The article discusses the idea that reality is shaped by our social connections and the influence of others. It argues that we don’t view the world objectively but through the lens of our biases and experiences. Our lives are largely habitual, and change is resisted by our brains, leading to a limited sense of reality. The author suggests that science and technology can manipulate the world but often see it as separate from us. They emphasize the importance of social bonds and shared knowledge in shaping our perception of reality. The article concludes that our experience of reality is ever-evolving, requiring us to adapt to changes in our socially connected world.
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- There is no individual sense of reality. Our perceptions are all based on those that have been had by others and shared with us.
- Experience is important, but even more so when put into a social context.
- We cannot possibly know everything therefore our knowledge is bounded.
- Our sense of reality changes as our information about reality changes. It is Darwinian in the sense that we either adapt or die as we become aware of new knowledge.
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Classics and Philosophy student at NUI Galway.
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By Tom Murphy
Reality is sharing. Without connection to others and left to yourself in not so short a time you will go doolallly. You will disconnect from the normal disposition that anchors your perception of reality – how you view and relate to the events going on around you in the environment in which you operate. This new reality is not a different reality in kind. It is something that has come loose and unhinged from normal day activity. We need other brains to make sense of the world.
Without the input of others the world soon becomes nonsensical.
The real world could be defined in materialist terms as the things that exist in our notion of time and space as being objects open to examination by scalpel of the reductionist mindset. A conglomerate of things that are further reducible to their individual parts layer by layer until we get into the quantum world where it seems all bets are off.
This approach of making sense of the world by analysis and reason has served us well over the last five hundred years. It is hard to argue that the advances in technology and medicine have been in the overall sense a good thing. But it is not how we, ourselves, operate. We don’t see the world through an objective lens and we don’t live our lives that way. We live our lives through what we perceive of the world through education and experience. To save energy reliving every event as though it was the first time we apply rules of thumb, heuristics if you will, that serve as a shorthand way to inform us on how to act and react. This means that after a certain age we no longer see the world fresh and new but through a series of preconceptions and assumptions that, while helpful most of the time, are riddled with biases.
We live our lives in a largely habitual manner. We are heavily routinized in our thoughts, actions and feelings. To escape that requires change which is a huge load to be placed on the brain and the brain doesn’t like to do extra work unless it absolutely has to. This narrowness of behaviour leaves us with the lives we lead every day – our reality.
This sense of reality, which is inherently limited, leaves us with the feeling that there has to be more to life. Which in an absolute sense is true. If our perception of the world is limited by our biases, experience and education, then there has to be more.
Science and technology can dissect and utilise the world in myriad ways – sometimes positive and sometimes negative. But the there is always a sense that these two forces are working on and transmuting a world ‘out there.’
We are born as individuals but share many, many faculties with those around us. Curiosity, learning capacity, fear of falling, and so on. This leads to the relative ease of assimilation into our families and culture. While this is highly beneficial in a practical sense it means that we automatically discount or ignore information that does not fit easily into the world view that is being created as we grow up. Therefore, our sense of reality is limited. We don’t know yet, and I doubt that we ever will, all that goes on the scientifically observable universe but what we do know is how to behave in a functional way.
This sense of functionality works to supply us with our sense of reality. Our everyday lives consist of complying with and negotiating with the boundaries that have been set up by other brains. While we might always like the way the world is set up we have to acknowledge that the world as we experience was set up by other people with brains just like ours.
We could argue that Mother Nature is the supreme arbiter of what is real and what is not. Most of us dropped without supplies or a support structure into a barren wilderness would not last very long at all. The world in its natural state is quite deadly to humans. That we have survived thus far is some kind of miracle. But what made that survival possible. It wasn’t the genius of particular individuals, though that didn’t hurt, but the codified knowledge and experience that comes from the tribal mind. We all know that we are highly sociable creatures and need the presence of others around us or life can become exceedingly difficult. This need for others manifests itself in our needs to form ourselves into families and the beyond that tribalism.
You do not have to travel very far in the world to see that there are great many fully bought in world views. Some of these world views are openly hostile the possibility that their world view could be wrong. Fundamental religions are one example. Other world views are open to the possibility of change and development. But even then there is a trade off in the hope that the benefits of new discoveries may improve our experience of reality but not change it in any way beyond the superficial. But most of the people who inhabit these world views accept them as reality – the way the world is. They have their rules for behaviour and for the most part it has worked over generations so why mess with it?
Our reality is human bound and our sense of it changes as we change. But change can be perceived as bad in the sense that it will expose us to new risks, many of them borne out of unintended consequences.
Reality, or more importantly, our experience of reality as formed by our social, familial, and cultural ties is always changing and we will always have to adapt our thinking and the thinking of others so we can, as a social concern, can adapt to the inevitable changes that will occur. In that sense reality is the product of our socially connected reality to deal with reality itself.