Definitions of Reality

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Ilya Shambat

Oct 7, 2021, 7:47:31 PMOct 7
When I was 15, I was going around telling people in school that nothing was real. Some people thought that I was on drugs; others, that I wanted attention; and others still, that I was escaping reality. I was in fact doing none of the above. I was working with the definition of reality that I had been given. According to the empiricist definition of reality, something is real if it can be proven. Since nothing can be proven to a man with brain damage or to a man who refuses to listen to evidence, it follows from that definition that nothing is real. Define something falsely, expect the whole thing to go haywire.

Another definition of reality I got was “something that does not go away when you stop believing in it.” This is also not always correct. I have heard it from many people that people's beliefs have a great role in shaping the reality of their lives, and I agree with that, although in no way do I agree with the New Agers who think that they are the only thing that shapes their reality. A statement made by an American industrialist is, “Either you believe that you can, or you believe that you cannot. In either case, you are right.” Beliefs that people have do have a great role in shaping reality – both of their lives and of the world as they impact upon it. You may not believe in misogynistic or racist attitudes; but they've had vast impact upon reality, and they continue to do so now even though many people believe that these attitudes are wrong.

Reality is not something that can, or should be, defined in reference to a method. A method is there to discern reality, and not the other way around. This is the case with logic; this is the case with faith; this is the case with just about everything. Reality does not exist because you can either observe it or believe in it. It existed before you; it will continue existing long after you're gone.

The problem in both cases has been mistaking the horse and the cart. The cart does not drive the horse; the horse drives the cart. Reality exists whether or not you either can prove it or believe in it; and defining it in reference to either such thing is wrong.

The problem is not with reality. The problem is with wrongful definitions of what reality is. A wrong definition will always beget wrong conclusions; and we see the same both with nihilists who use the logical implications of the empiricist view to say that nothing is real and the New Agers who think that everyone makes their reality with their consciousness or their beliefs.

More nonsense to that effect has come from the academics who think that reality is something that is construed by people agreeing upon it. Once again, that is completely wrong. People agreeing upon an issue has not created the solar system. Their beliefs shape their actions and communications, which then impact upon the rest of the world. It does not mean that they have created reality, or that reality is something that is construed.

Another bit of nonsense that I have heard is that truth is relative. No, it is not. There is nothing relative about the sun. Relativism is the ideology of a conman; what a friend from India rightfully called scumbaggery. Truth is complex; reality is complex; but neither are relative.

Probably the best view I've had on this matter is that reality is co-created. There is the Sun, the Earth, and the rest of the universe that we did not create, and then there is the human world which we did. Both are part of reality, and both are expected to continue to remain a part of reality for a long time. There is what we have been given, and there is what we do with it. Both are equally real.

Do not define something in reference to a method that is being used to study it. Define something according to what it is. Both logic and beliefs that people have a vast role in influencing the reality of their actions and of the world as they impact upon it. That does not mean that they have created reality. And it does not mean that reality is something that should be defined in reference to either method.

Ilya Shambat
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