Models of Reality: Part 4

Models Reality: Part 4

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What is real, given a change in perceptual input? The old model would have us believe that what is true and real are based on a construction of reality that has us building models with the premise in a continuing objective reality beyond our own subjectively perceived models of reality. In this objective model concept, things like dreams and virtual reality, and the popular philosophical thought experiments of an “evil demon or brain in a tank” scenario are meant to show that we can be tricked into what is and isn’t real. I will call this the false reality model. It is possible however and highly likely given a lot of other literature on the topic understood through mechanisms of perception described in psychological, philosophical and physical models that you can’t divest a reality from the perceiver. There is no outside that you can ever get to, no ‘true’ reality that can be pointed to beyond one’s own individual subjective experience of reality. Even to reference points of reality based on other perceivers falls within this perceptual error, as other perceivers are accessible only through one’s own inescapable perception, thus begging the question of anything objective beyond the subjective interpretation, the solipsist argument.

While I think the solipsist gets it basically right in some regards, I think they do it in all the wrong ways. Suffice it to say that the general point of the solipsist stands up to reason. Belief in a mind-independent reality would have to come down to a fundamental point of belief. People aren’t believing it exists because there is good evidence for it, they are believing it exists as a point of faith. All of this comes around in a neat circle: belief in external reality is predicated on our perceptions of it, our perceptions can be fooled about the so called “reality” in a number of ways. We really can’t be sure if we’re being fooled or not, which undermines our perceptions of reality as predicated on our perceptions. But it doesn’t work like that. There is a point missing from this position, as all these arguments do is undermine an externally existing reality, not reality as perception.

If we change reality as a fundamental phenomenon existing as a separate predication from our perception, we are at a loss. But if we predicate reality as being fundamental to our perception then we don’t have a problem, or at least we don’t have that problem. But then I suppose people feel we have a problem of consistency maybe. How are we to tell the difference between one perception of reality and another? How do we distinguish between a dream and waking reality?

My first thought to this question is to ask, why do we need to? Perhaps, someone might reply that maybe it doesn’t hurt us or anyone else if we don’t distinguish between dreams and waking reality, but what about hallucinations? All of this thinking basically comes from a fixed point of perception of an external reality. Thus, hallucinations don’t actually in anyway affect our current perceptions of reality because it just so happens that hallucinations are true perceptions just not necessarily useful ones, which means we should take them as seriously as we do anything else. If for example a person came up and told you that they were God and you should do what they tell you, why should you believe them without anything in the way of adequate proof much in the same way we go about clarifying facts of the nature currently? Similarly if a hallucination, or what you believe to be a hallucination, suggested the same thing, why should you not require proof or at least adequate evidence of a sort?

Giving up an externally existing reality doesn’t preclude the loss of critical thinking or empirical evidence, rather it requires a more rigorous use of it that we don’t currently adhere to.

As such, in the new model all perceptions are subjectively valid experiences, but not all perceptions are equally valid in regards to our shared considerations for our collective interpretation of reality, or consensus reality if you will.

Solipsism

Solipsism is just one side of the dualistic paradox of the “we are all one” understanding of reality. The solipsist is basically suggesting exactly the same thing as the person that argues all is one, the unity of all observation. The difference is merely one of perspective, argued from the standpoint of the ego consciousness, which ultimately dissolves with the absurdity of suggesting that everyone is contained in an individual’s single identification of the self.

If the solipsist is the only one that exists, and everyone is just a fragment of their mind, it suggests that they themselves are really nothing more than a figment of their own mind too, as we ourselves are just small and limited fragments of our own greater minds, rarely having conscious access even to our own subconscious minds without the use of elaborate rituals, psychological insight or medical techniques.

If we are to agree to solipsism, we have to admit that we are greater than we imagine ourselves to be, such that we can create such an infinite array of characters and activities and worlds in which we participate in. As such, we are just a small projection of some greater intelligent mind that we participate in. But then, so are all the other projections ‘out’ there as we personally don’t have access to them outside of our egoic experience. In which case, they are no more real or fake then we our self are. 

Which begs the question, what is this mind and who are we? Possibly leading to the realization that what we take for ourselves is nothing but a great and elaborate illusion, and that we don’t really exist in any proper sense at all. The flip side of unity has similar problems, they just swim around each other endlessly playing back and forth. Such considerations are not new, given the Chinese have popularized this dualistic interpretation of reality as the Tao, popularly imagined in the image of the yin and yang.

