The sum of our perceptions make up reality

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The term "reality" is merely the sum of our perceptions, nothing more.

What are your guy's thought on this above statement. Also, what are some ideas from other philosophers that support or oppose this statement.
 

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  • #2
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The term "reality" is merely the sum of our perceptions, nothing more.

What are your guy's thought on this above statement. Also, what are some ideas from other philosophers that support or oppose this statement.
I'm in total agreement. I think the idea that there exists some independent reality outside of biological perceptions has been falsified by qm, though not everyone would agree with that.
 
  • #3
The term "reality" is merely the sum of our perceptions, nothing more.

What are your guy's thought on this above statement. Also, what are some ideas from other philosophers that support or oppose this statement.
Let us define terms if we are to speak of this. I will use terms that are not made-up, but that are pre-existing. What you are describing is direct realism. Another name for that is "naive realism." Which is the view that reality is just as we would expect it from our senses, like you describe.

The statement that QM has "falsified an independent reality outside biological perceptions" is totally false. Objective observations have actually proven the existence of things outside our biological perception for a very long time. And I don't mean because something is far away. You can not directly perceive but a fraction of the EM band. You can not violate the two postulates of special relativity. You would need something external to you to aid you in detecting what our senses can not.

I happen to take the stance of indirect realism. I tend to believe in an absolute truth that is constant and objective, regardless of our ability to perceive it. This is also inline with logical positivism, skepticism, and the scientific method; we do not rule out anything until we can, and until we can we accept it as a possibility.

Epistemology has some of the best clues as to what knowledge is, and that shapes how we define reality. In epistemology there is belief and truth, and knowledge is the union of the two. What is truth and what is belief define the relative purity of any knowledge towards the absolute truth, which is unalterable. Even if reality were found to be inherently chaotic, this would still be a truth, and epistemology can describe that.

Sorry for the wall post, but you've asked a very big question and there is much more to it than I have even touche on here.
 
  • #4
vanesch
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Let us define terms if we are to speak of this. I will use terms that are not made-up, but that are pre-existing. What you are describing is direct realism. Another name for that is "naive realism." Which is the view that reality is just as we would expect it from our senses, like you describe.
I'm not sure it is naive realism. To me, it could just as well be solipsism: reality is not "what we perceive" but the subjective perceptions themselves, in other words, nothing exists, but subjective perceptions (which are themselves illusions of an external world), including the perception of having biological sensations while we don't "really" have a body, but just sensations "as if" we had a body. A sentient being is then nothing else but a bag of subjective perceptions which are interpreted (erroneously ?) as corresponding to a material world.
 
  • #5
Vanesch, indeed, I did notice a hint of idealism (which is what you described). And this brings up a good point. Idealism is very close to naive realism in the presumptions it makes. The degree of separation between them is mostly in wording, but in practice they both rely utterly on human perception--which I why I reject them both. I tend to like the objective, and use the subjective with a grain of salt. Would you agree?
 
  • #6
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1Truthseeker said:
Vanesch, indeed, I did notice a hint of idealism (which is what you described). And this brings up a good point. Idealism is very close to naive realism in the presumptions it makes. The degree of separation between them is mostly in wording, but in practice they both rely utterly on human perception--which I why I reject them both. I tend to like the objective, and use the subjective with a grain of salt. Would you agree?

Your "objective" is merely the sum of your "subjective" interpreted in way that you think makes sense. This naive interpretation is hard to maintain and contradicts our best tested theories in physics - QM, GR and cosmology.
 
  • #7
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Just because one prefers a more subjective interpretation re qm, does not mean one agrees with puirist idealism or solipism.

An anti-realism stance which i find perfectly sensible is that once a measurment or observation is made then and only then physical reality emerges. To say the particle had only a subjective existence prior to observation is not to deny the physicality of the real world. It just says that the real objective world we experience is a post-qm processed reality.
 
  • #8
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Coldcall said:
Just because one prefers a more subjective interpretation re qm, does not mean one agrees with puirist idealism or solipism.

