Posts Tagged ‘reality’

People are constantly talking of reality.  How often do we hear words such as : “get real” : “the reality is” : “it really is true”.  It is as if we believe that the human senses and the human mind possess a mystical quality that enables them to transcend the material world and take a privileged view of it.

But is it true that human beings are capable of perceiving reality?  Might it not be case that a herring has a better, truer appreciation of the world than we do?    Are we wise to assume that the size and complexity of our brains has made us better at perceiving?  Is it possible that all our complicated vocal expressions that describe the world are merely noises without any particular meaning?  Might it not be the case that our consciousness is simply an elaborate deception – an evolutionary accident that is leading us to a dead-end?

There is so much to ponder here.  And we will not be the first to ponder it, for certainly the world’s great religious thinkers have given much thought to the matter since the very earliest times.  In fact, most likely, it is with this pondering that religion began.

It is interesting to reflect that, if we did perceive reality, we could never make a mistake about what we see.  We could never mistake one person for another or one thing for another ; we could never mis-hear somebody’s words.  Also, if we did perceive reality, there would be no science being done today ; all knowledge would have been completed long ago.

But, as ever, there are other ways of looking at the matter ;  and some of those ways offer hope to those who believe that reality is within our grasp.


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Man is a truth-seeking creature.  How’s that for a statement of belief?  And it is a statement of belief ; for there is no proof of it.  And yet I have come across very few people who do not believe it, either explicitly or implicitly.  But what is Truth?  How often do we seriously consider that question?  For doesn’t it so often lead to a debate which has all the appearances of a mere fog of words?

So, one way or another, we tend to escape the fog and develop a handy argument which puts Truth into some kind of framework ; and from there we can explore further.  For me, such a handy framework came from one of my unofficial mentors, the physicist AN Whitehead.  He put it something like this:

When an individual regards an event or an object, he forms in his mind an Appearance of it.  This is how it appears to him.

If two people regard the same event, then each has his own Appearance of it.

If the two people cannot agree on what they have seen, then we have simply two Appearances to deal with.  But if they can agree, then they have reached a Truth about it.

For example, if two people see a small flock of birds fly by, they might each have the Appearance of  seven birds ; and since they agree on this figure, they are satisfied that they have discovered a Truth.

But suppose the flock is much greater in number?  One person might have the Appearance of fifty birds, and the other an Appearance of sixty.  Here, they have discovered no Truth ; each will say to the other, “My figure is true and yours is false.”

But, suppose the observers have doubts about what they have seen?  Then they might well agree on a compromise figure ; they might agree that there were fifty-five birds in the flock.  Thus, by negotiation, they have reached a Truth.

But note : this Truth of fifty-five birds is an opinion and not reality ; the truth has not told us how many birds were really there.  So, what is Reality?  Surely Reality is just itself, and not a matter of opinion ; and it is nonsense to ask whether it be true or false.

So, in this world wide and long, there are countless Appearances and many Truths.  But there is only one Reality – and we don’t know what that is.

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Are dreams made of this?

I heard it said, when young I lived, that all
Was but a dream ;  no thing that worldly mind
Conceived existed free from self’s own thrall ;
And all contrary views were made seem blind.
Could it be true that this ideal I kent
Included thee, with all thy spelling charms?
A loveliness, but thus contained and pent,
Would fill a cosmic mind with dire alarms
So ne’er a soul as poor as mine can claim
To own a mortal beauty such as thine ;
But only borrow little of the same,
To hold and cherish, never to be mine.
If love be love, then any fool can see
‘Tis meaningless if lovers be not free.

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Creativity is all the rage.  We’re all supposed to be creative.  Our State-directed education system (such as it is) is based on creativity.  Creative Marxism – can you imagine such a thing?  Can you imagine a determinist theory in which all things happen because they must happen – and yet there is room for creativity, for spontaneity.  Our politicians actually imagine this and believe it, too ; and they want us to believe it, as well.

I have an example of how our children are directed to be creative.  A few months back, I was speaking to the mother of a two-year-old.  She had called at the nursery to collect the little girl, who was busy colouring in a picture of some policemen, nurses and firemen.  She saw that the child had given the policemen some very fetching pink uniforms.  Well, one was pink and the other green.  The girl’s teacher was standing proudly by.  When the mother dared to advise her child that policemen actually wear deep blue uniforms, the teacher intervened to assert that nobody ought to ‘interfere with the child’s creativity’ ; she was quite insistent on this point.

So, it seems that, in our modern education system, ‘creativity’ takes precedence over reality.  It’s imagination that counts for all, and observation counts for nothing.

Now, I’m all in favour of imagination.  How is it possible to make the world a better place unless one can imagine a better place?  How can you make a better mouse-trap unless you can first imagine a better mouse-trap?  But, surely, you cannot imagine a better mouse-trap until you have a good understanding of existing mouse-traps.

This little girl and her pink policeman exemplifies what is so wrong about the way our society has been drifting for many years now ; and especially in the last thirteen years or so.  And that drifting has occurred not only in education but in politics, too.  We are governed by people who are strong in imagination but weak in observation.  They have their concept of a perfect world for tomorrow but little understanding of the world of today or of yesterday.  As a result, they are creating mere chaos.

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