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What is reality?

  1. Nov 20, 2007 #1
    Can anyone define me reality please?Is it what we see real or it is just an illusion?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 20, 2007 #2
    i would define reality as: that which continues to exist after all all conscious thought is removed.

    as for your second question... it would really depend on what you yourself believe. I don't think it would make much sense to ask other people if there are supernatural beings.
  4. Nov 21, 2007 #3
  5. Nov 21, 2007 #4
    Reality is what we experience.

    When philosophers talk about 'illusion' its mainly a reference to the idea that reality may not be what it appears. When we look at solid objects we can see that this appears to be true... 'solid' objects are actually almost entirely empty space after all.

    According to our current understanding of physics.... what we experience is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what 'exists'. In that sense what we experience is not 'true', it is illusory. Also our understanding can be said to create a model of what exists, a virtual reality in our minds.

    What causes our reality, what is beyond our ability to consciously experience in some way, is not something science can comment on.
  6. Nov 26, 2007 #5
    Although Joedawg (as usual) hit the nail on the head in my opinion, I couldn't resist adding a thought.

    How about considering: More than "is what we see real" - - - is that which we see out there really "out there" as we see it. Have you considered that what we think we see is the result of photons either bouncing off or being emitted from an entity (mostly empty of stuff) that our eyes translate to biochemical pulses that our brain assembles as information to creat a mental image of what we "perceive" to be out there?

    As Joedawg saws, it's real because we percieve it as real. All reality is perception, but that is our reality. To me the important thing is to ENJOY the perceived reality.
  7. Dec 2, 2007 #6
    there is no reality only perception
  8. Dec 2, 2007 #7
    odd what would we perceive and what would we call what we make of what we perceive?
  9. Dec 2, 2007 #8
    reality is perception....but the idea of a reality is something singularly real...perception is subjective, so reality is subjective...
  10. Dec 31, 2008 #9
    Reality (real world) is just a chromo-spatio-temporal interaction.
  11. Dec 31, 2008 #10

    Imagine you are walking along and you see two rocks laying on the ground.

    Where is "two"? What is "two"?

    Two is a concept. This is something that is in your mind. It is a way for your mind to process that data coming into it via your perceptions, your senses.

    In Reality, the rocks just are.

    Are there really "two" rocks?

    Rocks just are. A human mind adds this concept of "two". That is what human minds do all day, take perceptions and add a layer of concepts.

    Is it possible for a human to perceive without adding in this layer of concepts?

    If I understand it correctly, the answer is yes. This other way to perceive reality without concepts means you perceive reality directly. This then changes everything. Your entire notion of reality changes. (I could tell you more, but it gets weird fast, and is difficult to talk about, but ask if you really want to know...)

    Last edited: Jan 1, 2009
  12. Jan 4, 2009 #11


    Those are vectors in linear space. If you think of wavefunctions as ideas or thoughts, you wouldn't be too far off the mark, since they are made of the same "substance" as ideas and thoughts. In certain circumstances, those wavefunctions have the ability to appear particle-like to observers and form a conscious experience that there is something "out there". QM is nonlocal and this "out there" is most certainly an illusion.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2009
  13. Jan 4, 2009 #12
    i dont think it would be possible for a human to perceive reality directly. we are not meant to do this in ANY way. in order to accomplish what you are saying we would have to have pure perception which we do not have and can not acquire...
  14. Jan 4, 2009 #13
    There is a book called My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey -- written by a Harvard brain scientist where she perceives reality differently ("directly") and describes in great detail how the human brain makes this possible.

    There is a book called Zen and the Brain: Toward an Understanding of Meditation and Consciousness -- written by a Professor of Neuroscience who explains how you can do exercises with your brain so that you too can experience reality differently, "directly" if you will.

    There is a book called Perfect Brilliant Stillness by a non-scientist, non-spiritual person who describes a similar experience of reality, where he experiences reality "directly" but it happened for him spontaneously, he did not have a stroke, or do any exercises.

    There are many books and teachings like this, that stretch back thousands of years. It is very difficult to understand this because it seems to be at the intersection of science and spirituality, and because it seems to be a way to use your brain in a way that is non-conceptual (which seems to be antithetical to science, even though it is just using your brain in a different way).
  15. Jan 5, 2009 #14

    Math Is Hard

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    I saw her TED video some time ago and thought it was fascinating.

    Rather than interpret it as a "direct" reality experience, though, it seemed like a lesser and disorganized and substantially more indirect experience-- or what reality is like when half your equipment is on the blink.
    I'm not familiar with these authors, but they obviously wrote things that were very compelling to you. How do you satisfy yourself that they are not fooling themselves, that their claims of "direct" reality experience are not delusional?
  16. Jan 5, 2009 #15
    i believe the only way to acquire pure perception is to have absolutely no past experiences and not use reasoning (impossible for a human...) about present experiences. not be hindered by our senses (which rely HEAVILY on reasoning in order to even work...) the list can go on about what is necessary but these 3 right here are the biggest road blocks for why i believe humans can never have pure perception.

    firstly we do have past experiences and our conscious about this (whether we realize it or not... its not like we can 'control' our consciousness it just is.)

    second we have imperfect perception tools (our senses) which are heavily hindered by our reasoning skills... it works for what we need in order to live and survive and thrive but not for knowing and being certain of what exist in actuality.

    even if u remove reasoning skills for brief periods and lose conciousness i do not believe we can say our senses are ANYWHERE close enough to be considered 'perfect' and seeing 'what is truly there' what you would call 'direct perception' instead we would get a mashed up mashed up version of reality... if we could perfectly perceive this then it wouldn't be mashed up mashed up it would be clear and probably (i would assume...) to seem 'whole' and 'one' but still clear to the observer.

    i watched that video and have to agree with math is hard that she observed the world rather indirectly than directly... it is quite fascinating how the brain works though thanks for posting that lol
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2009
  17. Jan 5, 2009 #16


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    I always thought "perceiving directly" was when you like, squished your toes in the sand, or laid in a field of grass in the sun, and felt each little blade of grass and the warm sun on your exposed skin or listened to an orchestra...

    and just perceived, without trying intellectually interpret your perceptions. I don't think this gives you a better intellectual understanding of reality, but it may give you a better feeling for reality.

