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Is the question of reality the only meaningful question?

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
Steve3007
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Re: Is the question of reality the only meaningful question?

Post by Steve3007 » November 7th, 2019, 12:59 pm

h_k_s wrote:My answer: If an object has actual existence, and we know it, then it exists.
Mmm. So your answer is that if we know something to exist then it exists? That doesn't really seem to me to answer the question. You seem to be just saying that if it exists then it exists.
Theories such as some that you yourself have mentioned are only in the minds of men/women and do not exist outside of their/our minds however.
Would you count a particle like an electron or a proton or a quark as being part of such a theory and therefore only existing in the minds of those who theorise about them? I can see why you might. After all, we experience those things very much more indirectly than the way in which we experience the various things you've listed (cats and raindrops and the like). It's easy to think of them as mere mathematical abstractions that have been invented just because they seem to be useful in describing and predicting various observations of things that we do experience more directly.

But isn't that arguably what the larger, more directly experienced and familiar objects are too? Aren't they also abstractions that have been invented because they seem to be useful in describing and predicting various observations? And if we accept that the larger, more familiar objects are composed of those smaller ones (electrons, protons and so on) then at what level of scale might we suddenly decide that these object are more than just theories in the minds of physicists and actually exist? It would seem a bit arbitrary to declare that everything smaller than a certain size is an abstract concept and everything bigger than a certain size exists.

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Re: Is the question of reality the only meaningful question?

Post by Bluemist » November 7th, 2019, 6:17 pm

Pantagruel wrote:
November 7th, 2019, 9:53 am
For me it is the phenomenon of consciousness which is the big question mark. Existence, well, that's kind of...a given. What exists exists. But how does consciousness fit into the picture. Mind-matter, free-will, these are more the issues that drive my inquiries forward.
Well, then reality should be what you are after. Bees have consciousness but they don't have the brain power to reflect on their conscious experience beyond reflexive response to their immediate environment. It's human thought and reflection and reflection on reflection that's interesting.
If you don't believe in telekinesis then raise your right hand :wink:

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Re: Is the question of reality the only meaningful question?

Post by Pantagruel » November 7th, 2019, 9:35 pm

I was reading the portions of the thread relating to existence and this occurred to me:

Sure, what exists now? But what exists now depends on what came before it. Does the Empire State building exist? Yes, now. So did the Empire State Building come into being? No, because ex nihilo nihil fit, and the converse. That which exists always existed in some form. But was the Empire State Building implicit within the intertwined histories of all its constituent atoms? No, the Empire State Building exists now because it was brought into being through the efforts of the thought. And why should "God" in principle be any different to that?

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Re: Is the question of reality the only meaningful question?

Post by Steve3007 » November 8th, 2019, 3:49 am

chewybrian wrote:Actually, it seems fair to go the other way, granting objective existence to matter and energy and questioning the objective existence of the object (even if you can't spell objective without "object"). The matter and energy existed before the object came into being, and will exist after it is gone. Presumably, they would exist without anyone to notice them for what they were. One could argue all objects are subjective, and they only become objects when a subject can recognize them for what they are.
My position is that the question of what we decide exists is all a matter of what is most useful for describing and predicting observations.

Matter and energy are essentially useful labels to indicate that the results of various mathematical equations will be the same. If we take, for example, the gravitational potential energy of a mass in a uniform gravitational field (mgh) and the kinetic energy of that mass when it is moving (1/2mv2) we find that as the mass moves around in that gravitational field the sum of those two equations stays the same. That allows us to make predictions as to how that mass might move in the future, with the result that we can design roller-coaster rides. So we decide that that sum corresponds to a physical quantity of something, and we call that something energy. And we invent laws like "energy is conserved" to embody that equality of those sums. We do the same for mass. And then we go on to say that "mass-energy" is conserved and we relate the units of one to the units of the other (E=mc2). And so on.