An anti-realism stance which i find perfectly sensible is that once a measurment or observation is made then and only then physical reality emerges. To say the particle had only a subjective existence prior to observation is not to deny the physicality of the real world. It just says that the real objective world we experience is a post-qm processed reality.

I don't think anybody here will be willing to argue with you on a point that far removed from our knowledge. You could be right, or idealism could be right. Or another approach that hasn't been proposed so far. I am not taking a definite position, as I have no idea what reality is, so it would seem somewhat like a religious belief if i did, IMO.
 
  • #9
Your "objective" is merely the sum of your "subjective" interpreted in way that you think makes sense. This naive interpretation is hard to maintain and contradicts our best tested theories in physics - QM, GR and cosmology.
No. I feel there is an absolute truth that may or may not be asymptotic in our ability to reach it. When I say that naive realism is subjective, I mean that it does not factor in possibilities beyond the 5 senses, such as the very strange world of QM.

Even if reality is random, and not just chaotic, but truly stochastic, then that is still an objective truth. Reality is irrelevant to truth; the absolute is a philosophical truth that presupposes any notion of any possible reality, which is a subset of the absolute. Our Universe is a subset of the (possibly infinite) absolute--whatever the absolute may or may not be.

There is nothing naive about saying there is an absolute truth. In fact it is naive to assume we have any grasp at all on it. Reality I hold to be local; it is local to our universe, and absolute in and of itself as a truth, but does not constitute the absolute of all that might be. There may be fundamentals beyond our ability to even imagine. I like your view of not knowing what reality is -- this is really the only healthy way to philosophize about anything and upholds my skepticism ethics in philosophy, so I admire that quality you have. Few people are brave enough to say "I don't know" and know that it isn't from ignorance, but of the unknowable.

There is nothing metaphysical about an absolute truth. Belief + Truth = Knowledge. How much of that knowledge is truth? We have to eliminate the impossible to find out, this is the basis of logical positivism. We can not assert truths, we must eliminate untruths. In order to claim omniscience we would need the entire sphere of truths, so as to be able to eliminate all impossibilities--highly improbable of achieving this anytime soon for h. sapiens.
 
  • #10
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There is nothing metaphysical about an absolute truth. Belief + Truth = Knowledge. How much of that knowledge is truth? We have to eliminate the impossible to find out, this is the basis of logical positivism. We can not assert truths, we must eliminate untruths. In order to claim omniscience we would need the entire sphere of truths, so as to be able to eliminate all impossibilities--highly improbable of achieving this anytime soon for h. sapiens.
Regarding eliminating all untruths... it's more than highly improbable, it's impossible. Falsification has been falsified in a sense :wink:. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_holism. Being careful not to quote too much out of context, I'll pull out this one line regarding scientific or empirical knowledge:
Therefore it is in principle impossible to determine if a theory is false by reference to evidence.
In other words, we can't even eliminate anything (empirical) as being "impossible" in the strictest logical sense.
 
  • #11
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The term "reality" is merely the sum of our perceptions, nothing more.

What are your guy's thought on this above statement. Also, what are some ideas from other philosophers that support or oppose this statement.
Since this is the philosophy forum, I'll point out the the term "reality" is merely the definition that we give it :smile:. The claim that existence is only the sum of our perceptions and there is no existence independent of perception is commonly known in philosophy as subjective idealism. George Berkeley, an 18th century bishop in Ireland, famously argued (quite well) that this is more of a common sense and consistent view than belief in a material external world. He ended up using this line of reasoning as an argument for God, but that can be treated as an entirely separate and secondary argument.

Berkeley presented his view in a very readable form in his http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Three_Dialogues_Between_Hylas_and_Philonous" [Broken], which is basically required reading for philosophy students (it's probably more readable in book form though).

Berkeley California and UC Berkeley were named after Bishop Berkeley, although the pronunciation has changed so that the two "Berkeley"s sound different now. Bishop Berkeley's name is pronounced bark-lee (ˈbɑrkli) rather than burk-lee.
 
