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One Reality

  1. Jul 24, 2003 #1
    One Singular Reality = One Singular viewpoint of/on Reality?

    This website and this forum is about to discuss amongst people of various beliefs and non-beliefs the reality of God, and - since not all people are believers in God - we should add here: the reality of the world itself, and wether or not it exists in the form of God, or not.

    We can of course distinguish in this debate two positions: those who are convicted that the foremost important reality is the reality of God, and those who are convicted to the fact that reality itself exists objectively and can be adressed as nature or matter.

    Most discussions here show that both realities are taken as being opposite to each other in a fundamental way. This does not mean that there is no agreement on anything, but at last in a fundamental way, the viewpoints are opposing each other.

    The intention of this discussion thread is as follows:

    Firstly it starts from the viewpoint that we witness only one reality, and that all our perceptions and ideas about reality, come from this reality, which is hold to be something objective.

    Secondly it acknowledges the fact that noone knows everything about the nature of the objective reality, and that knowing the truth of everything that exists objectively is beyond what is possible.

    and Thirdly, we want to explore all the arguments, which are hold to oppose each other in further detail, and find out if there is a way of conceiving reality in such a way, in which both opposing viewpoints could be united.


    Some issues to be dealt with:

    One Reality - The first issue is of course, if and how we can know that there is only one reality. This already is a dillemma.

    The opposing ideas are here that:
    - Wether or not an objective reality exists is not knowable; the only reality we will ever know about is that which is given by our own consciousness which by it's nature is subjective
    - At least we must make the distinction that reality exists in two seperate ways: in an objective way in the form of matter, and in a subjective way in the form of consciousness
    - Reality contains at least two seperate entities: that of matter and that of consciousness. Materialism states that matter is primary, and consciousness is secondary. Idealism states that consciousness is primary, and matter is secondary. And there is the dualistic viewpoint in which both or neither are primary (matter and consciousness are both uncreatable and indestroyable entities which coexist in the world).

    Objective reality

    The idea of an objective reality means a reality which is independend of something else, exists on it's own, and for which there aren't causes for it's existence. These are the necessary criteria for objective existence.

    We hold it that this objective reality, whatever it's nature is and how we look on it or perceive of it, has primacy (exists in first or primary instance) and forms the causes for all other forms of existence we know about.

    Important to add is that we, when defining this objective reality, have not yet stated the nature of this objective reality, we only acknowledge the fact that such must exist, and must be the primary cause of everything that exists.

    Secondly it is important to acknowledge that defining this primary and objective existence, does not mean that we know in a direct way about this objective reality, since:
    - we can only know about reality through our subjective existence, through our consciousness
    - the way we can perceive of reality, of that which is outside, apart from and independend of our consciousness, is through observation
    - The act of observing reality means that in some or other way, a material existence form causes an awareness, wether that is directly through our own sensory perceptions, or through a perceptory instrument which is outside of ourself.
    - Our knowledge about the material existence forms (f.e. light, sound, etc) has indicated that these material existence forms are always only secondary features of that primary substance which exists objectively.
    - Which means that we do not have a real perception of what this primary substance that exists objectively in fact is.

    Not knowing what this primary substance that exists objectively is, does not disallow us to give it a name. At the same time however, giving it a name does not include that we know it any better as before, but it is at least convenient to know what we talking about.

    Helas, at this point we must admit that people do not come into general agreement how to name this primary substance that exists objectively.

    Depending on the school of thought, there are (at least) two different names that have been given to this primary substance/primary entity, which are:
    Matter (from the school of Materialism)
    God (from the school of Idealism, although also the terms: fundamental principle or Absolute Idea are used throughout philosophic literature)

    We state here again, that a name is just a name, and does not - in itself - reveil us any more about the nature of that primary substance or entity.
    Nevertheless, within the schools of thought that proposed these names, the term used of course refelcts on a particular point of view that accompanies that defined term.

    What can often lead to confusion and misconceptions is that noth schools of thought use the term matter, but they do not refer to the same entity or thing.

    Within materialism matter is the primary objectively existing substance or entity, that exists independend of anything else. We can never know about matter directly but can only perceive of specific existence forms of matter. As for instance: light, electrons, atoms, molecules, living organisms, stars, galaxies..

    Within idealism however the term matter is not the primary substance, but a secondary existence form. The primary substance or entity within idealism is God (or a fundamental principle or an Absolute Idea)
    matter in idealism therefore denotes something that is dependend on this primary substance or entity (God or a fundamental principle or an Absolute Idea)

    Note also that the philosophical term matter is something different then the physical term matter. In physics matter are specific physical existence forms, which have the property of (rest)mass. Atoms, protons, electrons, denote matter, whereas light denotes something else.
    The term matter in materialism denotes a philosophical category of all that which exists independend, apart from and outside of consciousness.

    In summary

    Both viewpoints (that of idealism and materialism) define some primary substance or entity that exists objectively and which is the cause for all forms of existence, and is independend of anything else.

