|Plato's Electronic Cave...or, Reality is an Abstraction.|
I wrote this really in an attempt to clarify my own comprehension although it was originally written as a private joke to two good friends of mine on the subject of apprehending Reality when we first formed Socialrebirth.org and I added a note on Korzybski's 'General Semantics' to make it complete....
"What Is Reality?" ~
"LOL to both of you…
Inspect a little closer guys…that solid ground may not be as secure as first impressions would suggest. Examine your precious reassuring boardwalk of reality a little closer, and you will find that you are nonetheless still standing philosophically and scientifically in the shifting quicksand of Time and Space…
How considerate of me to remind you both.
I am touched by my own magnanimous empathy for you!
Our conception of Reality consists of our subjective experiences (not a good start) and our collective, repeatedly measurable empirical knowledge.
Personal experience is inherently subjective and therefore questionable as a means of understanding reality unless it draws on objective knowledge, external reference and observation.
Ok? Fine so far?
Follow the dots scientifically i.e through empirical data using mathematics however and we wind up with two irreconcilable world views...
i.e the Einsteinian view of the space-time Continuum and the Quantum view with it’s weird effects like ‘entanglement’ and bits of matter, ‘real’ matter being in say on average ; 2,000 places at the same moment in time.
|A quantum particle travels through a wormhole back in time and returns to the same location in space and time.|
And oh, did I forget to mention the wonderfully weird effects of Relativity?
This doesn’t bode well if we are to comprehend our experience of reality objectively…Obviously something needs to shift and unfortunately for all of us, it involves the fundamental foundations of our weltanschaung, our World-view..is that solid reassuring boardwalk of reality feeling slippery yet?
Ultimately we follow the dots down the rabbit hole and we arrive at the Max Planck scale where light is both a wave and a particle simultaneously and the wonderful world of Strings and string theory...but as String Theory is impossible to test and has not made a single verifiable prediction since it's conception, it remains for me little more than creative thinking i.e a Mathematical construct.
As our Mathematics & Science collides and crashes in on itself we need to recognise at this juncture that our ‘understanding’ is mutable and constantly shifting subject to the passage of Time…in other words we stand on shifting sand.
|The unverifiable realm of String Theory from Deviant Art|
We pause to gather our bearings and gain some perspective …
We begin peering into the darkness with our instruments and discover that 70% of the entire Universe consists of Dark Energy, 25% of the remaining Universe is Dark Matter.
So in effect 95% of our observable and/or our measureable Universe is a complete and utter mystery..in other words not part of our collective reality at all.
We have no idea what Dark Matter is nor what it consists of.
Which leaves us and our precious reality clinging miserably to a fragment of porous material, a hybrid life-raft cobbled together by a set of mutually incompatible theories.
Our raft is the remaining 5% of that deeper mystery and is often termed ; ‘the known Universe’ which makes up our tiny sliver or fine shard of so-called measurable reality…
If we acknowledge the old precept that propaganda, the opponent of truth is as much an omission as a distortion of knowledge it seems axiomatic that there is therefore then a further challenge to our contrived, gestalt view of reality and it’s integrity, which comes naturally from the world of inner space.
In other words we are not neutral observors here.
The mechanism of Memory for example, the memory of a perceived Past is now understood to be a pure construct...
We can and do create false memories effortlessly, simply by being asked leading questions for example...our minds tend to fill in the gaps, the blanks.
This process of generating fantasy in the form of false memories is a creative aspect of our human consciousness and as a phenomena it was first detailed by Sigmund Freud and C.G.Jung and later became a part of the interesting daily work of Hypno-therapists at least it's where I first came across it in the text books of the excellent British Psychologist H.J Eysenck.
We actually construct Memories i.e we don't just experience them as being 'washed over' by a wave of recollections, and it is a part of the human condition to manufacture these false memories when required.
Therefore it becomes evident upon even the most basic reflection, that our brains are innately deceptive mechanisms.
The psychological realm, when attempting to apprehend reality personally becomes a major problem for us.
In addition to our Memory constructs, we need to factor in the inherent bias of our perceived viewpoints, our particular pathologies, quirks, syndromes, sub-conscious influences and forces, all of which protect us from associating psychic pain – and thereby through omission or psychosis alter our consciousness further still.