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  • #12
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Three Dialogues in a nutshell:
PHIL. I do not pretend to be a setter-up of new notions. My endeavours tend only to unite, and place in a clearer light, that truth which was before shared between the vulgar and the philosophers:--the former being of opinion, that THOSE THINGS THEY IMMEDIATELY PERCEIVE ARE THE REAL THINGS; and the latter, that THE THINGS IMMEDIATELY PERCEIVED ARE IDEAS, WHICH EXIST ONLY IN THE MIND. Which two notions put together, do, in effect, constitute the substance of what I advance.
One other thing to note is that none of this has anything to do with denying science or any other weird ideas. In Philonous's last statement he compares the rationality that leads to idealism with the rationality of the "uniform law or principle of gravitation" at work on the water in a fountain.
 
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  • #13
And what of the absolute? Can't we reason that logic presupposes the material reality? For the record I am an indirect realist.
 
  • #14
Pythagorean
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No, I think there's a reality independent of humans. It's somewhat egocentric to think reality doesn't exist without humans isn't it? Not that that makes it wrong, alone, but there's a general trend for us to be wrong when we think like that...

I'm in total agreement. I think the idea that there exists some independent reality outside of biological perceptions has been falsified by qm, though not everyone would agree with that.
Would you explain precisely how QM has done that?
 
  • #15
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No, I think there's a reality independent of humans. It's somewhat egocentric to think reality doesn't exist without humans isn't it? Not that that makes it wrong, alone, but there's a general trend for us to be wrong when we think like that...

Would you explain precisely how QM has done that?
First of all you have willfully mis-represented what i said. I never said anything about human-centric. I talk of biological systems. Why do you do that? Do you really need to twist what i said in order to score some point based on a fallacy concerning something i never claimed? Please if you wnat to debate do it with integrity and honesty.

Moving on though about your qm question. As far as we are aware, and all experiments so far back this up; there is no realism until a quantum state has been measured or observed, and prior to that interaction there are only abstract probabilities. So if you want to argue for realism prior to observation then you will have to prove it, and Im afriad Bohmian mechanics proves nothing, as it is based on assumptions about non-observables.
 
  • #16
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First of all you have willfully mis-represented what i said. I never said anything about human-centric. I talk of biological systems. Why do you do that? Do you really need to twist what i said in order to score some point based on a fallacy concerning something i never claimed? Please if you wnat to debate do it with integrity and honesty.

Moving on though about your qm question. As far as we are aware, and all experiments so far back this up; there is no realism until a quantum state has been measured or observed, and prior to that interaction there are only abstract probabilities. So if you want to argue for realism prior to observation then you will have to prove it, and Im afriad Bohmian mechanics proves nothing, as it is based on assumptions about non-observables.
I agree that there is nothing human-centric about any sort of serious idealism. For Berkeley, God was the necessary observer required for objects to have persistent when no individual is watching them. This was a logical argument and not anything theoretical though.

The problem with reference to specific science, including biology or QM, in relation to this question, is that to argue from these points of view is to assume them as primary. In other words, if you assume a biological mind you are already assuming the existence of a material world. "Biological perceptions" are a physicalist concept. It seems circular to use biology (or QM) as a source of evidence against the ultimate reality of a physical world.

I also think it's a little strong to say that any assumptions about an external world, like an assumption of realism, require proof. There are so few things we can prove in philosophy. One of those things is that we can't deductively prove anything empirical. There is no way to prove or disprove realism (ignoring pure rationalism) - it's all about what makes for the most coherent, self-consistent, overall metaphysical and philosophical framework.
 
  • #17
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What you are describing is direct realism. Another name for that is "naive realism." Which is the view that reality is just as we would expect it from our senses, like you describe.
No, that's really not what was described. The word you are looking for is empiricism, or even phenomenalism. 'Naive realism' assumes that perceptions correspond 'directly' to an external reality. This is very different from the idea that perceptions are reality.
 
  • #18
Pythagorean
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First of all you have willfully mis-represented what i said. I never said anything about human-centric. I talk of biological systems. Why do you do that? Do you really need to twist what i said in order to score some point based on a fallacy concerning something i never claimed? Please if you wnat to debate do it with integrity and honesty.
You're mixing my reply to the OP with my reply to you. Though, I suppose you did agree with the OP when he said:

"The term "reality" is merely the sum of our perceptions, nothing more."

