General Question

josie's avatar

Why do people refer to "creating a reality"?

Asked by josie (27398points) January 4th, 2013

I see and hear this more frequently these days. Somebody says (for example) “Why don’t we create a reality where there is no violence” or something equally hopeful.
As if we can create reality.

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16 Answers

ucme's avatar

I believe those people are employed by living in a bubble wrapped in cotton wool inc.

wundayatta's avatar

We have influence on what happens in the future. People say they are creating a reality when they are working really hard to influence reality in a specific way. Our influence does make a difference, and we can change reality in quite significant ways. I should have thought this was obvious. Which is to say, I don’t understand your objection. Why wouldn’t you refer to creating a reality?

SavoirFaire's avatar

Reality is the sum total of what is the case. What is the case changes every time we act. By typing this, I create a reality in which this was typed. By posting it, I create a reality in which this was posted. So yes, we do create reality insofar as our actions in the present are part of what bring about what is reality in the future. We do not create the whole of reality, of course, but what people are suggesting when they utter phrases like “let’s create a reality where _______ ” is that we use our ability to shape parts of reality in such a way as to bring about a particular result (insofar as we can).

Kropotkin's avatar

The phrase makes no sense to me, and I don’t think that I “create a reality.” So, I shall disagree with the above commenters. What I think is going on with this phrase, is that it is part of a free will narrative. It seems to stem from the idea that one’s will is separate from the myriad variables of reality, somehow external to it, and able to affect it.

My objection to this is that I’m actually part of the very system I’m supposedly “creating.” But I don’t create a reality, since I am a part of reality. My typing this is not me creating a reality, it is reality. The very thoughts and actions of my being are subject to the practically infinite interactions of countless variables, of which I have zero influence over. It’s not so much that one creates reality, it is reality creating one.

And the example phrase struck me as very naive.

wundayatta's avatar

Interesting, @Kropotkin. One question I have is what you call it when you take action and your action changes the circumstances you are in. Let’s say you organize a campaign to end violence, and violent crime is reduced by ten percent. Would you say that the campaign had anything to do with the reduction in crime? All right, let’s just, for sake of argument, that it did have that affect.

Would you say it had that affect? Would you say that reality had changed? Would you say that reality had changed as a result of people making an effort to change reality?

Coloma's avatar

Part of the New Agey scene of we create own reality.
Yes & no.
We DO create and control our ATTITUDE towards reality but we do not create and control reality itself.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Kropotkin Unfortunately, your reasoning does not follow. At the time that I write this very sentence, the completed post does not yet exist. It has yet to be created, which is what I am doing at present. If I write one way, reality A comes to be. If I write another way, reality B comes to be. This is true regardless of whether or not I have free will, however, as the conditional in no way assumes that it is just as possible for me to create reality A as it is for me to create reality B (or any other alternative). All we need here is cause and effect for the point I made to go through.

Shippy's avatar

A good example would be creating a better earth, by using Eco’ friendly systems and products. Which in turn creates a new reality.

Kropotkin's avatar

@wundayatta I think words often have assumptions and connotations embedded in them, and then the way concepts and questions are framed add even more assumptions. It is the way we use language and how it is structured which shapes our very consciousness and perception of ourselves and the world around us.

In your scenario and question, I think that you’ve (perhaps ironic in the current context) repeatedly separated the subject and the subject’s actions from the rest of the world. It’s always you acting on the world and changing it in some way—this, I think, is already an assumption embedded in language usage. It’s something everyone does, though.

I’ll assume that the campaign was the causative mechanism by which crime reduced by ten percent, so as not to get bogged down in the idea that it was maybe caused by something else, or merely a coincidental reduction.

I think your scenario is inadequate, since it begins at some indeterminate point in time, which just happens to start with the actions of an agent (the “you” organising a campaign.) We experience a feeling of choice, we can ponder possibilities, and we have motivations to act—all these things are themselves based on past experiences, the accumulation of information, knowledge, the development of our psychology, etc, and all are a part of reality and affected by countless variables in reality.

I’m not really sure what “reality had changed” means in the context you give. I presume it implies some sort of alternative possibility that would have happened had the effort to act not been made. But, as I mentioned, the effort, or motivation, would itself be a product of reality.

Kropotkin's avatar

@SavoirFaire That’s certainly a valid argument. I just think that the attribution of cause is more complicated—there’s lots of causes. I appreciate that most people, perhaps everyone, feel as if they are the sole authors of their actions. I’m just not sure that the self, and sense of agency, can or should be reduced to a simple “you” or “I” as a singular cause of a “reality creating” action.

zensky's avatar

It’s called language. A phrase. An expression. We say in a perfect world when we know there is no such thing. We say let’s create a reality in the same way.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Kropotkin Causes are complex, to be sure. Whether I am the sole cause of my actions or not, however, I am part of the causal chain. As such, what I do creates reality. Not all of it. I acknowledged in my first post that we only shape parts of reality. But the collective actions of a large group of people—even if they were determined from the very starting moment of the universe—have a profound impact on the sort of world we live in. As such, we do create reality. And indeed, we do so in virtue of being part of it. This is why I reject the dichotomy upon which your original argument rests.

Nullo's avatar

It’s poetic and manipulative. It tells us that we’re powerful and clever and good and of course are going to do the right thing that we’re about to suggest that you do. If you’ve been hearing it a lot, then the phrase has gone viral – as phrases have been known to do.

Pachy's avatar

“Creating a reality” can be the positive or negative act of willfully changing how one perceives and deals with some aspect of his/her life.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@LostInParadise @Pachyderm_In_The_Room It seems to me that “creating a reality in which _______ ” and “creating one’s own reality” are importantly different. The former is about acting in a way that affects the real world, whereas the latter is about pretending the real world is already a particular way.

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