Archives for posts with tag: Reality

I argued earlier that truth is a convention.
And that the Truth exists but will never be known. Not in its entirety, anyway.

Then what are we left with?
How can any of us decide what is true and what is not?

First of all, any convention needs three things. The two convening parts and the object of their convention.

‘So, you want us to believe that truth is a make-believe?!?’

That it can be, yes!

And the further from the real truth – from reality itself, that convened about truth is, the worse the fate the believers will eventually have to face.

The first example which jumps to my mind is the fate of Bernie Madoff and ‘his’ investors.
Bernie and each of the investors had convened a truth. That his investment fund was sound.
Consider what happened to each of them. To each of the investors and to Bernie Madoff himself.

I’ll come back.

For whatever reasons, vaccine arrived later in some countries.
For whatever other reasons, some people had chosen to ‘opt out’ in those countries where the vaccine had been plentiful.

The results have been the same.

More than half of Vietnam’s people are currently under lockdown.
New daily cases have surpassed 10,000 and deaths are being reported in hundreds. Of Vietnam’s nearly 16,000 COVID-19 fatalities, more than 99% have come in this latest wave
.”

https://www.npr.org/2021/09/16/1037768399/long-weekend-becomes-9-week-lockdown-for-ap-vietnam-reporter
https://www.inquirer.com/health/coronavirus/pennsylvania-coronavirus-breakthrough-cases-vaccinated-unvaccinated-20210914.html

“We arise as human beings in the experience of observing ourselves observing.”
Humberto Maturana, The Origin and Conservation of Self-Consciousness, 2005

Thinkers are divided when it comes to ‘reality’.

Some of them, the self styled ‘scientists’, study reality as if it was an ‘exterior’ fact.
At the other end of the spectrum, other people are convinced reality is nothing but a projection/illusion.

To me, this whole thing is yet another example of ‘which came first’, only simpler. Way simpler…

You need a chicken to lay an egg to hatch a chicken. This is indeed complicated…

‘Reality’, on the other hand, is, first and foremost, a human concept!

There was no such ‘thing’ as ‘reality’ until one of our forepersons had come up with the word/concept!

‘And where did that foreperson came ‘in’ from, huh?!?’

Have you noticed the scare marks?

The ‘thing’ we identify as being ‘reality’ had existed since… the Big Bang… I don’t know….
But I do know that nobody called it that – or thought of it in that manner, until somebody did!
And until the peers of that person agreed to use the term and to think about ‘it’ – the ‘thing’, not the word – in that manner.

‘Does this mean that we made ‘reality’?

No, not exactly made it… more about this later…
Only ‘found’ it and ‘measured’ it.
Named it, to put it in a simpler form.

As for who made it… this is another good question.

God?
I argued, in my last post, that ‘God’ – the concept, is yet another human artifact.
The only bridge we could trust to take to the future.

I don’t know, with absolute certainty, whether the whole thing we call ‘reality’ has been made (is constantly being made, as according to the Ash-Arite tradition) by an ‘outside’ agent or it had evolved naturally. But I do know that if our ‘reality’ had been made by somebody then a ‘small’ question begs to be asked.

Who made that somebody’s reality?

I can accept the notion that we are lab rats. Playing in a pen made by some experimenter. Just as we do with/to our lab rats. But exactly as I’m trying to find an answer to ‘how did we come about’, the moment I’ll accept that we’ve been made by some agent will be the moment I’ll start wondering about ‘who pulled this creative agent out of the proverbial hat!’.

Let’s stick with the naturally evolving reality! The alternative is far too complicated…

‘But if had evolved naturally, then nobody made it… right???!’

…No…, not exactly, anyway!
It may have evolved naturally but that doesn’t preclude any factors – and even agents, from chipping away at it!

‘What?!?
Are you gonna make up your mind?
As in once and for all???’