    Also, you have to remember that our imagination and consciousness and our physical bodies are all parts of reality too, we can't separate ourselves from safely behind a glass wall and say "that's reality over there" we're part of it, interacting with all the other parts of it.

    Note: I'm not saying that an image of a rock in my brain is the same thing as a rock, I'm saying that there both part of the same reality, and the image of a rock in my brain wouldn't be there without rock-like things existing in the first place.
  18. Jan 5, 2009 #17
    yeah thats what i guess im' getting at ... we can NOT purely perceive reality. impossible.
  19. Jan 5, 2009 #18

    Yes, what Jill Taylor experienced was a malfunctioning brain, so you would expect it to be messed up. But my understanding is you can use your equipment differently, and have a different experience of reality. And when this happens you "know" this new version is more accurate.

    Very excellent question about delusional! But that begs the question: how can we know right now that what we are experiencing is not the delusional version of reality, and those other people have the more accurate version (or whatever you would call it).

    If someone starts going off and talking about all sorts of "spiritual" stuff, you would rightly be suspicious that they are maybe just making stuff up. But if you are simply using your brain in a different manner, why can't that reality be the more accurate one? How would you know?

    And of course that then begs the question of what an accurate version of reality is! Again, all I can say is what I've read (by many people).
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 5, 2009
  20. Jan 5, 2009 #19

    oh ok so your just saying that it would more accurately represent reality.. well in that case i dont see why not.. we just can never be sure about it though... hmph.
  21. Jan 5, 2009 #20

    I believe you are making an assumption when you say, "no past experiences and not use reasoning (impossible for a human)".

    I believe what these brain scientists are clearly saying is that you have different parts of your brain that work differently. Most crudely, the Left half does all the reasoning and has all the rationality, and generates all concepts such as "time". But the Right half is infinitely in the present, receiving all data from the sense, and not actually processing it.

    I believe that we all emphasize the Left half of our brains, and consider all that results from that to be the "real" reality. But -- again it is my understanding -- you can emphasize the Right half of your brain, and have a totally different sense of reality. And when this happens, you "know" that this new version is more accurate. I find that prospect to be fascinating!

    So if you are "in" the Right half of your brain, you will experience everything, without thinking about anything, which is a radically different way to be. But again, the Left half does not shut down, it is just de-emphasized, it still works just fine, you simply experience reality from (what a lot of these people say) a "different perspective".

    But you are no less human. You are no different at all. You are simply using the brain differently. And this results in a different reality.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 5, 2009
  22. Jan 5, 2009 #21


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    No you don't.

    If a person's perception of reality differs from what is the norm, then their perception would be abnormal.

    We have laws of nature that are consistent. To me that is proof that my perception of reality is correct. I know if I drop a rock that it is not going to go up unless there is some force acting on it stronger than gravity.
  23. Jan 5, 2009 #22

    I wonder why your statements are so definitive? Are you saying reality is what everyone else says it is? Or what is most obvious? Isn't that the opposite of Science? Do you know why Galileo was imprisoned?

    EDIT: Stop using colored font. --> sorry, I have posted many times with colored font, and other admins have told me other problems, but no one ever mentioned this as a problem before. Can you point me to that in the guidelines, I want to be consistent.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2009
  24. Jan 5, 2009 #23


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    Brain damage doesn't change reality, it can skew a person's perception of reality.

    Are you saying Galileo was brain damaged? If not, what does he have to do with this thread?
  25. Jan 5, 2009 #24
    yeah i never took into account that someone may go through an experience which damages the rational part of the brain. if this was the case then i would say they are still 'perceiving' the world much less perfectly than if they had their reasoning capabilities. this is because our senses and mind WORK on this relationship if you damage part of the relationship it is no longer functioning how it is supposed to and therefore can not be relied upon...
  26. Jan 5, 2009 #25

    Only one of the authors I referred to temporarily suffered from a brain injury. During that time she experienced a different way to use her brain, although she did not intend for this to happen. The other authors I referred to (and there are MANY more, and have been for thousands of years) also experienced this different way to perceive reality. Some intentionally, some not. But almost all of them claim to know that this other way to perceive reality is more accurate (and yes, how you define that IS a good question). But if you simply use your brain differently, or recognize or emphasize a different part of the brain, or a different functionality in the brain, is still just using your human brain. And this changes your perception of reality, such that you then "know", or you believe you know, reality more accurately.

    I don't think anyone can know what this would be like unless they experienced it themselves.

    The reference to Galileo is that he was condemned for saying that the consensus reality was not accurate. Everyone "knew" that the Earth did not move, and was at the center of the universe. In fact, there IS evidence to support this. Just look. Just like there IS evidence that the Earth is flat, and that was indeed the consensus reality. But just because there is empirical evidence for something, and everyone believes it, doesn't make it true. It is a version of reality, but there is sometimes a more accurate version of reality available. And now those updated realities are the consensus realities. But to say these new consensus versions of reality could never change would be non-scientific.
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