What Is Reality?

What the philosophers say about Reality is often as disappointing as a sign you see in a shop window which reads: Pressing Done Here. If you brought your clothes to be pressed, you would be fooled; for only the sign is for sale.

- Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or

Podcast of the Day

Melvyn Bragg examines the physics of reality. When Quantum Mechanics was developed in the early 20th century reality changed forever. In the quantum world particles could be in two places at once, they disappeared for no reason and reappeared in unpredictable locations, they even acted differently according to whether we were watching them. It was so shocking that Erwin Schrodinger, one of the founders of Quantum Theory, said "I don’t like it and I'm sorry I ever had anything to do with it." He even developed an experiment with a cat to show how absurd it was. Quantum Theory was absurd, it disagreed with the classical physics of Newton and Einstein and it clashed with our experience of the everyday world. Footballs do not disappear without reason, cats do not split into two and shoes do not act differently when we are not looking at them. Or do they? Eighty years later we are still debating whether the absurd might actually be true. But why are features of quantum physics not seen in our experience of everyday reality? Can the classical and quantum worlds be reconciled, and why should reality make sense to us?

Listen to the In Our Time episode on The Physics of Reality

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.

Not so, says Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. Hoffman has spent the past three decades studying perception, artificial intelligence, evolutionary game theory and the brain, and his conclusion is a dramatic one: The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality...

Continue reading Amanda Gefter's article: The Case Against Reality

Further Reading

Many philosophers would use the term “objective reality” to refer to anything that exists as it is independent of any conscious awareness of it (via perception, thought, etc.). Common mid-sized physical objects presumably apply, as do persons having subjective states. Subjective reality would then include anything depending upon some (broadly construed) conscious awareness of it to exist. Particular instances of colors and sounds (as they are perceived) are prime examples of things that exist only when there are appropriate conscious states. Particular instances of emotions (e.g., my present happiness) also seem to be a subjective reality, existing when one feels them, and ceasing to exist when one’s mood changes.

“Objective knowledge” can simply refer to knowledge of an objective reality. Subjective knowledge would then be knowledge of any subjective reality.

There are, however, other uses of the terminology related to objectivity...

Continue reading the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Objectivity by Dwayne H. Mulder

Related Topics

Consciousness | Existence | Idealism | KnowledgeLaws of Nature | Metaphysics | Quantum Mechanics | String Theory

Become a lifelong learner. Sign up via email to get the best videos, articles and podcasts on a new topic each day. Or you can follow on Twitter or Facebook.

Leave a Reply