    The difference between idealism and materialism, is that idealism defines the primary substance or entity to exists in a consciouss form primarily and in material form only secondary, while materialism defines the primary substance or entity to exist in material form primarily, and in consciouss form only secondary.

    So, the distinction between these two opposing philosophical viewpoints focuses on the issue of what is there in primary instance: matter or consciousness?

    Some related issues

    The philosphical question as what is the primary substance or entity of the world, is known as the basic question in philosophy.

    In the course of this thread, we do not just want to state and mention and explore the various ways in which those two viewpoint (both in theoretical and in practical ways) oppose each other, but the primary interest of this thread is to explore a viewpoint in which these opposing viewpoints can be united within a broader framework.

    The basement of that approach is that no matter how far and in what way opposing viewpoint on reality exist (within the human mind), we must conceive of the fact that an objective reality does in fact exist, and since the world exist singular (there is only one world, and it exists objectively), there would be - in theory - also only one way of perceiving reality.

    So, the question then is: does such a viewpoint exist, in which these opposing viewpoints of reality, can be merged and united together into a singular point of view? And if not, why not?

    Some agreements

    Between the mentioned opposing viewpoint (materialism and idealism) at least the following agreements exist:

    1. There is objective existence, and objective reality
    2. That what exists objectively is primary, in the sense that it's existence does not depend on anything else
    3. Everything that exists, exists in the form of 'existence forms' (wether that are electrons, light, living organism, or human consciousness) which are caused by this primary entity or substance
    4. Since this primary suibstance or entity was not caused itself, it has therefore eternal existence. It is uncreatable and indestructable.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 24, 2003 #2
    One Reality [part #2]


    Some disagreements

    The primary disagreement between idealism and materialism is to define the nature of that what exists primarily and objectively.

    Idealism and theism start from the viewpoint that what exists primarily is consciousness.

    In terms of materialism that would mean that the whole of the material world itself, would be consciouss of itself.
    All that exists would then be merely forms of consciouss acts, which include will and intend.

    But is it possible for the material world, to reflect on itself in a consciouss way?

    What would it mean for the world to be consciouss of itself?
    And what would be the way in which the material world itself could be self consciouss?

    Theism assumes for this some objective existing form of consciousness, named God. Everything that exists, exists in the form of conscious acts and expressions of the will and intend of this Supreme Being.

    Materialism on the other hand assumes, that even though the material world itself is in eternal self-interaction, that the way in which the material world is consciouss of itself, exists only in a specific material form, namely in the form of human consciousness (at least up to today we have no indication of any other form of consciousness which supersedes the human consciousness), and is thereby a material existence form caused by matter itself, it is a way in which matter can express itself, and state it's own existence.

    That is to say: in the viewpoint of materialism, it is not argued that the material world itself can not be consciouss of itself, but that the way in which the material world can express itself in the form of self-conscioussness, is limited (as far as we know it) in a specific material form, that of (human) consciousness.

    This means therefore that in the viewpoint of materialism, the material world would not be consciouss of itself, before there was any specific form of matter in which this consciouss could express itself, that is: before there were any life forms (or other extra-terestial consciouss life forms) the material world was not consciouss about itself.

    It is important however to state that the development of the world from unconsciouss material interaction to the highest development product of matter in the form of human consciousness, are not in any way sudden occurences, but are gradual changes that occur withint the anorganic and organic world itself. Matter itself has already a fundamental property in that matter in any form is always interacting, transforming and changing. Wether this changes occur within stars, planets or chemical substances, is fundamentally the same.

    The human consciousness can not be perceived of without taking into account the whole of the material history of all events and all interactions that occured within matter, that ultimately lead to the formation of human life forms and human consciousness.
    All these facts and circumstances and events that caused human consciousness to occur, form an unimaginable large amount of facts, which simply exceed our imagination.

    It is simply impossible even to put a limit on the number of facts and events which have to be accounted for, to form human consciousness throughout the whole of the material history of the world, considering the fact that there is no conceiveble point in time in which it can be said that the world has 'begun' (since we agreed on the fact that in primary sense, the world exists objectively and does not depend on anything else, there could have been no begin) and also we can not conceive of any limit to material existence forms and spatiotemporal relations between material existence forms and material processes.

    Since the human existence itself, defines something of a limited nature (we exists in a finite spatiotemporal existence form), we can never account for our existence in a finite way, as a result of a finite number of facts, circumstances and events.
    To account for our existence in the form and way we know we exists so far, therefore urges us to presuppose something immensily and unimaginably greater, which caused our current form and existence, of which we can never perceive in total.

    It is perhaps for this reason and this acknowledgeable fact, that we - as humans - reflect on the material world and the way in which it exists, which is unimaginably greater as anything we can ever perceive of, have come up with concepts of Deities, to account for our existence.

    As I have tried to show, the way materialism accounts for these same facts, are in fact not that fundamentally different, since we can derive from the point of view of materialism the same kind of conclusions (although in different wordings and terminology) as theism does.

    Althoug matter does not exist in a way which could be called 'personal', the fact is of course that we as humans have a human way of thinking on our own existence, and can find reason to think in personal perspective on all of material history that accounts for the way we are, how we developed, etc.

