A Dialogue: The Nature of Reality

Phaedrus and Crito are from the writings  of Plato. I borrow their names for the dialogue only, and not as representative of Phaedrus or Crito or Plato.

Crito: In your opinion, is reality subjective or objective and why? I think, there is no such thing as objectivity. Every “reality” is the interaction between an event and a observer. There cannot be one without the other. So the observer is as much a part of the event as the event itself. So all observations, considering they create the event, must influence it in a way too. . . so reality is very subjective.

Phaedrus: So to sum up you believe there is no difference between perception and reality?

Crito: Exactly, my identification with reality might be totally different than yours because you perceive things totally different than I do.

Phaedrus: Experience is direct, observational knowledge of the world. Reality is the memory of experience – some say. Therefore I suggest that your identification with reality is direct observational knowledge and therefore not reality. It is experience or perception. We may perceive that 2 plus 2 equals 5. That is experience, but that is not reality. Reality is the memory of grounded universal truths. 2 plus 2 equals 4. Everything else is opinion.

Crito: But where does opinion develop? What if in another universe, 2 +2 =5 and that is true? I still agree that the nature of reality is perception because everyone’s perception is different. There is no one way that makes things right. Take serial killers for example, some of them actually believe this is their destiny and what they are supposed to do. Or take depression. It’s a state of mind, a perception on things in the beginning, but how you accept that perception will effect reality in the long rung (the chemicals that shift in your brain) and decided the outcome of that reality. (whether or not you will fight depression or sink into it.)

But anyway, regardless of that. Just because there is an accepted “reality” among people does not mean it is the truth. For a long time, reality was that the sun circled the earth. For a while, reality was that mass and energy were two different things.

Phaedrus: Just because a bunch of perceived realities exist, does not mean that they are “reality”.

Crito: How can you say that your reality is more real than the guy who “knows” that aliens have taken over his body. To him, it is very “real,” but because it is not generally accepted means it is not?

Phaedrus: I am not quite so sure about that.

Crito: What about all those people who are institutionalized because they say “I’m Jesus?” What if we’ve institutionalized Jesus Christ a hundred million times because people decided the guy was a crackpot?

Phaedrus: But if reality is perceived then it can not be ‘real’ as it is open to interpretation. If reality is open to interpretation then how can we form a system of rules for the universe. If we can not form a system of rules for the universe then there is only chaos. So is reality then only chaos?

Reality, to me, is the order of the universe. The unbending rule. Universal truth. Perception is flexible and open to interpretation therefore not unbending so not reality.

Although I do agree with you that sometimes the majority simply means all the fools agree. So I see that point. But there must be a dividing line somewhere.

Crito: But the universe is always bending and yielding way to change, so does that not make it subjective. It is an even balance between chaos and order, and when one is stronger than the other, chaos always ensues because order cannot be without chaos. I would go so far as to say it is an equal balance of subjection and objection, but I would never agree that the nature of reality is fully objective. Are you sure there is order? Or do you merely perceive order?

Phaedrus: According to every belief in the creation of the universe order was created from chaos whether that belief be creationism, or evolution. Here’s a question. What’s the difference between reality and truth?

Crito: Individual perception. Take it back to my example on the man institutionalized for thinking he is Jesus. That guy really believes he is Christ, so does that in turn not make it so? In his mind, he is convinced. He may even perform miracles which no one else has explanation for, but will downplay because there is no way he could ever be the Messiah.

Phaedrus: Individual perception is flawed as it inherently draws upon the memory of a particular event. We, neither of us, ever met George Washington. Yet we accept the reality of his existence via the memory of him. The written documents, the paintings, all suggest to us that he was real. That he existed. However, suppose there were no written records of him. No artistic renderings. No history of him. Does that mean he didn’t exist? We do not remember him therefore he did not exist? It seems illogical to base reality upon the human condition, as it suggests that without human participation there is no reality. It is natural. It is universal. It is separate yet part of the human condition.

Crito: That’s how you wish to perceive it.

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