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Models of Reality: Part 3

Models of Reality: Part 3

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Objective Reality?

“There is no objective reality separate from us”.

Albert Hoffman

Robert Anton Wilson is a great source for what Hoffman is describing here. Robert Anton Wilson (popularly referred to as RAW) is well known for talking about reality tunnels, as well as the eight neural circuits of programs and meta-programming which he adapted from the ideas of Dr. Timothy Leary:

A Reality tunnel is a term, akin to the idea of representative realism, coined by Timothy Leary (1920–1996). It was further expanded on by Robert Anton Wilson (1932-2007), who wrote about the idea extensively in his 1983 book Prometheus Rising. The theory states that, with a subconscious set of mental filters formed from his or her beliefs and experiences, every individual interprets the same world differently, hence “Truth is in the eye of the beholder”. Reality Tunnels

More importantly I myself look upon Hume as the first person to radically propose this idea. Taking a page from Hume, Berkeley and Kant; each of these eighteenth century philosophers explored ways to deal with this problem of the subjective/objective, and each of them have very important things to say, even if maybe they don’t get it entirely right. This is what progress is about, learning from those who come before and continually building upon their ideas.

Once you can accurately and simply paint the picture of a subjective reality understood through the lens of your own perspective rather than based on an objectively ‘real’, you can move onto the next step. Robert Anton Wilson credits Hermeticism for obvious reasons, because as with mystics, Buddhists, yogis, and other ascetics, hermeticism had understood the nature of reality to some extent as an extension of ourselves. It is once you get to this place of understanding that you can start creating and participating in the process of making your reality map or tunnel. A process that has the subjective individual as a knowing participant in reality rather than a passive observer of an objective reality beyond one’s own mental consideration.

“We know that it is wrong to assume that the features of a system which we observe exist prior to our measurement. What we perceive as reality now depends on our earlier decision on what to measure; which is a very deep message about the nature of reality and about our role in the universe. We are not just passive observers looking at the stage and watching things.” – Anton Zeilinger

One of the areas of philosophical thought that can get a person mentally stuck is where a philosophical model of ontological idealism attempts to answer the question of whether an externally existing objective reality, separate from the perceiver actually exists? The argument being that if there isn’t an objectively separate existing reality, than what exactly are we perceiving and does it persist beyond our own perception? Famously posed as the Japanese Koan: If a tree falls in the woods and their is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?

With most arguments for an externally existing reality suggesting that there has to be something out there, because the assumption is that we aren’t creating it. The argument being that reality would disappear as soon as we weren’t observing it. Many of the original idealists would use God as the explanatory rebuttal to these problems saying that it is the greater mind of God or some universal mind in which we all dwell that can account for the assumed persistence of reality beyond our own conscious experience.

While I don’t disagree with those points explicitly, I would hazard against jumping to conclusions. As many philosophers have already shown, most people are very confused about what their experiences actually are, and science continues to back up these observations that have been made initially by philosophical speculation; such as in the case of the strange effects observed in quantum mechanics, which do seem to suggest that there is in fact an observable effect on reality from our observations. Largely speaking, what people take for real and common sense, is just a lack of proper understanding of their own sense apparatus and its workings, which suggests that they don’t actually experience anything externally – they are only being informed by their senses of something. What that something is, however, is what is at the heart of subjective/objective considerations.

I personally think there is something of the sort of an objective reality going on, but not a single universally objectively true reality which is somehow out there. More like there is an informational matrix interacting with our own information gateways to structure a reality that we ourselves create and experience in what we call a subjective reality. We experience similar things because we share similar information gateways (senses, biochemical makeup, physical structure, etc.). Because the structures that form our information processing networks are similar to each other, the end result of the information-to-reality process has similar, but not identical, results. Leading us to feel like we are sharing in an objective reality, while we are content that we all have something of a subjective interpretation of this so called ‘objective’ reality.

Information State Reality

Whether or not everything is ‘made’ of information is actually irrelevant. As a model it is a superior one to work with because we can put more things together in it to work with it. It doesn’t require a real and physical universe, it doesn’t matter if it is a dream, a computer simulation, a hard reality, it can still function to explain things in each of these. It wouldn’t matter if there is a ‘real’ wet works (brain), as long as in each system model that you work with, a ‘brain’ is always an information processor.

Once we have accepted that what we are working with one way or another, practically speaking is information, we no longer need to concern ourselves with what things really are (this is in a sense the extreme version of the pragmatists). This isn’t to say that determining what things are is unimportant, just that making such a determination can be problematic and perhaps impossible. The information model gives us a way of getting around that as a problem, because it wouldn’t matter what the medium of the information was, as we still have the computability of the medium itself – namely information.