So, this sense we have that those equations are measuring a "thing" which we might give a name, like "energy", might make us think of that thing as existing. If that works for us, fair enough. It doesn't really matter. Whether we think of it as a "thing" that "exists" or as a number in an equation, we still get to design that roller-coaster.
If there is no human available to recognize it, can a motorcycle still be a motorcycle? The motorcycle becomes an object because we can recognize it. The concept "motorcycle" also exists, in my view, because it can be passed on. The particular motorcycle would exist as long as it was possible for someone to recognize it for what it was. The concept "motorcycle" exists as long as there is a record of it, or someone who remembers what a motorcycle is. If all records and memories were gone, it would only have the potential to exist. Arguably, though, the existence of the real motorcycle or the concept could be said to be subjective.
A motorcycle is a composite object that is made by humans and labelled by us as "motorcycle" so, yes, we could say that there is a sense in which it only exists as a motorcycle if there are people to recognize it as such. I think this relates to the point about the Empire State Building made by Pantagruel in a later post.
I am presuming my own understanding of "objective", meaning that the truth of the matter is not dependent on any subject's understanding of it. For example, 2+2 is 4, despite my impression that it might be 9 or 3. Objective existence, in that sense, must mean existence that goes above and beyond my understanding or recognition.
I would say that an objective proposition is one that proposes something to be true for all possible suitably situated observers. i.e. it proposes that the tests of its truth or falsehood are publicly accessible. So the truth of the matter is not specific to any one observer. So, to use an example from Buddy Holly that I cited in another topic, this proposition is objective:

"it is raining."

while this one is subjective:

"It is raining in my heart."

I think it's tied to the concept of "object" not just because of the spelling but because "object" is a concept that we propose to be the reason why such propositions are true. We say: "the reason why I confidently make a prediction about an indefinitely large set of future sensations is that I believe in a concept called objective existence and I believe that the objects which exist are the cause of those sensations."

Whereas the example you cited from mathematics is true (or false) regardless of any possible observations because it's true by the definition of the symbols used (2, +, 4 and =). That seems to me to be something a bit different from an objective proposition.

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Re: Is the question of reality the only meaningful question?

Post by Bluemist » November 8th, 2019, 3:54 pm

Pantagruel wrote:
November 7th, 2019, 9:35 pm
what exists now depends on what came before it. Does the Empire State building exist? Yes, now. So did the Empire State Building come into being? No, because ex nihilo nihil fit, and the converse. That which exists always existed in some form. But was the Empire State Building implicit within the intertwined histories of all its constituent atoms? No, the Empire State Building exists now because it was brought into being through the efforts of the thought.
I think of all existents, including all objects, properties, relations, and also all facts of whatever variety, as lying on a one-dimensional timeline with a moving pointer as the indicator for the present. Then, with a magic marker I mark the Empire State Building and anything else I can know. After all present and past existents are marked, the line is dense with marks near the pointer but gets progressively more sparse to the left and quickly drops to near zero to the right.

Many marks are missing. I can't know all facts about the past and future because they haven't been discovered yet. Also, there is no way to represent the chaotic workings of the universe, society, or the mind. The model presumes to already have a picture of the consequences of the unavoidable uncertainty of the future. Just think of the power of world leaders over the fate of humanity. How is that to be represented?
If you don't believe in telekinesis then raise your right hand :wink:

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Re: Is the question of reality the only meaningful question?

Post by h_k_s » November 9th, 2019, 3:45 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
November 7th, 2019, 12:59 pm
h_k_s wrote:My answer: If an object has actual existence, and we know it, then it exists.
Mmm. So your answer is that if we know something to exist then it exists? That doesn't really seem to me to answer the question. You seem to be just saying that if it exists then it exists.
Theories such as some that you yourself have mentioned are only in the minds of men/women and do not exist outside of their/our minds however.
Would you count a particle like an electron or a proton or a quark as being part of such a theory and therefore only existing in the minds of those who theorise about them? I can see why you might. After all, we experience those things very much more indirectly than the way in which we experience the various things you've listed (cats and raindrops and the like). It's easy to think of them as mere mathematical abstractions that have been invented just because they seem to be useful in describing and predicting various observations of things that we do experience more directly.

But isn't that arguably what the larger, more directly experienced and familiar objects are too? Aren't they also abstractions that have been invented because they seem to be useful in describing and predicting various observations? And if we accept that the larger, more familiar objects are composed of those smaller ones (electrons, protons and so on) then at what level of scale might we suddenly decide that these object are more than just theories in the minds of physicists and actually exist? It would seem a bit arbitrary to declare that everything smaller than a certain size is an abstract concept and everything bigger than a certain size exists.
I am not fond nor subscribe to any of Stephen Hawkings' theories or ideas. So I don't engage in arguments over them.

Hawkings forgets that the physics theories are merely models, not actual things.

He should have learned that in college freshman physics and/or chemistry. He apparently missed that part.

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Re: Is the question of reality the only meaningful question?

