extension of "self" to "others". We are perhaps talking of a "social reality" but the question remains, as discussed elsewhere, whether there is anything "other than this".

As for behaving as though there were indeed a separate reality, problems tend to arise at the extremes of our interactive perceptual processes (the "physical"macrocosm and the microcosm) where conventional rationality does not seem to suffice. Such insufficiency is also common at levels of "social abstraction" within "normal living" where there is conflict of consensus... each group acts as though its view of social reality is "correct" and applies simplistic "logic" on the basis of idiosyncratic axioms as though dealing with non-controversial "physical structures". This is an answer to dlowans "so what ?"
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2004 11:37 am
fresco wrote:
"Sameness" or even this very conversation implies extension of "self" to "others".

Not quite sure what you mean here. Are you saying that a conversation implies that the speaker acknowledges the "selfness" of the other participants in the conversation? Or that the speaker somehow extends his own "selfhood" to the others?

fresco wrote:
As for behaving as though there were indeed a separate reality, problems tend to arise at the extremes of our interactive perceptual processes (the "physical"macrocosm and the microcosm) where conventional rationality does not seem to suffice.

Such as?

fresco wrote:
Such insufficiency is also common at levels of "social abstraction" within "normal living" where there is conflict of consensus... each group acts as though its view of social reality is "correct" and applies simplistic "logic" on the basis of idiosyncratic axioms as though dealing with non-controversial "physical structures". This is an answer to dlowans "so what ?"

A "conflict of consensus" hardly implicates the non-reality of external phenomena. If I see a tree at a distance it may look very small, whereas someone standing next to the tree might see it as very large. Our lack of consensus regarding the size of the tree, however, does not call into question the existence of the tree.
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2004 12:15 pm
Joe,

The fact that we can discuss a tree at all is the social reality..."large" and "small" are merely negotiatons which involve common purpose or otherwise.

My use of italics is an attempt to show how using language - a [Isocial continuum [/I] creates a semantic field of inter-related items within that field. Tree only has meaning with respect to non-trees or items functionally equivalent to trees Similarly self only has meaning only in relationship to others ...we cannot "define" one item in the field without reference to the whole field. (I'm not going to go into observer/observed perceptual boundary problems ...we've done all that before).
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2004 12:27 pm
fresco wrote:
Joe,

The fact that we can discuss a tree at all is the social reality..."large" and "small" are merely negotiatons which involve common purpose or otherwise.

My use of italics is an attempt to show how using language - a [Isocial continuum [/I] creates a semantic field of inter-related items within that field. Similarly self only has meaning only in relationship to others ...we cannot "define" one item in the field without reference to the whole field. (I'm not going to go into observer/observed perceptual boundary problems ...we've done all that before).

No doubt, we cannot talk about anything unless there is some sort of consensus of meaning. I have no argument with that. And I have no doubt that the notion of "self" is meaningless unless it is contrasted with some "non-self" (although not necessarily some other self: a totally isolated person would still have a notion of "selfhood" which would be contrasted with those things that are not "self").

But then, my question is: so what?

Note: this is not the same question as dlowan's "so what?" Rather, I question the significance of the notion of some kind of "social construction of reality" as it relates to the "realness" of reality. For instance, I can look at a piece of bacon and see something far different from a Jew or Muslim looking at the same thing, yet we can nevertheless agree on the reality of the bacon. Likewise, if one of us sees a tree and the other denies that it is there, then, regardless of any kind of "social construction of reality," there remains the possibility that one of us is wrong.
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2004 12:52 pm
Joe,

I cannot subscribe to a solipsistic view that there can be a "self" without "others" because the very concept of "self" has been linguistically acquired from others.

As for your "bacon" argument the "reality" of "bacon" lies in each persons relationship with "it". When non-pork eaters go shopping they presumably do no see "it" in the "potential food category"...in essence they do not see it at all! (Conversely, the starving man "sees" ant larvae as "food" etc.)

Existence implies relationship.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2004 02:49 pm
fresco wrote:
Joe,

I cannot subscribe to a solipsistic view that there can be a "self" without "others" because the very concept of "self" has been linguistically acquired from others.

Solipsistic? Far from it. I simply contend that a concept of "selfhood" derives from one's sense of separateness from the "non-self." As far as I can determine, however, there is no need for this "non-self" to be another person.

Even a person raised in total isolation would, I believe, understand the distinction between himself and those things around him even without "linguistically acquiring" that meaning from others. To be sure, he might have a different understanding of "selfhood" from those who are socialized, but then that doesn't mean he has no concept of "self" at all.

fresco wrote:
As for your "bacon" argument the "reality" of "bacon" lies in each persons relationship with "it". When non-pork eaters go shopping they presumably do no see "it" in the "potential food category"...in essence they do not see it at all! (Conversely, the starving man "sees" ant larvae as "food" etc.)

Sorry, I don't buy that. I hate liver, but I see it when I go to the supermarket. Of course, I react to that liver differently from those who enjoy it, but both liver-haters and liver-lovers can agree on liver's existence.

fresco wrote:
Existence implies relationship.

So in a world without relationship there would be no existence?
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Miang
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2004 07:50 pm
Personally I think this disscusion well never get to far unless someone defines what our existance is only then can you into realities outside of our own...
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2004 11:52 pm
Miang,

I've just defined it !

Joe,

In as much that we share a common language we can talk about "liver".
The key concept is "commonality" of "pattern" of "experience" etc which involves consensus.

After a couple of weeks adrift at sea the odds are that you would be eating liver - maybe even your fellow castaway's ! Of course the "defense" would argue that this was not "the real you" or that "the balance of the mind was disturbed" but thats my point.