Thus, in the same way that mathematics can act as a universal language, information can be said to be a universal medium. The universe is an information system regardless of its specific nature per se.

Models of Reality: Part 2

Models of Reality: Part 2

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Creative Transcendence Through Metaphysics

It is an interesting thing, that one of the most compelling questions is one that is largely ignored as a question. Metaphysics and ontology are areas in philosophy that deal with questions of being and reality. Questions that everyone is interested in at one point or another, and are at the heart of so many of the most important practical activities of humans in the world.

What is reality? What is real?

These are very provocative questions, made no less mysterious because of the plethora of religious, philosophical and scientific narratives that are quick to file in after the question mark.

There are philosophers today who argue that metaphysics are meaningless because you can’t go outside of the current system of physics to describe it. But if we redefine our understanding of metaphysics to describe not going outside of our physics but our divergent and reciprocal paradigms and their practical effects on reality and reality tunnels, (Kuhn specifically, speculation on how paradigms don’t have to be completely different, some can be complementary and share certain things, while talking past each other on other things. The idea being that working paradigms aren’t necessarily systems of groups of people but work on multiple facets and even on the individual level with assumed levels of similarity between paradigms). Robert Anton Wilson took this idea further with his explanation of reality tunnels.

It doesn’t exactly matter what you believe, because while it changes everything it also doesn’t change anything.

Some people are obsessed with fixing reality to a ruler, that there is one ultimate reality and one way of perceiving it. I am suggesting the best way to deal with reality is to abandon the fixed reality paradigm for one in which  a multitude of perceptions exist. This isn’t to say there is no reality, because there is – in fact there are lots of them.

Having a fixed reality is a limitation; so long as you are fixated on reality being only one way you limit the way you can interact with it, because in essence Reality has no limitation or fix, that is to say there is no reality that is fixed in any real sense. Once you reach a limitation in your actions, it is actually reaching a limitation in your perception. We can’t solve a problem of limitation by doing anything, we have to solve it by transcending it – by transcending the reality of it.

Intuitively people already grasp this concept. Creativity is so effective because it is looking at things in new and different ways that go beyond what was currently seen. Adaptation, creativity and imagination are humanity’s gifts; these are our distinguishing talents. By harnessing creativity and imagination we transcended ourselves, we transcended our limitations. This is the real sense in which we stole the fire of the gods, this is our promethean heritage the fire we stole is that of creativity and imagination!

This is our gift, our power. We are not the smartest or the strongest, not the fastest, the cleverest nor the wisest. But neither was humanity when compared to the rest of the animal kingdom any of these things. We weren’t much of anything compared to the others, but we were creative, and now we effectively dominate our domain of the world in a certain aspect. We are an apex predator alongside  lions, bears, tigers, and sharks, and most of these predators step fairly lightly around us. Compare us to these other species and you have to wonder, what is so special about us? We are puny and pathetic next to these marvels of nature. But what we lack in physical prowess we make up for in sheer creative ability – the capacity to harness nature itself. Who needs to be stronger or faster or better at these things when we have the ability to take nature and manipulate it to our will through sheer creative force.

Our power is to create around our limitations, to create around our problems, our impossibilities. Collectively we are much better at this then individually. Our ability to create and to imagine exponentially increases the more of us there are, we don’t even need to be super intelligent to do it. The more minds, the more perspectives looking at a limitation the higher the chances of finding a solution or creative way around it, which is what we constantly do. Crowdsourcing is a great example of harnessing this power.

But it has to be harnessed. There is a major distinction between harnessing the creative hive mind and being constrained by it, which I think often happens in democracy and institutionalization. This can be thought of as the inverse of the creative hive. The creative hive is a collection that encourages original thought and difference. The conformative hive is one that encourages conformity and similarity or dogma.

Models of Reality: Part 1

Models of Reality: Part 1

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The Confusion of Science with a Philosophical Model

Science has become an incredibly important social tool for knowledge and technological growth in the world today, and as a result of its success, especially the technological breadth of its success, people have come to enshrine it as the most important of tools for understanding the world and our place in it. However, the education and the understanding of science and what it is and what it’s limitations are have led to a great deal of misinformation. Knowing what we are talking about when we reference science has not only become important to how we are going to continue to interact and grow in our knowledge as a society, but it has become necessary so that we are able to see beyond the limitations that have settled as a result of certain misunderstandings in regard to what we are doing with science and what it is for.