No, I can’t promise you anything like that!
My mind will never be ‘made up’.
My understanding is a work in progress.
I’m constantly adjusting my opinions according to the evidence ‘presented’ to me by ‘reality’.

‘And what about this constantly evolving reality? What/who drives this ‘evolution’?’

What do you see here?
A ‘Nature Made’, volcano whose flanks had been eroded by naturally occurring factors.
The debris had been transported to lower altitudes, by other naturally occurring factors and then transformed into fertile soil by a different class of equally naturally occurring factors.
The factors belonging to the first class had been rain, freeze, wind and gravity while in the second class we point out algae, microbes, plants and animals.
On top, literally, of these natural occurrences we find the consequences of our own actions. Of our own agency.
Of our own choices!

The buildings you see, the farms you know are there, the roads people take when going from their houses to their farms… and so on, up to the top of the mountain. Where we find snow full of other ‘evidence’ of our own existence. Soot, various industrial dust, etc., etc.,…

So. We live at the intersection between the natural evolution of things and the consequences of our previous existence/choices.

We live in a reality increasingly influenced by our own existence.
Are we truly aware of this?

Are we conscient enough?
Enough to realize how much of our reality is of our own doing?

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Reality is tricky.

It includes us. Each of us!

Yet we perceive it as being ‘exterior’. As including the others but not ‘me’. ‘I’ determine what’s real and what not, hence I’m above ‘mere’ reality.

We perceive ourselves as being distinct from the (rest of the) reality yet each of us continuously shares substance and energy with it. We breathe, eat, drink, excrete. We bask in the sun whenever we can during winter and use wind and water to cool ourselves down during hot summer days.

We feel overwhelmed whenever we think about it yet we constantly chip away at it. We build shelters and roads, we grow crops and raise animals, we dig up minerals and transform them into consumer goods. In time, we had displaced most of the ‘Nature’ we have evolved in and replaced it with ‘Man Made’.

Berger and Luckmann had famously – yet somewhat convolutedly, demonstrated that ‘reality’ was a (social) construct.
That what we know about the reality and what we have built based on that knowledge are the consequences of our common effort.

What I’m interested in is the ‘complicated’ manner in which we, each of us, interact with ‘reality’.

We grow up learning about reality. From those around us.
During this process, we simultaneously accumulate knowledge and develop the instrument with which we gauge reality. Our consciences.
Along with this process we also change, together with our teachers and siblings, the very reality we learn about.

Interesting, isn’t it?

We depend, for our dear life, on something we don’t fully understand.
We extract sustenance from it and throw back at it the results of our cravings.
Since our individual knowledge is severely limited, we depend on others – our peers, to complement our understanding of what’s going on around us. Yet in our attempts to fulfill our cravings we mislead some of our siblings.

Reality has been shaped by life from the very first moment. Only in those times, the process was driven exclusively by ‘needs’. The living things of yore did change their reality only they were doing exclusively what they had to in order to survive.
Nowadays, while the rest of the living world continue to follow the ‘time proven traditions’, we – the conscient, and presumably rational, humans, transform the reality according to our wishes.
While we don’t exactly understand what’s going on….

Then how come we’re so snug about the whole thing?

And what’s the meaning of the Adenium Obesum I used to illustrate this post?
I live in Romania. The Desert Rose is a native of the Arabian Desert. Yet one grows, and flowers, in my home.
Only because I afford to heat my ‘shelter’ during winter. And to spend some of my time caring for it.
I don’t really need that plant in order to survive. Yet I’ve changed the reality around me to such an extent that that plant is able to thrive. Almost 4000 km straight North from its native desert….
I’ve been taking care of it for some 4 years now. And I’ve learned only 5 minutes ago that its sap is toxic… What was I telling you about us not being fully aware of our actions?

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And to provide for my family.
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Your contribution will be appreciated!

As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
And to provide for my family.
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We happen to be born.

Then we start exploring the world our parents – and all their ancestors, have prepared for us.

