Do we see reality as it is?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Magical Realist, Sep 21, 2015.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    10,820
    Does seeing reality as it is favor our survival or disfavor it? This has direct implications for the nature of truth and whether truth is even of any value to our species. What if knowing the truth is adverse to our survival? What if knowing reality as it really is drives us insane and results in a selfish sociopathic mind that manipulates beings for it's own exclusive advantage? Should we pursue the truth in such a case? Is the knowledge of truth of greater value than the survival of the human race?
     
    C C likes this.
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  3. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    10,820
    "So this raises an important technical question: Does natural selection really favor seeing reality as it is? Fortunately, we don't have to wave our hands and guess; evolution is a mathematically precise theory.We can use the equations of evolution to check this out. We can have various organisms in artificial worlds compete and see which survive and which thrive, which sensory systems are more fit.

    9:32A key notion in those equations is fitness. Consider this steak: What does this steak do for the fitness of an animal? Well, for a hungry lion looking to eat, it enhances fitness. For a well-fed lion looking to mate, it doesn't enhance fitness. And for a rabbit in any state, it doesn't enhance fitness, so fitness does depend on reality as it is, yes, but also on the organism, its state and its action. Fitness is not the same thing as reality as it is, and it's fitness, and not reality as it is, that figures centrally in the equations of evolution.

    10:20So, in my lab, we have run hundreds of thousands of evolutionary game simulations with lots of different randomly chosen worlds and organisms that compete for resources in those worlds. Some of the organisms see all of the reality, others see just part of the reality, and some see none of the reality, only fitness. Who wins?

    10:47Well, I hate to break it to you, but perception of reality goes extinct. In almost every simulation, organisms that see none of reality but are just tuned to fitness drive to extinction all the organisms that perceive reality as it is. So the bottom line is, evolution does not favor vertical, or accurate perceptions. Those perceptions of reality go extinct.

    11:14Now, this is a bit stunning. How can it be that not seeing the world accurately gives us a survival advantage? That is a bit counterintuitive. But remember the jewel beetle. The jewel beetle survived for thousands, perhaps millions of years, using simple tricks and hacks. What the equations of evolution are telling us is that all organisms, including us, are in the same boat as the jewel beetle. We do not see reality as it is. We're shaped with tricks and hacks that keep us alive."========https://www.ted.com/talks/donald_hoffman_do_we_see_reality_as_it_is/transcript?language=en
     
    C C likes this.
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  5. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,805
    Backdrop merely for clarifying "where I'm coming from" in the second half...

    Kant, regarding some of the ancients and later thinkers: "Actuality was only conceded to creations of [reflective] thought" [not to appearances].

    The shift of "real" from everyday life and perception to the theoretical has endured with the augmentation of "lab" testing, yielding the ontological realm of scientific realism as a philosophical offshoot. The neo-Kantians of the 19th and early 20th centuries introduced a misconstruing of the latter as noumenal rather than just more of the phenomenal (conforming to space and time). An error which persists to this day that physics is uncovering something akin to Plato's supersensible / intelligible realm.

    KANT: The dictum of all genuine idealists from the Eleatic school to Bishop Berkeley, is contained in this formula: "All cognition through the senses and experience is nothing but sheer illusion, and only, in the ideas of the pure understanding and reason there is truth." The principle that throughout dominates and determines my [critical / transcendental] Idealism, is on the contrary: "All cognition of things merely from pure understanding or pure reason is nothing but sheer illusion, and only in experience is there truth." --Prolegomena To Any Future Metaphysics

    Given the empirical realism sub-element of his TI and accordingly to the extent that "truth" can be assumed to be a displaced synonym for "actuality / reality" as used above, I'd often agree with Kant that "reality" should be reserved for the extrospective content of experience.

    For centuries theorists (occultists, philosophers, scientists) have been trying to slide "reality" from the external world featured in our senses to a "meta-external" brand of existence as variously outputted by personal / cultural revelations, complex elaborations of reason, and interrogative experiments. The concept "reality" was originally extracted from the former and its concrete provenance is only manifested and understood as "reality" in conscious experiences that have intersubjective validation slash coherence.