Originally a Freudian theorem, it is recognised nowadays as orthodox thinking and now, (and this is by no means the end of our list of influences shaping our reality) throw into the mix the often paralising effect which the neuro-peptides flooding our brains have on our apprehension of reality, chemicals which further contribute to influence and critically shape our views and you see that our comfortable bedrock is beginning to look rather porous and sketchy;
“For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” ~ from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by the immortal William Blake.
|William Blake and the Modern Man, hounded by the Western Media|
Thanks to a friend of mine ; Rama Godugunar, I have recently, at long last properly acquainted myself with Alfred Korzybski, the author of "Science and Sanity" ~ 1933, who had been described by many as being inordinately difficult....
As it turns out, putting aside his admittedly grim scientific prose, conceptually his message is powerfully convincing and his views have become really quite straightforward and reasonable and not at all difficult to 'Grok'...
Korzybski's perspective which surely owes a debt to Kant, unfortunately only further unravels our assumed understanding of our Reality.
His obsession of sifting through language, and of holding each word up against objective analysis in order to eliminate false assumptions, is an overwhelming type of fever which I have a strange affinity with, having suffered at times from similar obsessional or hallucinatory states involving language.
'Grok' is an invented term from the book "Stranger in a strange Land' by SF author Robert Heinlein meaning to comprehend something completely, to really 'know' it in a new, yet alien sort of way as the word is used by an alien in the book...
Heinlein turns out to be just one of innumerable writers, artists, philosophers and scientists who have picked up and supped from Korzybski's cup...OMG!!! .... ~ "My God, it's full of Stars!"
Our problems stem ultimately from their classical origins in Aristolean logic, in a world of categories beginning with what is "A" and "Not-A" and Korzybski has shown us that Reality is far more elusive and far too complex for the imperfect tools of our word constructs, and that Reality can not be confined by our neat little categories of construction which are really just abstractions or descriptive models.
|A superb example of the symbiosis between Science Fiction and Science i.e|
more of the Null-A Continuum courtesy of Korzybski.
My own personal problems with Logic began a long time earlier, when I first discovered that a particle could be in two places at once...
This began the erosion of my faith in Aristolean logic and our language constructs.
Fortunately clear thinking people like Alfred Korzybski have managed to begin clearing away the remnants of our flawed thought processes.
"The Map is not the Territory" is a famous Korzybski line :
Meaning that our semantic language constructs for something is not the same as the thing it describes.
The word 'IS' can cause us great confusion; I am not Jules Elbeshausen, as the term Jules is used to represent the abstraction only and I am far more than that.
This would seem like such a common sense statement and yet we are constantly being mystified by our language with the use of the word 'is' with potentially dangerous ramifications collectively.
Today when we hear for example about a 'War' against an inanimate object i.e Drugs, or a War against a state of mind i.e Terror, I am reminded that General Semantics is not something which the American Administration is familiar with, and it shows us the inherent dangers with our old, familiar word constructs.
Ironically the great Lewis Carroll, in Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893), had made a similar point to Korzybskis with his humorous description of a fictional map that had "the scale of a mile to the mile".
A character notes some practical difficulties with such a map and states that "we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well."
I feel that the concept of Ignosticism which is a theological position that holds that the subject of debate (the existence of one or more gods) has not been coherently defined, as opposed to Agnosticism, which is something else entirely, is just one of many schools of thought which owes a great deal to Korzybski and his fearless, relentless analysis of our apprehended reality via our nerve impulses and the constructs of our languages.
Does God exist will then become a meaningless question as each person's description and definition will differ depending on their point of view i.e which means it is pure subjectivity and the bane of rational, objective analysis.
All the semantic supports and foundational struts are breaking now, as I go tumbling through one interconnected rabbit-hole after another... I am almost free-falling now....
The winds of friction which are screaming in my ears are merely the cries of defeated logical conceptions and assumptions under the withering light of Korzybski's searing search beam as I go plummeting with scalpel in hand through one broken, smashed assumption after another...
Altho I'm not completely convinced that I will be happy with what I find at the bottom i.e at the other end of this exhausting rabbit-hole and I am left wondering, considering the tortuously complicated philosophical imbroglio in which we find ourselves, if we will ever completely be able to 'know' our reality.
It seems as if it doesn't matter what type of cerebral contortions one wishes to impose on oneself, consciousness or even thinking itself do not appear capable of escaping the enigmatic 'i' of perception or if you prefer, the 'eye' of the observer as it will invariably add it's own contribution towards shaping our apprehension of reality.
This axiom is also in line with Quantum Physics in the now famous double-slit wave/particle experiment, in which it was discovered that matter behaves differently depending on whether it is being observed or not...
I need to finish this, as I need some sustenance, some Food.
And as Korzybski is constantly reminding us, alas, I cannot eat the word : PIZZA...