Reality Musings #15 #cong23 #reality


Reality has been defined as a fixed thing that exists whether we believe it or not. There are other aspects to reality which inculde the subjective and the personal experience of people. Science has brought us further in understanding what reality might be but it has also opened us new avenues. I think that reality may be a communal creation, built on communication and sharing.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. The desire to understand reality is part of human nature.
  2. Reality has become yoked to other words like alternate, augmented, virtual to explain new concepts and ideas.
  3. Reality can be defined in a realist (objective) way or an antirealist(subjective) way.
  4. Reality for me is best understood as a co-operative and collective creation.

About Catriona Healy:

I am a recently retired special educator with particular interest in challenging behaviour. I spent most of my career working with students with moderate-severe/profound disabilities. I have really enjoyed my first year of retirement and I look forward to doing more of the stuff that fills me up in the future…(writing/painting/ potteringh etc).
I just adopted a puppy called Oscar and he is amazing!

Contacting Catriona Healy:

You can connect with Catriona via email

By Catriona Healy

We humans have a bit of a problem with reality. We experience it all the time, but struggle to define it, let alone understand it.

It seems so solid and yet, when we examine it closely, it melts away like a mirage. We don’t know when it began, how big it is, where it came from and where it is going, and we certainly have no clue why it exists.

Nonetheless, the desire to understand reality seems part of our nature, and we have come a long way. What was once explained in terms of divine creation is now in the purview of science, Through science, philosophy, religion metaphysics and mathematics, we have tried to peel back the layers of reality, even if we are still not entirely sure what we have revealed.

If anything, the mystery has only deepened.

We are now at a point in human history where we have alternate reality, augmented reality and virtual reality along with “regular” reality. Not only that but “Reality TV” provides us with entertainment that is anything but!

It’s quite possible that for the human race, reality has never felt so unreal.

In the debate about reality across multiple disciplines, author Philip K. Dick offers a helpfully succinct definition: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

It’s a solid starting point — even if you don’t believe in gravity, you’ll still fall down if you trip.

Neuroscience, on the other hand, tells us that our brains create our reality. It takes in input from our senses and creates a model of the world we experience.

This model can be called reality.

Philosophy tells us that while reality is something that exists independent of our minds, it can be known through reason and observation.

Our perception of reality is not an exact representation of the objective truth but rather a combination of sensory inputs and the brain’s interpretation of these signals. This interpretation is influenced by past experiences and is often predictive, with the brain creating categories of similar instances to anticipate future events.

One might say that “truth,” or “reality,” is relative and subjective, and that would be correct in the sense that everyone’s “truth,” “reality,” or “world” does come from within, from his or her own mind, which is then projected outside, which he or she then observes.

The basic idea of realism is that that things which exist are independent of us; antirealism denies this. Most people find it natural to be realists with respect to physical facts: how many planets there are in the solar system does not depend on how many we think there are, or would like there to be, or how we investigate them; likewise, whether electrons exist or not depends on the facts, not on which theory we understand or subscribe to.

However, it seems natural to be antirealist about humour: something’s being funny is very much a matter of whether we find it funny, and the idea that something might really be funny even though nobody ever felt any inclination to laugh at it seems barely comprehensible.

The saying that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ is a popular expression of antirealism.

An obviously controversial example is that of moral values; some maintain that they are real (or ‘objective’), others that they have no existence apart from human feelings and attitudes.

Einstein (who knew more than I about this topic) suggested, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

However, I feel that in some ways the opposite of what is real is not illusion, but the fake, the counterfeit, that which can’t be trusted and has no inherent value.

Theatre, television, art and literature all deal in illusion but can be very real in the sense that they can nurture and edify us, help us to make sense of our experiences. When they fail in this, they feel unreal, they don’t ring true. They fail as art and as reality.

How real does something have to be, in order to be? Is reality definitive? It seems to me it is more a collective sharing of the same beliefs? You alone can not totally and accurately define reality, because you have nothing to compare your reality too. That is why we need each other so that we can communicate and listen to others to form a more complete version of reality. The puzzle of reality may never be finished, we learn new things all the time about the world we inhabit.

There will never be an end of our efforts to understand reality. Consider the ongoing discussions about dark matter, dark energy, string theory, quantum mechanics and worm holes — just when we think we have unlocked the secrets of how the universe works, it turns out we have only peeled back another layer, and what’s inside may upend the reality we think we know.

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