    Outside of the human mind however, we can not find any indication for any objective existence of any personal God, we can just account for the uncountable many different material existence forms and relations between material existence forms, and can never conceive of a limit on the way in which matter exists, and neither can conceive of the whole of material reality.

  4. Jul 24, 2003 #3
    One Reality [part #3 and end]


    A singular viewpoint?

    In the previous discussion about the way in which Theism disagrees with Materialism, I have argued that what principally and fundamentally opposes both viewpoints, are just opposing ideas within the mind, but do not denote anything different in objective sense.
    But a disagreement remains, in that Theism presupposes that in last instance all of material reality has to be refelected on as a consciouss existence form, which exists independend of the human consciousness. The human consciousness would just exist as an aspect of that primary consciouss being (God).

    The viewpoint of Theism is the viewpoint in which both subjective (consciousness) existence and objective (matter) existence merge together and unite, in the form of the viewpoint of God.

    The argument is here that even before and outside, and apart of the human mind and consciousness, and of other possible consciouss existence forms, the material world itself denotes in first instance a subjective (consciouss) existence form, in the form of the viewpoint of God.
    Through the viewpoint of God, the whole of the material world reflects on itself and is consciouss of itself.

    By it's definition, the viewpoint of God exists outside of the human mind and consciousness, and the intend and will of God, are not directly knowable, apart from that what we observe.

    Materialism rejects that idea of the objective existence of God, since the idea of God only denotes human perspective and projections on the objective material world, and those ideas do not account any objective existence of a consciouss Supreme Being.

    The idea of God is a way in which human consciousness reflects on all of the material world. But outside of the human mind itself (and possible other life forms) matter is not consciouss of itself.

    If that would be the case, there would be no distinction between matter and consciousness, in fact the whole world would then have to hold to exist in only one, singular form, that of the consciousness of God.

    It is however just the fact that we - as consciouss human beings - distinguish ourselves and our consciousness from the objective material world, which forms the grounds on which we can be consciousness of the world.
    If there would be no real distinction between our consciousness, and that of the rest of the material world, we would not be consciousness.
    It is because we can distinguish between our own consciousness and the rest of the material world, that we have consciousness in the first place.

    The viewpoint of God, in which the world would be united in consciouss form, would be the end of our consciousness.

    Materialism thus concludes that the only way in which the world can be described as united, is in it's objective and material form.
    The world itself forms a material unity but this material unity is not in and for itself self-consciousness, but only in the form of specific development forms of material existence forms (i.e. human consciousness).

    We can to some extend try to percieve of the whole world through the viewpoint of an imaginary God, and form to some extend an idea as to what the world in total and in an objective way is about. Likewise we can also try to imagine how the world would look from the viewpoint of a tree, a stone, etc. Consciousness is in that way flexible, we can shift our perspective.

    But outside those temporary shifts of perspective, in which we imagine in our own consciousness to see the world from a different perspecive, we have no reason to assume that a tree or a stone, or the world in total, itself has a perspective or viewpoint.
    Would we need to call a stone consciousness, just because in our consciousness we can form the idea how the world would look from the perspective of a stone?

    Materialism rejects such ideas, and concludes that the highest development product of the material world is formed by the human consciousness, and outside of that, we have not encountered anything that is more consciouss, and that we have no grounds to state that outside of the specific existing forms of consciousness (foremost in humans, but other lifeforms to some extend as well) there is any ground for assuming consciousness of the world itself.

    The way in which the world itself is united is in the form of it's materialness, which has objective and primary existence. The human consciousness and that of other life forms, form the only real existing viewpoints, in which there is subjective existence, and which denote secondary development forms of matter.

  5. Jul 24, 2003 #4


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    This statement is exceedingly vague. What do you mean by a "way of perceiving reality"? It is self evident from human experience that there are many, many ways of perceiving reality (e.g. by ingesting a suitable drug). One world -> one way of perceiving it is bad reasoning, unless we assume that our ways of perceiving reality map exactly onto that reality, which is obviously not the case.

    This is not the grounds for a disproof. It is only grounds for throwing our arms in the air and admitting that there is no way we can tell one way or the other.

    This argument also does not follow. How do I, for instance, distinguish my consciousness from someone else's under this argument? You may say that I distinguish my consciousness from their material form. But this implies a dualistic paradigm, contradicting your argument that consciousness arises as an epiphenomenon of material interactions.

    The same holds for the method by which we assume that other people are conscious. This is the only method by which one has reason to ascribe consciousness to anything but oneself. The only difference is that we are very confident of ascribing consciousness to other people since they look and act like we do. In fact there is no hard and fast way to determine the existence of consciousness in a given physical system. All we know for sure is that activity in the human brain is correlated with subjective experience; this really tells us nothing about other possible conditions in which consciousness might exist.

    What it all comes down to is that no amount of reasoning will ever solve the 'basic question in philosophy.' Given our current limitations, it is an inherently unsolvable problem. Materialism or idealism-- take your pick, either way it is a matter of faith.
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