165.Reality

The Search for Reality

RealityIn this section, we shall take a wider look at our notion of reality in three forms, preceded by some quotations which provide an insight into how others have reflected on the nature of reality:

At first, it might seem strange to be talking about searching for something that appears to surround us all. However, even if we initially restrict our discussion to physical reality, we can quickly get into trouble.

So by what measure do you define reality?

Clearly, at a fundamental level, our perceptions of reality has to be based on what our human senses tell us about the world, i.e. sight, sounds, tastes, smells and touch etc. However, we have already discussed some problems concerning perception, which the picture only seeks to highlight.

So what exactly are our senses telling us?

We know that our senses are only detecting electromagnetic waves, air pressure waves and chemical reactions. While this appears to support the notion of some sort of external reality, it is not necessarily the same reality as the one each of us is creating in our own head. Therefore, if we accept that our senses can be fooled, we must also accept that our perception of reality can be fooled as it is dependent on these senses plus processes within the brain, which in turn may depend on our state of mind, i.e. calm and reflective versus psychotic and delusional:

Does this suggest that reality is subjective?

It does seem that reality, like beauty, may be in the eyes of the beholder. If so, the nature of reality may depend on the nature of the beholder. Therefore, different life forms with different intelligence and senses will certainly not perceive the same reality as you:

What is reality to bacteria?
What about insects, fishes, birds or animals?
What about humanity: past, present & future?

Of course, if our perception of reality only exists as a by-product of our thought processes, then to some extent we might even speculate that all reality is only an imaginary construct of our mind. However, if we go down this path, we may start to doubt whether anything really exists:

What do you think happens to the universe after you die?

Putting the religious debate to one side, death appears to signal the end of our reality, at least as we currently understand it, so does this mean the end of all other forms of reality in the universe? This seems a little too `me-centric` for my taste and therefore we might continue with the notion that the external reality of the rest of the universe doesn't actually require our presence.

So what is the nature of physical reality?

It is not always clear that science, as yet, can fully explain the physical nature of the  external universe when all the ambiguities thrown up by theories, such as relativity and quantum theory, are considered. However, even if we knew the exact nature of the physical universe, it would not necessarily define the full scope, and potential, of our internal perception of reality. For example:

Where do your dreams exist in physical reality?

In a sense, we already appreciate that we have an ability to extend the scope of physical reality and, as such, the totality of  reality is not defined by time and space, but only our collective imagination and the technology produced by that imagination. If so, the future might come to completely change our personal 'perception' of reality.