At first, we’re like sponges. We absorb, unconsciously, everything which takes places around us. Some according to what our parents had in mind for us, some not.

After a while, on our own and/or under our parents’ supervision, our attention starts to focus. More and more of the things which are stored in our memory are learned. Increasingly a consequence of focused labor and less and less a happenstance.

Almost simultaneously, we start adding our transformative efforts to those already effected by our predecessors. Minute at first, more and more significant as we become more experienced.

At some point, we reach something called ‘maturity’.
That’s when ‘play’ ceases being a legitimate manner of learning for us.
We are allowed to continue playing but only for recreational purposes…

At least we’re still allowed to explore… but from now on, we’re expected to do it in a serious manner. According ‘to plan’, that is.
From now on, wandering is considered to be a sin!

‘You’re an adult, for God’s sake. Act like one!’

I’m sure most of you have experimented things. Either as an experimenter or, mostly in school, as a learning apprentice.
How many of those experiments had been ‘blind’? As is neither you nor anybody else present had any idea about what was going to happen?
And how many had a more ‘modest’ goal? Just to convince the ‘students’ that the ‘theory’ was valid?

If you think of it, the second sentence covers quite a lot of ground.
From the second grade teacher pouring water over some sugar ‘Look, it has disappeared’, to the scientists anxiously watching the gauges at the CERN laboratory…

A few short generations ago, people had to decide whether that plant was edible or not. And had developed methods to accomplish that task. They survived, right?
Nowadays we design new plants/animals and ‘cook up’ fancy snacks to be sold in supermarkets…

During our parents’ ‘watch’, Popper had come up with a test for what belonged to the realm of science – and had to do with ‘reality’.
Nowadays, we brag about being able to create VA. As in virtual reality… Enhanced virtual reality, even!

Nothing good or bad about all this.
For as long as we keep our eyes open… and, at least one of them, focused on the ‘hard’ reality… that which makes us possible!

Is it enough for something to exist in order for that something to become real?

Existence = “The fact or state of living or having objective reality.”
Real = “Actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed.”

Ooops!

Do I sense a conundrum haunting these premises?

Which came first? Reality or ‘mere’ existence?

Descartes was the first who had introduced a ‘pecking order’ into this mess.

Dubito ergo cogito.
Cogito ergo sum.

You’re free to translate this any way you want.
Mine goes like this:

My existence is certified only by my doubts.

My existence as a human being, of course.
As a conscious human!

The ‘pecking order’ being, as far as I figure it out:

I need to exist, as an animal, in order to become conscious.
And I need to gain consciousness in order to learn about my existence.

Complicated?
Let me elaborate.

Our understanding of the world is incomplete.
First of all, there are so many things we don’t know about.

For example, we have no idea what goes on between Mars and Jupiter.
We think we know that there’s no major planet hidden in between those two orbits. No object with an important enough mass to disturb either Mars or Jupiter and no object with an albedo big enough to be noticed. To be noticed by us…
Other than that… we have no clue about what’s going on there.
In fact, we don’t know much about what’s going on in the middle of our own planet… or on the floor of ‘our’ oceans…

But the fact that we don’t know about their existence doesn’t preclude the actual existence of whatever ‘objects’ and/or organisms might happen to be there.

Secondly, there are so many things we don’t fully understand. Not yet, anyway. We are aware of their existence – because we’ve been confronted with some ‘consequences’ of the aforementioned things, but we haven’t yet figured out, exactly, how those consequences have been produced.
For example, we’re still learning about viruses. About their ability to bypass our defenses. About how they infect us. About how we might improve our chances of avoiding/surviving infection.

But the fact that we don’t fully understand them doesn’t preclude us – well, some of us, from believing those viruses to be real.

My point being that ‘existence’ is far wider than ‘reality’.
There’s no need for us to know about it for something to exist.
But for something to be considered ‘real’, by us, that something needs to exist first.

‘But aren’t you contradicting yourself?
In a previous post, you argued that ‘the Flat Earth’ was real?!?’