Post by Steve3007 » November 10th, 2019, 8:44 am

h_k_s wrote:I am not fond nor subscribe to any of Stephen Hawkings' theories or ideas. So I don't engage in arguments over them.
I have never mentioned Stephen Hawking and have no idea why you have. But I guess we'll have to leave it there then.

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Re: Is the question of reality the only meaningful question?

Post by Felix » November 10th, 2019, 3:05 pm

Steve3007: I would say that an objective proposition is one that proposes something to be true for all possible suitably situated observers. i.e. it proposes that the tests of its truth or falsehood are publicly accessible. So the truth of the matter is not specific to any one observer.
You'll need to qualify that statement for it to be accurate, i.e., make it "objectively true for all mentally competant human observers." The proposition would not be objectively true for other sentient organisms, it is specific to human observers. The point being that we tend to overlook the fact that our perspective defines our perception.
Steve3007: I think it's tied to the concept of "object" not just because of the spelling but because "object" is a concept that we propose to be the reason why such propositions are true. We say: "the reason why I confidently make a prediction about an indefinitely large set of future sensations is that I believe in a concept called objective existence and I believe that the objects which exist are the cause of those sensations."
Again, existing objects cannot be said to "cause" the sensations because the sensations will vary according to how and by whom they are sensed. We construct order out of the phenomena we perceive, and different modes of perception will generate different systems of order. I may perceive an animal as having certain attributes but how does that animal perceive of itself and the world? The fact is that we live in the same world but in different realities. The vision of a man is not truer than the vision of a dragonfly, just different.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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Re: Is the question of reality the only meaningful question?

Post by Steve3007 » November 10th, 2019, 4:06 pm

Felix wrote:You'll need to qualify that statement for it to be accurate, i.e., make it "objectively true for all mentally competant human observers." The proposition would not be objectively true for other sentient organisms, it is specific to human observers.
Yes, it could be made more accurate in all sorts of ways, at the expense of brevity. But I think the essential point is there. There is always a trade-off between strict accuracy/comprehensiveness and brevity.
The point being that we tend to overlook the fact that our perspective defines our perception.
Yes, our perspective does indeed define our perception. The perspective of two different humans is different, just as, more generally, the perspective of any two different sentient beings is different. But the defining feature of objective propositions is that they attempt to identify those things which are common to many different sentient beings' perceptions and are not purely a function of those beings' personal perspectives. In so doing, they propose that there exists an objective world, with objects in it.
Again, existing objects cannot be said to "cause" the sensations because the sensations will vary according to how and by whom they are sensed.
You may not think that they cause the sensations (and you may have good reason not to think so), but nevertheless that is what they are said to do. If several people (or other sentient beings) standing in the same room have the perception of "seeing a table" then they will probably take the view that this perception is caused by an objectively existing table; an object called a table. And they may well say so.

Of course, they all have different sensations. But they all attribute those different sensations to this table-object that they propose exists. The table-object is proposed to be that thing which is common to all of those different sensations.
We construct order out of the phenomena we perceive, and different modes of perception will generate different systems of order.
More specifically: we construct the curious concept of "objective reality" out of the phenomena that we perceive. We do so because it's very useful to do so. Indispensably so. We couldn't live out lives if we didn't do so.

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Re: Is the question of reality the only meaningful question?

Post by Steve3007 » November 10th, 2019, 4:30 pm

Elaborating a bit:

Suppose person A and person B are standing in a room. They both experience a perception that they might refer to as "table perception".

Person A thinks his perception is a function of (among other things): person A's childhood; person A's previous experiences that day; person A's position in the room; person A's visual acuity; person A's height; person A's brain chemistry; a table.

Person B thinks her perception is a function of (among other things): person B's childhood; person B's previous experiences that day; person B's position in the room; person B's visual acuity; person B's height; person B's brain chemistry; a table.

What is the common factor between those different perceptions?

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Re: Is the question of reality the only meaningful question?

Post by Steve3007 » November 10th, 2019, 4:55 pm

Bluemist wrote:I think of all existents, including all objects, properties, relations, and also all facts of whatever variety, as lying on a one-dimensional timeline with a moving pointer as the indicator for the present. Then, with a magic marker I mark the Empire State Building and anything else I can know. After all present and past existents are marked, the line is dense with marks near the pointer but gets progressively more sparse to the left and quickly drops to near zero to the right.
It's interesting that there are at least some marks to the right, isn't it? But not as many as there are to the left. This reflects the fact that we can, in a sense, see into the future by extrapolating from the present, in the same way that we see into the past, by extrapolating from the present. We believe that we know about events in the past because we look at various pieces of evidence that exist in the present (words in books, memories in our brains, etc) and hypothesize that these things were caused by events in the past. Similarly, we look at various pieces of evidence that exist in the present and hypothesize that these things will cause events in the future.

