General Question

Strauss's avatar

Is there any evidence that reality (as we perceive it) exists outside our perception?

Asked by Strauss (21205points) February 21st, 2016

The assumption of an external reality (sometimes called a consensus reality) is the assumption that there is a real world that is external to our mind and senses, and that it exists whether or not we as observers exist, and whether or not we are observing it. It is one we all commonly make without even thinking about it.

But what do we really know? We assume the duality of me/not-me, but in order to prove the existence of the not-me we rely upon information from the very same not-me that we are questioning.

Inspired by this question. Thanks, Keith!

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11 Answers

Coloma's avatar

Everyone inhabits their own subjective realty, as far as their world views, likes, dislikes, preferences, beliefs, personality make up, optimist vs.perceptions of the same event etc.
However, there is also concrete reality, as in, if any of us hit a concrete wall at 75mph we will share the same experience of having our heads explode like a watermelon against the reality that concrete is harder than the human skull. That’s a pretty safe take on the ultimate reality of the laws of physics.lol

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ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Already linked this in another thread but highly revelent

SavoirFaire's avatar

Are you asking about subjective idealism or metaphysical solipsism? Even subjective idealists believe in a world external to their minds. They just don’t think it is a physical world. For them, everything is mental. But just because everything is mental doesn’t mean it’s all in our head. The metaphysical solipsist, meanwhile, has serious doubts that there is anything other than his own consciousness.

This matters because a lot of the most obvious evidence that there is such thing as an external reality is still subject to doubt under metaphysical solipsism. That there is broad agreement about “what’s out there,” for instance, strongly suggests that the world isn’t just a purely subjective phenomenon. But that doesn’t work if you think that other people are just aspects of yourself formed in your own imagination.

In some ways, every experience we have constitutes (weak) evidence against solipsism. It appears there is an external world. It appears that there are other people. But these are mere appearances, and all of them are consistent with the metaphysical solipsist’s thesis. In the end, solipsism cannot be definitively refuted. Importantly, however, it also cannot be supported. It’s just a logically possible way that things could be. So while it may serve as a handy skeptical hypothesis, there really is no argument for it.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Quantum consciousness theory suggests we entertain every possible reaction to a situation until we commit to one, without out being aware of it, even reactions we cannot knowingly conceive of.

Multiverse theory can include the idea that in other realms we act with every possible reaction.

Even in our single universe it is suggested that we have done, and will do, every possible thing, all the time.

I posit that what we consider reality is a vastly abridged version of what is actually happening. Such is a protection and survival, or should I say coping mechanism for our mind.

True and total control of ourselves is like how we perceive time, simply an illusion we take for granted..

gorillapaws's avatar

According to Descartes it goes something like this (at least how I remember it):
1. God exists (because he can’t not exist).
2. God is not a deceiver.
3. Therefore the external world exists.

I’m sure @SavoirFaire will correct my inaccuracies.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@gorillapaws Well, Descartes starts with “I exist,” but that is otherwise a decent “broad strokes” outline of his argument. I cannot doubt I exist. And once I know that I exist, I cannot doubt that God exists. But if God exists, then He cannot be a deceiver. And if God cannot be a deceiver, then I can trust my sense. But my senses tell me that there is an external (physical) world. So if God exists and is not a deceiver, then there must be an external (physical) world. Therefore, there is an external (physical) world. But of course, there’s a lot to push back against when we look at the argument in detail.

flutherother's avatar

The way we perceive the world is constructed by our minds and doesn’t exist outside our perception. Reality is out there but even that I have to take on faith as we could all be living in the Matrix being fed sensory date to create an illusion.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“But what do we really know?”

Do you really know who is asking? Can you?

rojo's avatar

I have an old friend who, to this day, insists that I don’t exist except in his mind. Not only me of course but anything. As far as he is concerned anything out of his sight/hearing/sensing things cease to be. This includes anything behind him he cannot see; that wall, the picture of Mule Ears hanging on the wall, the door beside it, the side table and lamp, none are there, yet; not until he turns around.

That snuffling you hear coming toward your back, or rather, imagine you hear is nothing but that; only a noise in your head. What does your mind tell you it is? It could be anything; 1000 lb grizzly, leaking gas pipe, Freddie Krueger or perhaps, maybe just maybe, just your old dog wending his way to lie at your feet. It all depends on what your mind decides it is in the fraction of a second before you turn your head and look.

But, he is not around right now, has no idea what I am doing (as far as he is concerned I am not doing anything because, remember, I don’t exist) and yet here I am typing this up and sending it to you and, as far as I know, he will never know that I did so I am not sure how we non-entities are interacting so, perhaps, we are not.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@rojo Does he have an explanation for the consistency of his experience? How about for the unexpected? Are those explanations consistent with one another?

Just some questions for you to ask him the next time you see him. Oh wait… I meant to say the next time he sees you.

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