Confusing, isn’t it?
I’m sorry if I misled you.
All I was trying to say was that ‘the Flat Earth’, as a concept, is ‘real’. In the sense that so many people discussing it – either for or against, make it real. Those very discussions, a direct consequence of the concept’s very existence – albeit only in the virtual space, give consistency to its reality.
Don’t get me wrong. The Earth – as I ‘know’ it, continues to be round. The Earth – that we live on, is not ‘Flat’. The Earth doesn’t exist as a flat object.

We are confronted with two facts here.
1. All that we’ve so far learned about it leads us to the conclusion that the Earth is, more or less, round.
2. There still are people who believe – or pretend to, that the Earth is flat.

The second fact exists.
The belief which made it possible is false. As far as we know. As far as the scientific community is convinced.
Yet the fact still remains.
Those people believing in it provide it with ‘existence’.
Those people believing in it make it ‘real’.

Sort of, anyway.

Being an engineer, I’m gonna present you with a more straight-forward version than the philosophical one.

For something to be real, it has to have consequences.

‘But…?!?’

No buts!
The only thing which classifies something as being real or not is our consciousness.
Without it, without our consciousness, the something we’re talking about now – reality itself, would cease to be ‘real’.
Without us pondering about it, ‘reality’ would continue to exist, of course! Only it would no longer bear a name… Without us being concerned enough about it, it would ‘disappear’ from our ‘radar’.

‘Yes, but … you just said that something becomes real as soon as it has consequences!
We encounter ‘real’ things in each and every moment of our existence.
We need air to breathe, water to drink… food to eat. And a solid earth to walk on…’

True enough. Only for all these things to become ‘real’, we first need to notice them!

See how ironic things are?
In retrospect, electrons are real. Despite the fact that none of us can actually see them. Or otherwise ‘feel’ them. In any way, shape or form!
But until we had gathered enough evidence about their existence…

And now, that our discussion has reached this subject – evidence, I feel the need to mention the fact that Earth is not yet round ‘enough’. That there still are some people actually believing in the notion of the Flat Earth.

‘Are you implying that the Earth might be Flat?!?’

Excellent question, thank you very much!
(If I may say something like that myself. Please excuse my boastfulness!)

You see, we are dealing here with two things. Two very different things.

The roundness of the Earth. Which seems to be real.
The ‘Flat Earth’. Which is certainly real.

‘Now you’ve outdone yourself! For sure…’

I’m almost certain that you can hear me chuckle.

The roundness of the Earth belongs to the realm of science. Which is ‘wrong by definition‘. At least according to Popper… In the sense that the Earth will continue to remain round only till somebody will prove it to be different. Which had happened already… In ‘reality’, the Earth resembles a potato more than anything else!
On the famous ‘other side’, the ‘Flat Earth Theory’ belongs to the realm of belief. Which is also real. Not in the ‘direct’ sense – a concept which describes a real ‘reality’, only in the sense that it has certain consequences.

‘The Flat Earth has consequences?!? You admit that the concept – ‘the Flat Earth’, describes something which doesn’t exist yet you pretend that it has consequences?’

Yep!

Can you deny the reality of this whole thing? Six hundred and twenty million hits? In less than point 8 seconds?
Can you pretend these are not ‘real consequences’? Can you imagine, for instance, how much energy is spent only to preserve this amount of raw information in the ‘cloud’. How much ‘space’? How much bandwidth is used to transport this ‘fake-ness’ across the ‘globe’!

‘And where does this whole thing lead us?
What about the Flat Earth?
Is it still a fake?’

Yeah.
I’m actually tempted to say ‘obviously’!
On the other hand… it’s hard to deny how ‘real’ the whole thing is…

We make reality.

Each of us: I, you, she, he, brings their individual contributions.
And the end result, our reality, is defined by the quality of the interactions between us.