So there's quite a lot of similarity between the methods we use to "predict" both the past and the future, yet we think of the future as being much less certain than the past.

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Re: Is the question of reality the only meaningful question?

Post by h_k_s » November 10th, 2019, 5:28 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
November 10th, 2019, 8:44 am
h_k_s wrote:I am not fond nor subscribe to any of Stephen Hawkings' theories or ideas. So I don't engage in arguments over them.
I have never mentioned Stephen Hawking and have no idea why you have. But I guess we'll have to leave it there then.
Quirks and quarks … .

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Re: Is the question of reality the only meaningful question?

Post by Steve3007 » November 10th, 2019, 5:29 pm

Pantagruel wrote:That which exists always existed in some form.
This is essentially a statement of the conservation of matter/energy. i.e. the stuff of which the Empire State Building is composed has always existed, you are proposing.
But was the Empire State Building implicit within the intertwined histories of all its constituent atoms? No, the Empire State Building exists now because it was brought into being through the efforts of the thought. And why should "God" in principle be any different to that?
So are you saying that "God" arranged the stuff of the Universe in the same way that the builders of the Empire State Building arranged concrete and steel, but that, just like them, He didn't bring that stuff into existence?

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Re: Is the question of reality the only meaningful question?

Post by Steve3007 » November 10th, 2019, 5:56 pm

h_k_s wrote:Quirks and quarks … .
Your posts quote my posts at the top of them, as if in reply to them. Yet they bear no apparent relation to them. Very odd.

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Re: Is the question of reality the only meaningful question?

Post by Gnosis » November 10th, 2019, 6:28 pm

StayCurious wrote:
November 5th, 2019, 4:54 pm
To start off, I would like to establish that I do not want my words to be taken as though I have any firm beliefs in any particular philosophy and am not attempting to to persuade anyone to think or not to think in any particular way, but rather I simply would like to invite everyone to enjoy a point of view which I enjoy and dance in this beautiful discussion with me.

I see that the questions that appear in a metaphysical context usually are in regards to the existence of a thing, idea, concept, etc. and whether or not it is real. "Is time real", "Are we real", "Is 'X' real" etc.

My question is: Is "What does it mean to exist?" the only meaningful metaphysical question in this regard? If we attempt to discuss the existence of something such as time, how can we say with any meaning whether or not it does or does not (exist) except in relation to our predetermined parameters of existence? How, for sake of a bad analogy, can we know if a box (time) is in the garage (exists) if we've not established the borders of the garage (predetermined parameters)?

Are other metaphysical questions building off of an unspoken/undetermined basis of René Descartes's "I think therefor I am" picture of existence?

Any thoughts are greatly appreciated. I love you all.
Hey, great question, I have two basic responses. There are more meaningful questions, since there are more categories to life, existence is only one. There is the perceived present (what exists, what is, the current state of reality, science, empirical observation, consciousness, the senses), there is the desired future (goals, morality, emotions, religion, politics, the will/desire/intent, meaning, purpose, wisdom, muscles) and there are the methods to get from the present to the desired future (strategies, tactics, intelligence, creativity, logic, brain). All three of these are an undeniable part of our life and all are of great importance.

What is real helps us understand how the world is now, what is meaningful helps us establish goals, and the strategies help us achieve these goals. Ignorance, arrogance, wilful blindness, lack of information, lies: all of these can cause us to create wrong strategies to get to our desired goals, since we have an incorrect notion of the starting position. But likewise, if our goals are not coherent and contradict each other, or if they cause destruction, only suffering will await us. Even if we have true knowledge of the now and coherent and good goals for the future, if the strategy is wrong we will never achieve our goals. Thus all three are essential questions.

As for the second response, I think that consciousness is what it means to exist. What you see may or may not be an illusion but that is irrelevant, since you perceive anything at all that means that you exist and so does that something whatever it is. Even supposing that everything was an illusion, you would equally well want to know the rules of this illusion, just like you would want to know the rules if it was real, so it does not really make any difference. "I think therefore I am" is basically what I am trying to say, except with substituting "think" with "being conscious", that is perhaps the only totally undeniable truth.

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