"You" ARE the sum of your changing relationships with "liver" etc ( all other acquired categories). Neither the liver nor you "exist" independently of your relationship. Of course we "act" on the assumption of relative permanence of such relationships which the gives the pseudo-illusion of objective separate "existence" of the poles of the relationship. We talk about "the tide" without reference to "the beach"... Similarly we talk about the "self" as an "actor" without reference the mutual dependence of self and objects of action. "I" dig "the garden". Do not both change as this action proceeds. Is the neighbour laughing to himself "there goes Jack escaping from his wife by digging that patch of weeds he calls a garden" ? Wheres the "reality" ? Who's reality ?

The problem in all this is not the definition of "existence" per se but our usage of "language" as both a communication device which assumes agreement of some terms whilst on the other hand questioning others. At the risk of being a bore this is where Wittgenstein comes to the fore. My usage of "existence" and "knowledge" is within a particular usage paradigm (non dualsm). Without taking this paradigm on board, even on a temporary basis, others will be stuck in what I consider to be an infinite regress of definition. ( Possible analogy - Cartesian fixed frame universe versus Einsteins observer relative universe)
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2004 08:36 am
fresco wrote:
Joe,

In as much that we share a common language we can talk about "liver".
The key concept is "commonality" of "pattern" of "experience" etc which involves consensus.

I have no problems with the notion that social interaction and consensus give us our sense of what something is, but I am not convinced that they provide us with evidence that something is (at least, not insofar as that "something" is tangible).

fresco wrote:
"You" ARE the sum of your changing relationships with "liver" etc ( all other acquired categories). Neither the liver nor you "exist" independently of your relationship.

After having accused me of solipsism, fresco, I find your statement here rather ironic.

fresco wrote:
Of course we "act" on the assumption of relative permanence of such relationships which the gives the pseudo-illusion of objective separate "existence" of the poles of the relationship. We talk about "the tide" without reference to "the beach"... Similarly we talk about the "self" as an "actor" without reference the mutual dependence of self and objects of action. "I" dig "the garden". Do not both change as this action proceeds. Is the neighbour laughing to himself "there goes Jack escaping from his wife by digging that patch of weeds he calls a garden" ? Wheres the "reality" ? Who's reality ?

Whose reality do you want to deal with first?
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2004 09:57 am
Sorry Joe,

I don't understand your objections within the paradigm suggested, and I reject yours as explored elsewhere as naive realism prone to the pitfalls of linguistic infinite regress.

Regards fresco.
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2004 10:34 am
truth
Dlowan asks the pragmatic question, "So what?" This is relevant insofar as everyone, even non-dualists like Fresco and myself, act in our mundane moments AS IF our world is objectively real, given and fixed. But in our philosophical and mystical moments we see through that everyday delusion, either intellectually or in our bones. They may be rarified moments, but they are, nevertheless, spiritually necessary.
As I see it, the original sin of intellectual life is reification, the objectification of our representations of the world's "objects." In so doing we forget the nature and origin of such objects, forgetting that they are our constructions. They appear to be objectively given because they, or the vast majority of them, were constructed by our antecedents, and then taught to us as if they were real. The fact of the matter is that such constructions would fade away were they not continually re-constructed every time they were used. Dualism rests on this process of reification-objectification. Actions we label "good" and "bad" are reified as expressions of goodness and evil--very much like Plato's ideal forms. To lose awareness of the nature of our conceptual behavior is to lose our own spiritual ground.
Setanta makes the reasonable observation "that observers separated by time and space will obtain the same results suggests a continuity to reality which is independent of the observer." What is it that is continuous, the content of our constructions or the fact that the culture in which observers operate is fairly continuous? The two most general characteristics of cultures is that they consist of systems of symbolic representations and that they involve a high degree of sharing of such representations. If I tell my wife that there are two bars of soap in the bathroom and she confirms that assertion, what does that show regarding the objective nature of the bars of soap? Well, it seems to me that "soap", "bathroom" and "two" are concepts that define part of the experience. This doesn't deny the soapness, bathroomness and twoness of the experience, only that their meaning (especially their ness-ness) is our construction. This applies to everything said on this thread. Our lives amount to a metaphorical reality. Every object of experience, including our "selves" are metaphors, conceptual representations with which we interact and in so doing reinforce and even reshape such representations of Reality. And, as Dlowan suggests, there is not much we can do about it. It is necessary even though illusory.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2004 11:27 am
fresco wrote:
Sorry Joe,

I don't understand your objections within the paradigm suggested, and I reject yours as explored elsewhere as naive realism prone to the pitfalls of linguistic infinite regress.

Regards fresco.

1. I don't know what you mean by a "suggested paradigm." It appears that the only paradigm (if it can be called that) offered on this thread has been yours: inasmuch as the thread is not entitled "fresco's paradigm regarding reality," I'm not exactly sure why my remarks necessarily must fit within your paradigm. Or is this yet another attempt on your part to hijack someone else's thread?

2. You use "naive realism" as a handy device by which to impugn positions without actually having to deal with them. Absent some genuine argument on your part, however, I see no reason either to accept or reject your assertion.

3. Both you and twyvel have suggested that "naive realism" (whatever that might be) is fatally flawed because it is subject to an "infinite regress." I have, however, never seen anyone explain the nature of this flaw or its supposed "fatality." Consequently, in the absence of any further support for this contention, I have no choice but to reject it.

Regards, Joe
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kitchenpete
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2004 11:36 am
My first comment is that watching "The Matrix" is a very disapointing experience, if you are only concerned with the individual reality of each protagonist!

KP
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