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Proof of reality?

  1. Mar 18, 2004 #1
    as all observations and feelings are merely electrical impulses interpreted by my brain, who's to say any laws of physics really apply? who's to say i'm not a machine made of iron led to believe i am a man with a meat-computer in my head. who's to say i'm not in The Matrix (TM)?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 18, 2004 #2


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    There is no way from within observed reality to prove that it is objective reality. Its one of the fundamental assumptions.
  4. Mar 19, 2004 #3

    Les Sleeth

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    You assume too much. It might be more accurate to say "the methods and technology we have at our disposal only reveal all observations and feelings are merely electrical impulses interpreted by my brain." You cannot know whether or not we are capable of detecting all that observations and feelings are.

    However, if things are as you say, then physics would apply. Electrical impulses are physical.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2004
  5. Mar 19, 2004 #4
    The topic begs for this line:

    "Reality doesn't exist"

    HAHA!!! Kinda a paradox eh?
  6. Mar 19, 2004 #5
    Ehh, no.
  7. Mar 23, 2004 #6
    From a 'non-dual' view reality ultimately neither exists nor not-exists and the scientific universe is just appearances. (Which may be what Chen meant). It's worth checking out the 'problem of attributes' to see why science cannot encompass reality.
  8. Mar 23, 2004 #7
    Reality is just an attribute of some of our perceptions. We perceive something, then label it 'real'. Reality itself can't be perceived. If it can't be perceived then it doesn't exist. No paradox. The paradox would be if the object of our real perceptions did not exist. That is just impossible.
  9. Mar 23, 2004 #8
    I think think this confuses the usual notions of 'ultimate reality' (what lies outside of Plato's cave) with the physical universe (the cave and the shadows on the wall). The physical universe is made out of perceivable attributes. Ultimate reality is what has those perceivable attributes, but which itself has no perceivable attributes.

    If 'ultimate reality' (the 'essence' that underlies attributes) does not exist then the physical universe makes no sense, for it means ex nihilo creation. If it does exist then our definition of 'existence' makes no sense, for by a normal defintion of existence something with no attributes cannot exist.

    This is the 'problem of attributes, an ancient puzzle in Western philosophy with no solution as yet.

    However in Buddhism etc. there is no such problem. 'Essence' or 'ultimate reality' transcends any distinction between existence and non-existence. This thing is fundamental and the physical world is epiphenomenal on it.

    Whether this is true is another matter. but this is what they assert.

  10. Mar 31, 2004 #9
    Think of it like this,do you see reality therefore you beleive it exists or do you know reality exists therfore you see it????
  11. Mar 31, 2004 #10
    The usual view is that we see and perceive only the relative attributes of things. However from the fact that we do we can infer a reality underlying these perceptions, what it is that has these attributes, or what is from which they arise.
  12. Apr 10, 2004 #11
    No one.But we have a clear ladder of rational choices,based on all observed facts+the success of the methods used to make sense of observed facts,not all logical and experimental possibilities are on equal foot.And certainly idealism is not on the first place.

    The berkeleyan type of idealism or some variants of the matrix hypothesis are indeed tenable seen from a philosophical and practical standpoint,being fully compatible with all observed facts.Even science has the apriori rejection of all types of idealism as a basic axiom,basically there is no way to disprove it,as of now at least.Some believe wrongly that the matrix hypothesis in general is not tenable because the Wachowsky brothers model presented in 'The Matrix' is not tenable.While this is correct there can easily be proposed much more complex models which make virtually impossible for us to realize we are living in the matrix.So that,after all,Bostrom could be right and we really live in a matrix.

    Still science has epistemological privilege [the scientific method is the best method known to explain and understand nature] being intrinsically pragmatic.Since there is no need to postulate additionally that our observed 'outside' reality is an illusion [less fundamental anyway] to make sense of all observed facts,in an intersubjective manner,the burden of proof is always on those who claim that there is something more,acting 'behind the scene' (it is very possible that there is nothing more though we cannot prove that).
  13. Apr 10, 2004 #12
    Of course it isn't. Science assumes idealism is false. However the chances of it being true are 50/50 as far as science knows.

    The Matrix idea, as presented in the film, makes no sense. It has no metaphysical foundation. It suggests just an infinite regression of matrixes with no final reality. This is why although the Matrix was partly based on Buddhism it is not even close to the Buddhist view.

    That's an opinion and no more.

    This is not correct. There are sound logical reasons for inferring that there is more to reality than science can observe or describe. (See my last post). This is one reason why so many philosophers have been idealists.
  14. Apr 10, 2004 #13
    Science assumes both that there exist an external reality independent of mind (in general) and that we can know it at least partially though,certainly,the image of external things is 'filtered' by the brain (meaning also that there is no claim that all attributes we assign to outside things are real).Accepting apriori idealism leads in the extreme case to solipsism (untenable logically) or to the matrix/berkeleyan type of idealism (I do not treat here the case when even our consciousness belongs entirely to our reality).But once we accept the existence of other minds why should we postulate the existence of something extra behind what we observe intersubjectively?Basically there are no sufficient reasons to believe that there is something extra acting behind the scene (the soul in 'God's mind' in the berkeleyan idealism,a consciousness at a higher up level in the matrix hypothesis) or that we cannot percieve the noumenon itself (to use Kant's terminology) at least some features of external things?That's why the simplest way to make sense of the observed realities,given by the scientific method,is to be prefered [the knowledge about the world obtained using the scientific method is preferred as the standard of knowledge,usually labeled 'objective knowledge'].For the moment,no final claim is involved since science is openly fallible.New data (even a better method than the current version of the scientific method) could change things dramatically.But first we must find sufficient empirical reasons,I'm afraid simple logical arguments (inductive in many cases,some deductive but not sound) are never enough...
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2004
  15. Apr 10, 2004 #14
    What is logically untenable about idealism?

