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interalex's avatar

Does our mind make up reality or vice versa? Which comes first?

Asked by interalex (130points) December 3rd, 2010

If things, animate and inanimate entities, constructs etc are not real, then our perception wouldn’t exist in this way? They are the cause of creation of our cognizance, and the need of its material medium, the brain? Or there are other insensible, untouchable things that coexist with the sensible ones eluding us? Is reality an illusion?

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23 Answers

squirbel's avatar

I struggled with this question as a child.

I finally came up with an answer, and I share it with you for critical opinion.

Does our mind make up reality?
Am I real?
Is the person next to me real?
What makes something real?
Well, if I can touch it, it is not a figment of my imagination.
If I can touch it, it is real.
Can I touch myself?
I am here.
Can I touch the other person?
They are there.
Is touch all there is to reality?
Isn’t sight?
Can I see the other person?
I can, but what if my eyes are lying to me?
What if they are sending information that is false, or made up?
Ask the other person what they see.
They see what I see, so that seen object must be real.
But touch and sight and hearing are all reliant on the brain – are these just perceptions?
No, because we both perceive the same thing.
When perceptions are common across the masses, they must be real, and real existed before our perceptions.

In the end, I am certain that reality comes first. Human perception is an inner thing, not outer.

When you send your dog to chase a ball, are you perceiving him chasing the ball? When another human bends down to catch the rolling ball, is he perceiving the ball coming toward him? Were you, the dog, and the other person truly perceiving, or experiencing? It is for this reason I know that reality precedes perception.

Nullo's avatar

Reality comes first, and our minds interpret it.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Your mind gives it’s perception of reality.
You never see reality direct and unfiltered.

iamthemob's avatar

I’ll never be able to prove whether or not an external reality exists. But on a practical level – what @Nullo said.

Our reality is limited by our ability to physically perceive it. There are entire spectrums of light and soundwaves that we can’t perceive without mechanical aid. So, assuming there is an external reality, the world is the way it is solely because that’s how I am able to perceive it…not because that’s how it really is.

kess's avatar

You are whole when the inner becomes as the outer, for they both are truly one.

And we see both inner and outer as reality.

What is necessary for to do is to separate truth from false and we can see the usefullness of both. And to us again both truth and false are realities until that time of separation.

marinelife's avatar

I have to believe for my sanity that reality comes first.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I wouldn’t say that I’m an Ayn Rand™ Objectivist, but I more or less subscribe to most of the philosophy:

From the Wikipedia article on Objectivism

Objectivism holds that reality exists independent of consciousness, that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception, that one can attain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive and deductive logic, that the proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness or rational self-interest, that the only social system consistent with this morality is full respect for individual rights, embodied in pure laissez faire capitalism, and that the role of art in human life is to transform man’s widest metaphysical ideas, by selective reproduction of reality, into a physical form—a work of art—that he can comprehend and to which he can respond emotionally.

Xena's avatar

This is something I enjoy pondering. I haven’t yet figured out what I think about it. I’m not entirely convinced that we’re not living in the Matrix—i.e. ‘reality’ of every day is simply in our heads, a result of neurons firing and whatnot.

There is no “reality”, at least not an absolute. Reality as an absolute doesn’t exist because every single person has a different reality. Perspective is an amazing thing and it can completely change how different people view the same things.

wundayatta's avatar

There are a number of phenomena that are feedback loops. Causality is dependent on things all along the cycle, and sometimes things that happen later can influence things that happened earlier.

We all know about the chicken and the egg. But there are things like youth and crime where, according to time series analysis, it looks like things that happen later influence that which happens before.

I think reality and perception and perception and reality are another such thing where the information from each gets feedback from the other and they develop a relationship where you simply can’t answer this question. Or maybe it is irrelevant. Or doesn’t make sense.

We know some things about how we perceive the world out there. We know that the mind makes up a lot of what we see based on a sample of the information out there to see. So a large portion of what we call reality is only a sample of what is out there, with the rest filled in by some algorithm in our brains.

That means there are many different realities because most people’s minds behave in a unique way. That’s why it is so hard to agree on what we see.

I’m not sure the construct of reality is relevant. We interpret what we think is out there in our own ways. It’s the interaction of all of us with all of our differing perceptions that develops a consensual model that people call reality. It’s the feedback loops between perception and other people’s perceptions of what is out there that creates our notions of reality.