    Thus it can seem like an error in classification, this ongoing, ancient trend of attributing the term to a meta-external circumstance (i.e., to the believed, to the inferred, or to the directly unobservable). If the latter is a mindless form of be-ing (which is the popular view among institutional cliques these days) then it lacks both empirical and intellectual evidence of its own existence and whatever role it contributes to engendering what arguably deserves to be called "reality". It's not even a cognition of "nothingness" as it normally is -- or 99.999...% non-consciously is -- in itself.

    Since the ordinary external world is dependent upon a system (brain, nerves, etc) that generates empirical and intellectual evidence from the input of stimulated, specialized tissues -- then this in turn matches well with the human impulse to survive. Which is to say, if conscious life goes extinct, then the original "reality" (treated as the legitimate one on those grounds) vanishes as well. There would remain only a manner of be-ing that does not even declare and interpret itself as a blank expanse of emptiness. Even lesser conscious animals, though producing the qualitative versions of images, sounds, odors, and tactile interactions of a manifested environment, would lack a conception or generalization of their sensory presentations being the human ideation which the word "reality" designates.

    Now that the "prelude" is finally out of the way...

    It's difficult to not see, hear, smell, and feel it as it is, since the other style of existence (as opposed to reality made empirically evident by the senses) lacks such visual, aural, olfactory, tactile manifestations. [I.E., there is no "seeing" it as it is prior to consciousness, because it lacks such properties or principles which our experiences conform to -- referring here to the "showing" as much as the qualitative / phenomenal character.]

    What we do inflict upon those immediate presentations of an external world is our reflective thoughts about it extended over many moments, as well as mental habits / conditionings about it which are automatic and consequently require little interpretative thinking. It's the expectations and predictions that fall out of those creative conceptions and belief reflexes that can sometimes be mistaken (probably far less so than centuries and millennia ago). Ergo, partly due to those mistaken forecasts, the demotion of the everyday world to "illusion" by the rival kidnappers of "reality".

    Barring the whole of humanity (and future transhumans) being "assimilated" someday as components of a Borg-like superorganism, there should remain "knuckle-dragging" rebels who resist an Establishment's decree of absolute Truth. Such social aberrations would thus avoid any pathological, self-terminating consequences of being exposed to today's or tomorrow's exalted Truth. These immune members would continue reproduction of the species.

    Alternative spiel: Descriptions or representations with true / false values are dependent upon human beings or equivalent. Rocks, clouds, planets, and stars do not output propositions and systematic models or understandings about themselves. There is no intelligence-independent formal framework slash view concerning "what's immutably going on" waiting to be discovered ready-made in even the mundane external world, much less the supposed meta-external circumstance that is prior to it ranking-wise. Ergo, spinning any claimed completed doctrine of "truth" as warranting either pessimism or optimism is likely to be just that: A human-introduced interpretation, rather than one issued from whatever mythical POV functionally substitutes for objective or "on high" in a natural cosmos these days.

    In the context of "reality" being the everyday outer environment (from the perspective of our scale), which a "meta-external" rival movement may infrequently disparage as "illusion": We don't encounter "what being without reality" is till death. And if the manner of existence beyond such is indeed mindless and non-conscious (absence of everything), then we'll no longer be around to experience it and go insane. If something other than non-conscious absence turns out to be the case, and part of us remains, then no one can know for certain what that is or verify one of the possibilities until then. Insanity might or might not be applicable. And as mentioned above, reality in this context (the original) is dependent upon a brain generating it, so its continuance is tied with our survival or something akin to our level of perception and capacities of understanding.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2015
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  7. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,805
    The vast majority of animals don't possess the means for abstract thinking to even generalize / theorize their sensory impressions as the human concept of reality. They live more in the immediate presentation of and their immediate interaction with those events than in an extended-over-time model of understanding about such. Which is not to say that they lack any limited memory and creative abilities whatsoever -- their native survival instincts and their fine tunings from acquired experience reside in the structure of their bodies somewhere. Even brainless life-forms like bacteria seem to have some kind of pre-conditional "plan" for responding to this or that which happens to fall out of the organization of chemo-mechanistic relationships within the cell. But they are still utterly devoid of mental conception of themselves and their environment as any representation (thought and phenomenal zombies to the penultimate degree).