Most people confuse science with philosophical materialism without realizing that what people think they are referring to when they reference ‘science’ is in fact generally a form of ‘materialism’ which is an assumed model:

Modelling refers to the process of generating a model as a conceptual representation of some phenomenon. Typically a model will refer only to some aspects of the phenomenon in question, and two models of the same phenomenon may be essentially different, that is to say that the differences between them comprise more than just a simple renaming of components.

Such differences may be due to differing requirements of the model’s end users, or to conceptual or aesthetic differences among the modellers and to contingent decisions made during the modelling process. Considerations that may influence the structure of a model might be the modeller’s preference for a reduced ontology, preferences regarding statistical models versus deterministic models, discrete versus continuous time, etc. In any case, users of a model need to understand the assumptions made that are pertinent to its validity for a given use.

Building a model requires abstraction. Assumptions are used in modelling in order to specify the domain of application of the model. For example, the special theory of relativity assumes an inertial frame of reference. This assumption was contextualized and further explained by the general theory of relativity. A model makes accurate predictions when its assumptions are valid, and might well not make accurate predictions when its assumptions do not hold. Such assumptions are often the point with which older theories are succeeded by new ones (the general theory of relativity works in non-inertial reference frames as well). Scientific Modelling

The assumption of a model as is stated in the above quote in this case relates directly to a very narrow range of ideas about reality that are generally reductivist and in the case of the modern ‘concept’ of science as materialism relies on the universe being composed of ‘stuff’ that we call matter:

Materialism belongs to the class of monist ontology. As such, it is different from ontological theories based on dualism or pluralism. For singular explanations of the phenomenal reality, materialism would be in contrast to idealism, neutral monism, and spiritualism.

Despite the large number of philosophical schools and subtle nuances between many,[1][2][3] all philosophies are said to fall into one of two primary categories, which are defined in contrast to each other: Idealism, and materialism.[a] The basic proposition of these two categories pertains to the nature of reality, and the primary distinction between them is the way they answer two fundamental questions: “what does reality consist of?” and “how does it originate?” To idealists, spirit or mind or the objects of mind (ideas) are primary, and matter secondary. To materialists, matter is primary, and mind or spirit or ideas are secondary, the product of matter acting upon matter.[3]

The materialist view is perhaps best understood in its opposition to the doctrines of immaterial substance applied to the mind historically, famously by René Descartes. However, by itself materialism says nothing about how material substance should be characterized. In practice, it is frequently assimilated to one variety of physicalism or another.

Materialism is often associated with reductionism, according to which the objects or phenomena individuated at one level of description, if they are genuine, must be explicable in terms of the objects or phenomena at some other level of description — typically, at a more reduced level. Non-reductive materialism explicitly rejects this notion, however, taking the material constitution of all particulars to be consistent with the existence of real objects, properties, or phenomena not explicable in the terms canonically used for the basic material constituents. Jerry Fodor influentially argues this view, according to which empirical laws and explanations in “special sciences” like psychology or geology are invisible from the perspective of basic physics. A lot of vigorous literature has grown up around the relation between these views.

Modern philosophical materialists extend the definition of other scientifically observable entities such as energy, forces, and the curvature of space. However philosophers such as Mary Midgley suggest that the concept of “matter” is elusive and poorly defined.[4]

Materialism typically contrasts with dualism, phenomenalism, idealism, vitalism, and dual-aspect monism. Its materiality can, in some ways, be linked to the concept of Determinism, as espoused by Enlightenment thinkers. Scientific Materialism

The concept of “matter” itself is poorly defined, as mentioned in the quote. Matter, energy and information are all considered equivalent with each other in varying ways, and a lot of modern physics works with a concept called field theory which suggests there aren’t things at all but rather fields that are interacting in varying relationships with each other. We have quantum mechanics bending the concept of “matter” nearly to the breaking point of conception and a lot of confusion about concepts of space and time. In any case, the experimental evidence of scientific materialism is easily called into question and can be experimentally proven to be false, as it relies on the premise that everything is matter. The mind itself is not accepted in the model, and so consciousness remains a huge problem, called the hard problem of consciousness. Anything, outside of the accepted realm of materialism falsifies it as a model, and this has happened time and time again.

As a result you have a poorly assumed model that is the accepted understanding of ‘science’ but is not science itself but a confusion of it. Materialism is the approved lens of perception in which a consensus has been arrived at on how the general public views the world based on the acceptance of the authority of our ‘experts’, and how we create a biased map for the continued exploration of our reality, based on this highly inadequate philosophical model.