    Because of the problem of essence or attributes. Also to avoid ex nihilo creation.

    True, but there's no sufficient reason not to believe it either. (I didn't say 'acting' btw)

    Kant said we cannot perceive the noumenal, and this seems to be correct to me.

    I would argue that science is concerned with the appearances of things, not reality, and that there are simpler ways to make sense of reality than science. I also disgree that science makes sense of things.

    Enough for what? Without sound logical arguments we couldn't reason that the sun was going to rise tomorrow.
  16. Apr 10, 2004 #15


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    I must be the one person who hasn't seen The Matrix. :redface:

    There is a very old philosophical stance called 'solipsism' which maintains that I am the only thing that exists, and so the various posts in this thread were merely made up by my own mind, and then they were playfully attributed to non-existent entities with names like Namloh2000.

    (Actually, it occurs to me that it can't be that old of a stance, since I have to be the one who dreamed it up, right? Ah, why am I asking you guys, since you are figments of my imagination anyway.)
  17. Apr 10, 2004 #16
    because *I* am the one making up *your* posts just to trick myself in believing that i am not the only one in the whole creation:-)
  18. Apr 11, 2004 #17

    I'm tired of explaining again and again this simple problem to you all over the internet.The problem is to establish a standard of knowledge (a method of establishing what is real also) working well for all our practical purposes in the simplest possible way,based on all observed facts.This is the main task of epistemology and the actual scientific method has proved to be the best so far.That's why it has epistemological privilege (being the standard of knowledge),still no final claim is involved.Some beliefs might be true still they cannot be considered as belonging to the standard of knowledge (usually labeled 'objective' knowledge) given by science before empirical confirmation using the rules of the scientific method.For example if I see an alien I do not have the right to say that my belief in aliens has epistemological privilege being objective knowledge (amounting to saying that all would be rational persons should believe the same).Thus some personal beliefs,involving facts not amenable to scientific scrutiny for the moment,for which one has a base,especially first hand experiences,are rational (a simple logical possibility is not enough,one has to have a good reason for believing something) but in any case has that person the right to claim that his belief has epistemological privilege.You might believe (rationally or not) whatever you want but this does not automatically mean that your belief,interpretation of observed facts,has automatically privilege over that of science's (the simplest account of all observed facts).For that you should provide empirical evidence,that can be intersubjectively tested,supporting the claim that there is still something extra (for example that we cannot percieve the noumenon in itself).The number of internally consistent interpretations of observed facts,having also power of explanation,could be infinite,the only way to make difference between them is entirely empirical.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2004
  19. Apr 11, 2004 #18
    No, it isn't. A popular example that i've used on other boards was that wherein the second phenomenological law of thermodynamics was refuted by Brownian motion, it being a perpetuum mobile of the second kind. Unfortunately there was in principle no experiment that could show this, but the kinetic theory nevertheless displaced it for theoretical reasons. The transition from phenomenological to kinetic theory thus came about in spite of there being no empirical difference or result - decisive or otherwise - that disproved the one and suggested the other. In this instance, then, we have a plain counter-example to your assertion above; it fails because it is too simplistic to account for the historical and contemporary practice of science. Other instances are legion, if you only look to the literature.
  20. Apr 12, 2004 #19

    I'd say that the 'replacement' of the classical thermodynamics with the kinetic theory was simply due to the fact that Boltzman kinetic approach used the atomic hypothesis (instead of the pozitivist principles behind classical thermodynamics) which was able to explain/describe a wider range of observed facts (brownian motion included) believed once of being totally separated.Sure full acception of this happened only later when even physicists became convinced of the existence of atoms but this does not change the essence of the problem (for chemists the kinetic theory only strengthened their belief in the existence of atoms).Finally we return at empirical facts,the most supported theory is chosen.I'd say that the term 'replaced' is improper,classical thermodynamics has not been really disproved even now,it has only a lower degree of coherence with the atomic hypothesis;certainly the brownian motion is a puzzle for the classical thermodynamics but in any case a crucial falsification.

    But the context in which I used my assertion refers at situations when some claim that hypotheses using in their premises additional theoretical constructs,not indispensable to explain some observed facts (the same in fact),have the same epistemological privilege with those used by science (which provides the simplest account possible,sufficient reasons).It is true now that some theoretical constructs used in the premises of some scientific theories might be not falsifiable themselves (from all we know at a certain moment of time) but they are crucial for the observed empirical success of the predictions of those scientific theories.

    No one say that such more complex theories could not be closer to the 'ultimate reality' still the only way to prefer them (as the standard of knowledge for a personal belief or preference of them is sometimes rational,especially when there exist first hand subjective experiences,not amenable to scientific inquiry for the moment,which 'fit' better with the experiences) is either by finding some new empirical evidence (including a greater number of empirical 'confirmations' of their predictions on what we can already observe in general,as shown in the example with the atomic hypothesis) or by providing a method of establishing what is real better than the scientific method (which suggest that something extra exist) proved superior first on observed facts also.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2004
  21. Apr 12, 2004 #20
    Perhaps I think your explanation is just a sign that you haven't thought about these issues much.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2004
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