The new reality, ours, being the ‘place’ where we, the ‘beneficiaries’ of the interactions between us – simultaneously cooperating and competing free agents, and the previous reality, will have to lead our lives.

Until we’ll change it. Again.

Hunters and growers.

Then fighters, doers and rulers.

Now, doers and ‘commentators’.

Some people actually do something – be it ‘fighting’, producing something or being involved in government, while other just ‘speak’. OK, their ‘speech’ does have consequences.
So we might say they also ‘do’ something… yes, true enough, only their deed is more than indirect. And no, teachers don’t belong here. Nor ‘actors’. Or even writers. All these people might do nothing but ‘speak’ only they produce something through their speech. Education, show, literature…
‘Commentators’ is very straightforward. Even more straightforward is ‘talking heads’. But ‘talking heads’ isn’t wide enough!

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it. ” Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach

We all know the consequences of people following Marx’s advice…
But what could have gone wrong? Weren’t philosophers supposed to be the brightest amongst us?
Wasn’t Plato – the founder of Western philosophy, advocating the very same thing? That society should be run by specially trained philosopher kings?

Let’s go back to the original division of work.
Not all people have become farmers. There still are a lot of humans who survive as hunter-gatherers. Some don’t need to bother – there’s enough food to be gathered where they live , while others couldn’t possibly farm anything. The Inuits, for instance.
Among the farmers, there’s further division. Some farm plants while others farm animals. Because of the specifics of local soil, geography…
Also, farmers need tools. Hence wood workers, metal workers, weavers… etc.
The farmers need protection. Hence soldiers.
Society, as a whole, needs organizing. Hence government.

Let me pause for a moment. These arrangements work simply because they are more efficient than each individual providing everything they need for their own survival.
The soldier protects so the farmer might plow in peace. Some farmers use better plows because of the woodworkers and the metal workers who have cooperated to produce it. The farmers with the better plows produce more than those who use a rudimentary one, built by themselves. And so on. But please remember that each of these people have a first hand experience in their domain of expertise. And that their livelihood depends directly on their expertise.

Now, the next level of analysis shows us that organized societies fare better than those who lack any ‘structure’. ‘Fare better’ in no other sense than having a better chance of survival, as a social organism.
Nota Bene! While an Inuit – or an Inuit family, has a far better chance to survive in the Arctic than you and me, we, together, have a better chance at surviving – and even thriving, anywhere on the planet. Including in the Arctic. But only as long as we act as an organism. Only as long as we cooperate among us.

And whose job is to organize this cooperation?
The government and the ‘commentators’, who else…
The government to act as a referee – to prevent the rogue among us from ruining the game, and the ‘commentators’ to convince us that behaving is a lot better than mis-behaving.

Yeah… only this is nothing more than an ideal… seldom maintained for long…
Usually, the ‘government’ becomes too powerful, the ‘commentators’ convince us – both ‘government’ and general public, that this is how it should be… tensions build up… and something snaps!

And the problem becomes even more acute when the ‘commentator’ pretends to become king. Pretends to have the ultimate truth. Pretends to be obeyed. Convinces us – this being his only skill, to obey him.

This being the moment for us to remember that the commentators have only indirect knowledge about the world. While each of the doers has at least some first hand experience about something, the commentators have nothing but second hand expertise. Everything they know, they know it because somebody has told them so. Or because they have read about it somewhere.
The commentators’ vision might be far wider than that of the doers but it is at least ‘once removed’ from the reality.

And this is the reason for which societies who have used Marx as their spiritual leader have failed. They have not respected the main principle which makes division of work function properly. Let those who know about it make it their job.
Let the doers do and let the commentators gather and aggregate knowledge.

Don’t mess up things.

Like it or not, some people, a minority, have more clout than others. Than the demographic majority. That’s a fact.
Check Vilfredo Pareto’s principle, if you need more theoretical background.

Things tend to survive.
From the moving object which ‘wants’ to conserve its linear trajectory and speed – Newton’s first law, to the survival instinct which is manifest in all living organisms.