    Yes, "whatever works" to get the job done is usually more important than achieving a higher standard of representation generated from sensory input. It can be initially jarring to realize that different / lesser perceptual and cognitive capacities can result in a variety of organisms depicting themselves as residing in alternative circumstances from ours (different "worlds" can't be used, because "world" is again either too advanced or eccentric slash species-specific a concept in many cases).

    Even some super-practical human minds fail to grasp a deep feat of inference combined with experimental investigation, like evolution. That doesn't mean they all reject it like creationists, however. I once encountered a rare(?) unschooled, illiterate atheist who accepted on faith (because he couldn't understand how evolution operated in even a non-specific way) that what scientists claimed was the case. He accepted it because he was awed by the others wonder of sci-tech, similar to biblical accounts of folk being astounded into belief by supposed supernatural performances / miracles of superior beings.

    A dream would pass for a reality if its internal inconsistencies could not be apprehended as such by the dreamer's avatar (or there were few if any significant consequences for not accepting it as delusion, as Dan Lloyd puts it below). Similarly, a particular type of insect's limited senses and interpretations of that data would be immune to puncturing since it lacked the native equipment / processes to even perceive and understand an intruding disruption of its "worldview" by items available to the extrospective experiences and intellect of a person. ["Worldview" purely serving a figurative function in that example.] There would be instances where the insect failed to grasp that it narrowly escaped being killed by states of affairs which a human grokked thanks to its models of understanding, but which the insect lacked.

    Dan Lloyd: In the demon's thrall, we are deluded about everything, and all the time -- a terrible fate, but one whose terrors are only hypothetical, since systematic demonic delusion is without practical consequences. In practice, an uncontradicted delusion is as good as a truth. --Popping The Thought Balloon
     
  8. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    51,799
    What do you mean "as it really is"?
     
  9. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    10,820
    Or reality "as it was"? It takes time to see afterall. Do we ever really see reality as it immediately IS?
     
    ajanta likes this.
  10. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    51,799
    We would have to know how it really is in order to compare it with what we perceive of it, and we can't do that. So this reality as you call it is merely theoretical.
     
    ajanta likes this.
  11. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    10,820
    Reality IS a mental construct. And one that doesn't necessarily correlate to anything more than our own programmed needs to survive. Is there anything behind the construct? Can we even know this for sure?
     
  12. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    20,285
    Isn't it more correct to say that our subjective experience of reality is a mental construct?

    There's something out there

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  13. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    10,820
    Saying one's subjective experience is a construct is abit tautological, like saying my point of view is perspectival. Reality itself is a construct, or we would have no experience of it--as being "out there." Whether it is more than that remains to be seen.
     
  14. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,659
    The answer seems to me to be obvious. Our species is dependent in part on its ability to locate food, avoid predators, find shelter and so on. When humans began to manipulate their surroundings so as to create tools, protective garments and artificial shelters, the ability to perceive reality and how it behaves was even more important.

    There might conceivably be some unpleasant truths that we would rather not acknowledge, like death, but death is still going to happen to us whether we acknowledge it or not. The only way that denying death might have survival value is if knowledge of death is so psychologically debilitating that it's impossible to live effectively when aware of it.

    The widespread proliferation of knowledge about how to construct nuclear weapons or how to brew unstoppable genetically engineered plague viruses might conceivably lead to extinction level events. So sure, there might be things that it's dangerous for human beings to know. Of course, once the cat's out of the bag, knowledge will be very important if we want to have any hope of surviving these kind of threats.

    My philosophical motivations are to better understand reality, not to make reality go away.
     
  15. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,659
    It is? Darwin didn't express his ideas in mathematical formalism. Contemporary evolutionary biological papers aren't typically mathematical.