I took "our" to mean us, as in human, since they'll be the only ones sharing the post. Either way, it's still, in my opinion, a completely ridiculous notion.

Your post is an overreaction. I have not willfullly misinterpreted anything, and you'd easily had a chance to clear up any discrepancies without making ridiculous accusations. Instead, you've presented yourself as a bit of a nut.

As far as we are aware, and all experiments so far back this up; there is no realism until a quantum state has been measured or observed, and prior to that interaction there are only abstract probabilities. So if you want to argue for realism prior to observation then you will have to prove it
You've misinterpreted quantum mechanics. An observer does not have to be a human, or even a biological system. Have you ever studied qm formally?
 
  • #19
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You're mixing my reply to the OP with my reply to you. Though, I suppose you did agree with the OP when he said:

"The term "reality" is merely the sum of our perceptions, nothing more."

I took "our" to mean us, as in human, since they'll be the only ones sharing the post. Either way, it's still, in my opinion, a completely ridiculous notion.

Your post is an overreaction. I have not willfullly misinterpreted anything, and you'd easily had a chance to clear up any discrepancies without making ridiculous accusations. Instead, you've presented yourself as a bit of a nut.

You've misinterpreted quantum mechanics. An observer does not have to be a human, or even a biological system. Have you ever studied qm formally?
Its no overreaction to hold you to your initial misrepresentation of what i said. Its a cheap and intellectually dishonest approach to debate. You addressed your comments to me, and you unambiguously framed your question to me as if i was claiming that no reality exists without humans. Had you meant to take on the OP you would have addressed your comments to him/her.

Why not just apologise instead of backpeddling with a really flimsy and illogical excuse. How am i supposed to take you seriously when you try that crap on?

Easy answer is I will just ignore you until you apologise for misrepresenting what i said.
 
  • #20
Chronos
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There is no absolute proof, or denial of any observation. We rely on observation and logic - which cannot be proven or disproven. We live in a fuzzy universe.
 
  • #21
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Pythagorean said:
You've misinterpreted quantum mechanics. An observer does not have to be a human, or even a biological system. Have you ever studied qm formally?

Pythagorean, I wonder what your idea is of whatever it is(fundamental and invariant) that exist out there?

If it is quantum fields, what do you conceive of a quantum field(what ontological meaning do you ascribe to mathematical QF's)? Would you be comfortable with using the word "exist" for a phenomenon that only has its properties in relation to other phenomena and would you be comfortable with assigning existence for something that has no solid structure(e.g. our relative universe)? Would events(information about events) be considered real and observer-independent?
 
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  • #22
Pythagorean
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Pythagorean, I wonder what your idea is of whatever it is(fundamental and invariant) that exist out there?

If it is quantum fields, what do you conceive of a quantum field?
I don't see the world in quantum view, that's for sure. QM is very difficult to grasp in an intuitive way, and the more we find pleasing ways to encompass the whole theory in a way that we understand and identify with, the more we begin to make personal interpretations.

The world is a very confusing and strange place. Anytime we build a theory/model about it, (even on our own time when we're stereotyping, categorizing, or learning information) we're torn between generalization and specializing. The more you generalize, the more information you lose, and it becomes easier to mistake your case for the general since the resolution is so large, and you're flabbergasted when you find fundamental flaws in your generalized theory. As you specialize your model, it becomes more limited in the cases it applies to and becomes less intuitive as part of the general picture.

We tend to make generalizations in philosophy about physics. Of course, it's a lose-lose situation, because once you slide more towards the specialized models, you begin to lose feeling for the generalizations that make it a concept easier to understand on a fundamental, intuitive level.


Would you be comfortable with using the word "exist" for a phenomenon that only has its properties in relation to other phenomena?
yes, events happen between objects. Weather "exists". Weather is not an object. It's a series of events between many, many objects.

Would you be comfortable with assigning existence for something that has no solid structure(e.g. our relative universe)?
Like Energy or Velocity? Yes.

