Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Somewhat Angsty Phenomenological Take on Reality

What is real? "Real" is that which imposes metaphysical order on all of our capacities (faculties) without our consent; and it is that which, furthermore, has the power to end our consciousness permanently.

I admit, it's not a terribly clear characterization.

Perhaps a simpler way to say it is, "From the personal perspective, the bare minimum of identifiably objective reality consists of that which is not amenable to change through our actions."

Still a problematic assertion. After all, I can never control another being's thoughts the way I can control my own--do we say that those thoughts are part of objective reality? Are their personal sensations a part as well?

I would say not, although the fact of their having those sensations is obviously an objective fact. It is the representational content of their sensations that may not map perfectly onto reality, e.g. when they are dreaming, imagining, or hallucinating. (That is to say, their experiences at a given moment may not be veridical.)

More confusingly, it might seem that we can change many things that we normally think of as objective. E.g., it is an objective fact that the brick wall over there is red (which we may translate to language that makes less use of second-order properties: "the wall over there reflects a majority of light with such and such a wavelength", for example). But, I can change that fact through my personal actions, by painting it green. So was it never an objective fact that the wall was red, after all?

Not exactly. I'm trying to get at something a little more fundamental. While it is true that you can change an object's color by painting it, you nevertheless cannot violate the laws of physics nor logic in doing so. With that in mind, what I'm saying seems to be this: the fundamental "building blocks" of reality, from a personal perspective, are impossibilities, which is to say, invariants.


This is still a very problematic description.