    It's true that some scholars have tried to mathematically model the theory of evolution, but it's a leap for them to identify their models with the theory that they are hoping to formally represent.

    "The equations of evolution"? Or the formal model that this particular author favors?

    If eating meat enhances a hungry carnivore's 'fitness', the ability to distinguish prey animals from rocks in 'reality as it is' would seem to be a necessary ability.

    The fact that different animals might be looking for a variety of different things that satisfy their needs at a particular moment doesn't mean that they don't need the ability to perceive the real-life existence of whatever they are looking for.

    What does it mean to say that an organism perceives "fitness" (whatever that is) but not "reality"? How could that be possible? Can an object of awareness increase 'fitness' if it isn't real? Animals can't survive by eating hallucinations.

    That's to be expected, if 'fitness' and 'reality' are different variables in this guy's model, if maximizing 'fitness' means evolutionary success, and if each increment in awareness of 'fitness' increases fitness simply by definition, while incrementing awareness of 'reality' may or may not increase fitness, depending on what the reality is and what the circumstances are. With those presuppositions one would expect fitness to increase more rapidly if we increase it directly by incrementing the 'fitness' variable, as opposed to increasing it indirectly by successfully interacting with reality.

    Of course, if an organism's interactions with reality drop out of the picture, so does the whole point of evolutionary biology.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2015
  16. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    7,454
    "Reality itself is a construct"....
    Of what is it a construct? Of itself?
    Who constructed it? Itself? Us?

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!


    I'm assuming you don't hold with the notion of an objective reality?
     
  17. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    10,820
    I already stated it was a mental construct, as in a construct of the mind. Did you, me, us, construct it? Not exactly. It has evolved to be constructed by our brains over millions of years.That's why we can't help but see it as real. It's ingrained into our hardware, like how this screen displays certain typical colors and images and text for you. Now you can alter how the screen displays this data, and you could do the same with your brain by taking drugs, altering your brain surgically, thru meditation, and so forth. Thus the construct CAN be altered, but it becomes questionable as to whether it is a good idea.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2015
  18. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,659
    Whose "mental construct"? Mine personally? (I only have access to my own subjectivity. To me, everyone else is an animated physical body out in the objective world.) If that's so, why should I believe that anything apart from myself exists? The tables and the chairs, and you and CC, are just features of my construct and have no more reality than that. (Subjective idealism leads inexorably to solipsism in my opinion.)

    Or is the "construct" supposedly generated by some 'absolute' mind that shouldn't be identified with any of our personal identities? That rather Neoplatonic speculation seems to be positing the existence of something very like God, in whose sensory manifold or imagination we all live.
     
  19. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    10,820
    The construct is obviously a shared one, and one that is based on consensual ideas and language.And yes, everything gets imputed with reality as long as you are acting within the construct. Much as a dream or a video games becomes real as long you are in it living it. Does anything more exist beyond the video game--do the fellow players have existence beyond their interactive avatars? Maybe, but as long as you are immersed in that electronically generated virtual reality it is the case that they are real for you and the world of the video game is real for you. That's the function of a construct, to provide you a map of a navigational domain you can regard as "reality". But the map is not the territory. I remain agnostic regarding the nature of that reality seeing it doesn't even avail me survival-wise to question it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2015
  20. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    7,454
    So if I don't imagine something, it's not part of reality?
    So if someone is walking under a ledge, I guess the rock that hits them isn't part of reality until it smacks them in the head, right?

    And from what do we construct this reality if not our experiences? Yet you seem to dismiss the notion that the mental construct (that you call "reality") is merely our subjective experience of reality.
    Yet we don't all see the same things as real - it is not a shared construct, if indeed you are insisting upon the notion of reality being a construct.
    Now I'm really confused by what you're saying...
    You're saying that reality is a mental construct, but then the function of which is "to provide you a map of a navigational domain you can regard as 'reality'". So which is reality: the mental construct (the map) or the underlying domain that has been mapped?