JustJessica's avatar

Reality first… I have such a hard time thinking outside of the box. My mind is always in reality mode. It sucks if you ask me. As a child their were no pink elephants in my coloring books just gray, because as we all know real elephants are gray. How freakin boring!

interalex's avatar

What about ideas, concrete concepts that precede the constructs made up?
We conceive a special entity with its parts (number=1, material =wood, form= cup, size= small, weight=250 gr, color=green), e.g. a wooden cup, and we create it. We see it, touch it and measure it, and conclude that it is exactly as we conceived it. Don’t we have here an equation? Mind = reality or Reality = mind.
Do time, money and effort (labor) we used exist within it, but we cannot perceive? Nevertheless we know that the product/construct is always different from its parts in the process.

roundsquare's avatar

@squirbel Nice one… but there I see one (large) error in the logic.

You admit the possibility that the information that your brain is receiving might be false… but you take the information your brain gets about other people as a given. In other words, you assume other people exist.

squirbel's avatar

@roundsquare Is it a lapse in logic, really? If my mind creates an object, and someone else can interact with it, is that not indicative of reality preceding perception? Or are we all telepathic, and able to see each others’ creations?

Which is it?

LostInParadise's avatar

There are things that I learn that surprise me and there are things that happen that I find unpleasant. How can this be if I am the one in charge? The simplest explanation is that there is an external reality. What if someone else is projecting these images into my brain? Since there is no way of testing for this, I will go with the simplest explanation, which is that of an external reality.

You hint at another question, which is whether ideas exist apart from objects. This goes back to Plato, and there are still philosophers on both sides of the issue, especially regarding mathematical ideas.

Cruiser's avatar

Your reality is what you make it. What you observe, see, feel and understand can and will be a very different and merely an illusion to me.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Existence exists regardless of your ability to perceive it.
“There are more things in heaven and earth,Horatio,than are dreamt of in your philosophies”

Winters's avatar

I struggled with this question for a while… and then I realized that I’m pretty nihilistic and stopped working my mind over it as it really doesn’t matter.

lucid's avatar

i thought i might try to explain it here, but better off reading this entire website (or at least this link)

to sum it up, you create reality by getting what you concentrate on. the universe is a shared dream resulting from a single thought.

koanhead's avatar

If an “outer reality” exists, then you and your “inner reality” are a part of it, created by it and reflective of it to some extent.
If no “outer reality” exists, then your “inner reality” is the sole reality, and hence contains the “outer reality”.
In either case, both are one “Reality” and it the question is reduced to a chicken-and-egg problem.
Hurrah for me, I’ve managed to restate the question.

Certainly there are “insensible” things “out there” along with the ones we can sense. We know this because we infer their existence from things we can sense. We can’t directly sense radio waves, but we can build radios based on what we think about how radio waves work.

Regardless of which comes first, the “external” universe is solely perceptible via one’s senses. This perception is called a priori and no one is really aware of it, because the mind has various filters it uses to make the podge of sense data useful. Regardless of what’s happening “outside”, your experience of the universe is entirely in your head. Schizophrenics know this to be true, as does anyone who had been “insane” and been cured. Some folks claim that you can willfully change your own internal picture of the universe, therefore actually effecting change in the “real world” as far as you can know. They call this “magic”, and it’s one of the Big Secrets of mysticism. It probably works, but to me it sounds like putting a bag over your head and wondering who put out the lights.

tl;dr Reality is whatever it is, philosophy is a waste of time, and magic == insanity.

roundsquare's avatar

@squirbel I understand what you are saying, but you are still assuming that other people exist. What if all the other people, on whom you are basing your theory, are also being made up by your mind.

Other people are part of reality.

All arguments are based on assumptions but the problem is that this assumption is too close to conclusion you are trying to prove. There’s an argument I read in philosophy class when i was in college that went:

If two things exist then real things exist.
My left hand exists
My right hand exists
Therefore real things exist.

Technically the logic is valid but if someone doesn’t believe that real things exist, they are unlikely to believe my hands exist. The same is true of “other people.”

squirbel's avatar

Well if one does not believe other persons exist, then they are insanely narcissistic or insane narcissists.

koanhead's avatar

@squirbel Solipsism is the belief that nothing exists apart from the self. It’s a well-known but frequently discredited philosophical stance. I feel sure that at least some solipsists are not insane narcissists… but I can’t prove it!

roundsquare's avatar

@squirbel Its all well and good to label people who have the belief, but that doesn’t fix the hole in the logic.

Your argument is that other people seeing the same things gives it a stronger confirmation. Its kind of like asking someone to see if they saw the same thing because if both of you saw it, then its more likely to be true. However, if you doubt reality exists, you doubt the information coming into your brain. Once you doubt that, how can you trust the information coming into your brain about what other people tell you they perceive.

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