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Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

—Philip K. Dick

We need some understanding of what it means for something to be “real”, even though this is a philosophical tar-pit (see Reality.) We'll take the reality of physical phenomena as a given, but the reality of mental phenomena is unclear—if they are real at all, they aren't as real as physical phenomena. Mental phenomena don't automatically become real simply because they arise from the physical structure of the brain.

There is a close relationship between Truth and Reality. Truth (or falsehood) is a property of statements, while reality is that which actually is. In the most intuitive definition, a statement is true if it corresponds to or is consistent with reality. We discuss reality more in relation to subjective experience, while we emphasize the formal and contingent nature of truth and our process of assessing or seeking truth, especially through Science. See also Phenomenology and Ontology in philosophy.

Somewhat along the lines of the Dick quote above, we feel that a key characteristic of reality is its failure to conform to our wishes. It is something we have to “deal with”, either by engaging with it according to its rules, or by just learning to live with it. Real phenomena also tend to have some sort of consistent rules of behavior; we can often predict what will happen, or failing that, explain what caused an event after the fact (but see Prediction is Intractable.)

A philosophy of reality that meshes well with our position is Pragmatism, which more or less says: instead of trying to invent some critera for what is really real, let's just consider something to be real if it is useful to do so. Dennett argues that the self and intentions are as real as the physical center of gravity (see Intentional Design.)

There is a reality gradient from the physical world up to the sometimes fanciful level of storytelling (see Level Map), and this parallels the emergence axis. We could say that unreality is an emergent phenomenon. Our evolved instincts are more real than some other mental phenomena because they are something that we have to “deal with”, and can't change simply by wishing (see Reprogramming the Mind.) These instincts manifest both as cognitive biases and emotions.

The reality, legitimacy and validity our emotional responses is a key part of our interpretive position (see Smarty-Pants Critique.) This is what it is like to be human, and we cannot be any other way. Though our feelings and motivations are ultimately explicable by our evolutionary heritage, this makes little human sense because our emotions and motivations are opaque to us (see Intentional and Representational opacity.) Our own emotions are something that we have to “deal with”—we can't choose how to feel, though we can manipulate our mood and feelings by what we do and how we think. Emotions are socially real: we have to accept that everyone's behavior is greatly influenced by their emotions and subjective judgments. We have no direct control at all over other people's subjective experience, but we must consider how they will judge and emotionally respond to our behavior.

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analysis/philosophy/reality.txt · Last modified: 2013/04/28 17:23 by ram