    Sure, we can all have our own subjective reality - that I would agree is a mental construct, but one that is based on our experiences rather than independent thereof - but I would say that there is also an underlying reality that would exist independent of any conscious mind to experience it, even if that underlying reality is inherently probabilistic in nature.
     
  21. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    10,820
    Right...

    The construct acts as a map by representing reality. Just as all maps do. It is a map to the extent that it is taken to be the reality. Is it the reality in the sense of BEING it and not just representing it? No..it's just a map or representation of it.

    I guess I agree..

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    But what would that reality be like, without the generalized qualia and properties specific to our sensory hardware? Waves of colorless shapeless energy--a grey "mist" of diffused potential?
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2015
  22. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    10,820
    But there is nothing constraining our perception of reality to be a faithful depiction of it beyond helping us to survive. Take color vision, which perhaps evolved out the need to hunt for fruit and veggies and tell when it was ripe. Seeing red and yellow and orange and green is an adaptation that we acquired thru evolution. The primates who didn't have color vision couldn't find the good fruits and veggies, and so were not suited to survive. But do we really think that because we have particular receptors that help us distinguish ripe fruit that this is what the fruit or veggie is really like? Perhaps there are wavelengths of EM radiation that make the fruit appear entirely different. Just because we evolved a sensitivity to one wavelength over others doesn't mean that is what the fruit is really like. Seeing specific colors helps us survive, even though it likely isn't an accurate depiction of the real situation.
     
  23. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,805
    Going back to the Dan Lloyd quote that "an uncontradicted delusion is as good as a truth": If the responses and behaviors of other normally functioning human beings consistently indicate that their cognitive processes are outputting the same environment that I'm perceiving, then the outer part of experience can be deemed inter-subjective (even if the activity featured in the introspective half of consciousness differs from person to person). Thus making consensus possible.

    That inter-subjective brand of objectivity is going to be the best available in the context of a worldview that restricts mental affairs to only brains (or equivalent apparatus). Since the elimination of "object manifestations and models of thought" as transpiring outside the appearances provided by consciousness would be a consequence falling out of that worldview's very meaning or description. Which is to say, a "we can't have our cake and eat it, too" dilemma of materialist or anti-panpsychic metaphysics. We can't deny the furniture outputted by minds to a meta-external version of the world and then contradict such by then positing that very furniture as residing in that prior-to-mind version of "out there".

    Kant was one of the few philosophers I've come across (if any others) who made a point of directly addressing / disentangling the two versions of "outside us". The first is the undeniable one of extrospection, where the human body itself is exhibited with an outer environment of space which it is embedded in, changing across time (the phenomenal, empirical, natural domain). With the second "outside us" referring to supposed ontological affairs that lack the manifested manner of existence (appearances) as provided by consciousness. An abstract, supersensible, or transcendent level introduced by ancient rationalism and erratically maintained by later idealists and varieties of materialism, which 90% of the critical thinking population (at least since Berkeley, if not well before) seems to have taken to mistakenly conflating the obvious external world with. [As in "Such and such fool denies an external world or knowledge about an external world being possible".]

    Many postmodernists have fallen into that confusion of the two as much as analytic philosophers, from the standpoint that they seem to be believe that producing globally-reliable knowledge about the ordinary meaning of "external world" is not even possible. In that respect, they're actually non-descendents of Kant, since one of Kant's aims was to restore confidence in the world of appearances which Hume had thrown a monkey-wrench into by dismissing objective justification for concepts like causation, etc.

    KANT: The expression 'outside us' is thus unavoidably ambiguous in meaning, sometimes signifying what as thing in itself exists apart from us [minus the presentations of outer experience], and sometimes what belongs solely to outer appearance. In order, therefore, to make this concept, in the latter sense -- the sense in which the psychological question as to the reality of our outer intuition has to be understood -- quite unambiguous, we shall distinguish empirically external objects from those which may be said to be external in the transcendent sense, by explicitly entitling the former 'things which are to be found in space' [phenomenal].
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2015

Share This Page