What’s real #4…?

Posted on August 15, 2011


In the last post we promised you a mini-model – a simple building block – that can help you make sense of various kinds of puzzling experiences. You can use this building block to construct simple or complex models of reality. Recall that we are agreeing with Hawking that we have no direct access to ‘reality’ … the only access we have is via our fallible senses that receive and filter light and sound waves and deliver patterns of neural firing from which are brains construct, not reality, but models of reality based on incomplete, conflicting and filtered bits of experience.  I know it’s hard to buy this because the ‘reality’ that out brains construct seem so REAL!

Anyway you don’t have to buy the whole package.  But you’ll likely find you’ll be better able to make sense of some experiences that currently puzzle  or bug you, without giving up any of the ‘realities’ you’ve already constructed and trust.

First off , you have to temporarily give up your current trusted belief – or bias – that reality or truth comes in neat packages – does she love me or not? C an I trust him or not? Or, whose right about how to fix the current economic mess we’re in, the Republicans or the Democrats? Instead we ask that you briefly suspend the belief that those are sensible questions with clear answers, and instead buy the idea that the answer depends on who did the packaging and who opens it. The ‘reality’ you find not only depends on who packaged it and who opens it, but also  depends on when and where the packaging and unpacking  occurred …. as we proposed earlier when we asked the question “What’s real?” we answered “It all depends.” Now were saying that it all depends on who does the packaging and who does the unwrapping, and furthermore it depends and where and when – depends upon the particular space and time – they do so.

So, at least for now we’ll assume that you’re willing to play, willing to give up the idea that reality and truth come neatly packaged, and instead entertain the proposal that they are constructed from models – beliefs, theories, biases – and supported by cherry-picked bits and pieces of evidence provided by our fallible senses and brains.

So what’s the mini-model or building block. Instead of the standard or familiar belief – model – that reality and truth come in neat packages – right or wrong, true or false, wise or foolish – we propose that reality and truth come in one package wrapped inside another package. The outer wrapping which we usually ignore contains a warning that the reality or truth contained in the inner package is not to be taken at face value, that it’s  not real, but rather is a one view of reality, a model of reality constructed to fit certain assumptions and bits of fallible data.

The reality you get is similar to the packaging of the pills you get from a pharmacy. The package contains one or two pages warning you of the limitations or even dangers involved in ‘swallowing’ the promises on the outside of the package that is the pills inside. It’s a bit like most marriage vows ..blah, blah, blah till death do us part. Are they true? Or are they statements of truthiness – a neat promise wrapped in uncertainty and unstated qualifications?

So our mini-model of reality or truth always involves one package claiming to be ‘real’ or ‘true, wrapped in another package listing the assumptions and limitations of the reality or truth it surrounds.

Posted in: Sciencing