Those with more clout than the others, the elites, are included here. Among the things which want to survive.

As humans, the elites are endowed with consciousness. They are aware of their own status. And of their own fragility.

In time, they (should) have learned a few things.
– They are not infallible. Neither individually and nor as a class.
– When things get really bad – revolution grade bad, they have the most to loose. Regular Joe has nothing to loose but his shackles while the ‘landed gentry’ has everything to loose. Even if land itself has nowhere to go.
– The best way to preserve elite status is through the cunning use of the law.

The point being that these three ‘pearls of wisdom’ must be kept in balance. Whenever one of them is forgotten, things go south. Revolution grade south.

Let me deal with the last but not least one.

Any Law is nothing but the formal expression of an already existing reality.
It doesn’t matter whether that reality is ‘hard’ or ‘virtual’, all it has to do is to be ‘real’.
For example, Newton’s laws describe a portion of the physical reality which surrounds us. The penal codes, all over the world, are the formal expressions of the prevailing mores in each of the respective countries and territories. And both physical reality and prevailing mores are actual realities, even if the first is ‘hard’ while those belonging the second category are virtual. Both have consequences, hence both are real.

OK, very nice. Your theory covers the kind of laws which attempt to describe already existing realities.
But what about the laws which attempt to ‘regulate’ the future? For instance the laws which prevent us from smoking in public places or those which mandate us to pay a portion of our income at the end of the fiscal year? Where is the reality described by these laws?
In the head of those who had come up with them in the first place!
‘They’ had somehow managed to convince us to accept these laws. Which means that ‘their’ convictions had been strong enough to produce consequences. Hence their convictions had been ‘real’.

Among the laws which regulate the future are those which attempt to conserve the already present situation. Starting with the various Constitutions and all the way through to the anti rioting legislation.

If you look close enough, the special status of the elites has a special place – even if not always mentioned as such, in all these pieces of legislation.
Which is not necessarily bad. After all, we’ve already learned that elites do have a role to play in the well being of the social organism we all belong to.

The whole thing boils down to how protected those elites need to be?
In order for them to be able to properly play their role.

We are now faced with another question which needs to be answered.

‘Their role’?

To lead the masses? Where?!?

How about ‘to maximize the chances of survival’? For both the society as a whole and for them, the elite class, as a very important part of the whole?

Let me remind you of the ‘three pearls of wisdom’.

The elites are not infallible.
They are the ones with the most to loose. Hence they are the most interested in maintaining the status quo.
The most efficient way to insure stability is through the wise use of the law. Which must be written wisely and obeyed respectfully.

Hence it’s the elites which mostly need to act wisely.
They are the ones who need the most to constantly adjust their actions according to the consequences obtained.

‘OK, very nicely put.
But what has any of this to do with ‘laissez faire’?!?’

Laissez faire is, above all, an attitude.
A mental frame-work. A blue print, if you want.

An attitude which mandates each of us to do as we please, for as long as we don’t encounter adverse reactions.

For instance, this attitude would allow any of us to shoot ourselves in the foot, if we don’t mind the pain. Or shoot somebody else in the foot if he doesn’t protest.

And this is the real problem with laissez faire.

It cannot be written into law.

‘ ‘Shoot somebody else in the foot if he doesn’t protest’… What does that mean? There are laws against bodily harming others…’

Yes, true enough. But before any law is enforced, somebody has to notify those called to enforce that law…
If the hurt person is in no position to call the ‘cops’ or the ‘shooter’ is powerful/skillful enough to avoid the unpleasant consequences of his actions…

On the other hand, laissez faire is essential.

People do need to be free. It’s their nature to explore every available opportunity!
Specially so for the elites.
Remember their role? To maximize the chances of survival?
How would they be able to do that if nobody is allowed to do as they please? To explore, that is!

Hence the true role of the elites.
To constantly adjust the meaning of laissez faire to whatever happens around them.