A great quote from the author Michael Crichton which I found from the wonderful blog Rune Soup and continued explanation by the blog’s author, Gordon White:

“I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.” – Michael Crichton

Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What are relevant are reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period. – Gordon White [Rune Soup]

As was mentioned in the above quote referencing the philosophical model of materialism, there are a number of ontological theories, in which materialism is one particular kind of ontological monism, the contrast to it being philosophical idealism. Beyond ontological monism you have other models that represent dualism as well as pluralism. Dualism having been made popular by the philosopher Renee Descarte, which later came to be defined by the mind/body(matter) argument. The phenomenal/sensory world was divided into two basic components: Mind and matter, or subject and object. Dualism and monism.

Dualism maintains that mind and matter are different essences operating under different laws. There are three basic kinds of dualism. Epiphenomenalism suggests that matter is the real substance of the world and mind is a by product; subject to the motion of matter. Animism suggests that every material motion has an invisible spiritual cause and matter is subordinate to mind. Interactionalism proposes that mind and matter mutually influence one another.

Monism maintains that there is really only one kind of ‘stuff’ or essence in the universe. There are basically also three kinds of monism. Materialism in which this article has concerned itself suggests matter is all there is, mind is one of matter’s possible attributes having no special status, mind is simply a particular mechanical motion of matter. Materialism itself can be broken down even further into two basic areas. The first is reductive materialism which believes that virtually any mechanical motion results in some kind of ‘inner experience,’ it is a way of thinking which is willing to believe everything has an ‘inner’ life, but it’s concept of aliveness is a purely mechanical process. The second is emergent materialism which also believes that consciousness is a wholly mechanical property of matter, but that only complex systems containing special mechanisms have the capacity to possess it, which leads to the speculation of machines which can be built that reflect this process. As such we have the current popularity behind the idea of artificial intelligence in computation.

Idealism is on the other side of the spectrum of monism which posits that mind is the fundamental substance of the world and the existence of a material world is inferred from evidence presented to our sense organs. This has been the popularly understood and held model of reality to a large extent until modern history. But it is by no means archaic or without very real merit in its considerations, evidence or its proponents. Philosophically having been hugely influential through Hume, Bishop Berkeley and Kant with his transcendental idealism. More recently it has been held as a model by some of our most prominent scientists: Including Erwin Shrodinger, David Bohm and Max Planck who himself said “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness” – 1931.

Neutral Monism is a philosophical model which tries to strike a balance between the extremes of materialism and idealism. Neutral monism sees matter and mind as interdependent, but suggests that a purely physical account of the world must be factually wrong with regard to consciousness.

Given a better understanding of the philosophical models at work in regards to science it becomes clear that philosophical materialism is not ‘science’ but a particular model of how it is expressed and worked with. Science is a method of inquiry issuing certain tools of investigation, largely based on inductive reasoning and empirical data focused on measuring observable results. It is also a limited method as all of these tools have been shown to have deep flaws in their methodology, none of which are particularly new in our understanding.

Inductive reasoning has been shown to be deeply flawed as far back as the eighteenth century by David Hume, in an essay which outlined how the justification for the inductive method, was not in fact justified at all by reason, famously become known as Hume’s fork. This investigation has been furthered and improved upon by the modern philosopher Nelson Goodman and his “grue-paradox.” Both of which can be looked into further for better understanding as it doesn’t fit the scope of this article to do it justice. For further reading check out the Problems of Induction.

There is also a well acknowledged problem with sensory data being biased from the preset, in some respects reflecting the model approach we have already acknowledged, but also regarding established psychological predispositions of thinking and believing. Models are themselves inherently loaded with particular proscriptions of reality which will naturally lead to asking questions of a narrow range relating to the model itself as we generally don’t see beyond the model we are working within. A great article to further understanding of this problem can be found in How scientists fool themselves – and how they can stop.

Because models will get the results that you set out to find based on the model you began with, the philosophy of science has developed well established understandings of the limitations of science as a tool of knowledge to better continue with the work and understanding of science. Science needs to move beyond the popular conception of the current model of discipline which emerged from logical positivism and american philosophical pragmatism. This model emerged at a time when they understood these problems but chose to ignore it and move forward regardless. It’s been ignored so long now, it’s just become an entrenched assumption of truth which does a disservice to the discipline and hampers us in growing beyond the current limitations which hamper us.