Would events(information about events) be considered real and observer-independent?
Events, yes. Information is an ambiguous word.
 
  • #23
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Pythagorean said:
I don't see the world in quantum view, that's for sure. QM is very difficult to grasp in an intuitive way, and the more we find pleasing ways to encompass the whole theory in a way that we understand and identify with, the more we begin to make personal interpretations.

The world is a very confusing and strange place. Anytime we build a theory/model about it, (even on our own time when we're stereotyping, categorizing, or learning information) we're torn between generalization and specializing. The more you generalize, the more information you lose, and it becomes easier to mistake your case for the general since the resolution is so large, and you're flabbergasted when you find fundamental flaws in your generalized theory. As you specialize your model, it becomes more limited in the cases it applies to and becomes less intuitive as part of the general picture.

We tend to make generalizations in philosophy about physics. Of course, it's a lose-lose situation, because once you slide more towards the specialized models, you begin to lose feeling for the generalizations that make it a concept easier to understand on a fundamental, intuitive level.

Sounds like you are saying that reality is not(thoroughly) comprehensible.




yes, events happen between objects. Weather "exists". Weather is not an object. It's a series of events between many, many objects.

My question wasn't referring to the common-sense reality of objects and weather. I was interested to know your idea of the underlying nature of what you call objects and, in case you are a naive realist, what about GR, QM and cosmology?


Would you be comfortable with assigning existence for something that has no solid structure(e.g. our relative universe)?
Like Energy or Velocity? Yes.

If the universe is really a structureless, relative energy soup of possibilities, we must address the issue of our own weird classical reality. How come? Why do we see this perfectly structured reality that appears so real to the casual eye? You insist on doing away with the observer, but if there is NO observer to objectify the electron, atom, molecule, etc.(prescribe it definite position, momentum, time, mass, energy, speed...in space), what would those "objects" be without us, the observers? (I presume you are familiar with the double slit experiement with highly ordered and structured objects such as c60 molecule, passing as waves when unobserved/unmeasured through the slits, http://www.fkf.mpg.de/andersen/fullerene/symmetry.html).

Suppose there were no observers in this relative energy soup of possibilities(the probability density of a bound-state electron at infinity is never zero). What, in your view, is the ontological status of the phenomenon that gives rise to what we commonly accept as common-sense reality?



Would events(information about events) be considered real and observer-independent?

Events, yes. Information is an ambiguous word.

OK, I will assume for a moment that waves are real. What does it tell us about the events(what you like to call 'objects') that get manifested through them?
 
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  • #24
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Hello all,

WaveJumper, you typed

what would those "objects" be without us the observers?
They certainly wouldn’t ‘look’ anything like they are now, that’s for sure. However, other than the human made objects, they’d still be there as THEY ARE THERE , being energetic entities in interaction with each other, obeying universal laws, each having their very own existence, properties, origin and evolution.

They were created by universal mechanisms just like you were created by a human specific mechanism, obeying universal and man made laws, having your own existence, properties, origin and evolution.


Regards,
VE



P.S. :

Maybe I shouldn't share this and no offense, but Coldcall, please, come out of it, it seems you got it wrong…

There were six posts between your and Pythagorean’s first posts. His post header is directed at the OP’s question, not your reply. The second part of his post is directed to you and you’ve already answered. It is you who has put together both his responses in a single quote…
 
  • #25
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ValenceE said:
They certainly wouldn’t ‘look’ anything like they are now, that’s for sure. However, other than the human made objects, they’d still be there as THEY ARE THERE , being energetic entities in interaction with each other, obeying universal laws, each having their very own existence, properties, origin and evolution.

This contradicts SR, QM and cosmology. What do you mean by "they"? Their physical properties are dependent on the observer's FOR. How wide is the universe without making the unwarranted assumption of a preferred frame of reference? Where are the superpositional states(loosely speaking - 'waves') that you believe are "there"(that really stretch to infinity)? What does "there" mean outside the usual, common-sense view of the reality of your eyes, ears and smell?

Does an unmeasured/unobserved c60 molecule have definite physical properties?
 
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