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Strauss's avatar

Is there any proof that anything exists if you are not observing it?

Asked by Strauss (22719points) June 30th, 2009

If you cite the reports of others, is there any proof that they exist if you are not observing them? If you cite indirect evidence, is there any proof that that exists if you are not observing it? Questions from A Course in Concsiousness.

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17 Answers

Ivan's avatar

Proof is impossible.

Supacase's avatar

I know that when the lady comes to clean my house I am not here to watch her but I come home to a clean house. If she doesn’t exist when the work is being done, I want to know her trick.

sanari's avatar

In the same way, aren’t scientific findings left to be believed by the receiver? Belief, rather than first-hand knowledge from doing the experiments yourself.

jackfright's avatar

Main question; Yes.

Im sitting here right now, and i was sitting here last night, but you didn’t observe me last night, did you?
please say no

Hambayuti's avatar

I still need to think about the question. Probably understand it better. But if I positively needed to reply right now now…yes.

Note to myself: Has this something to do with what xxx told me that lap dances were just an illusion. That it’s there when you’re sitting and gone when you stand up???...

@Supacase and @jackfright – haha. that was funny

Grisaille's avatar

External reality is an internally created state. There is no “proof” that you, your friends or your body exists, as it could just be your subconscious creating a very vivid and complex dream. Maybe you’ll awake tomorrow on the wrong side of the Matrix, who knows?

In that sense, how can you prove that you exist, let alone anything you see or do not see?

Nonsensical, yes. But it’s one of those cases where it doesn’t matter what anyone answers… I like that. GQ.

nikipedia's avatar

I’m with @Ivan. Proof is a tough standard for anything to satisfy.

@Grisaille: I’m not sure I agree. I think the way we perceive the external world is internally-generated (and heavily modified) but the world would be there existing in all its glory whether we were here to observe it or not. Right?

tinyfaery's avatar

My cats are still at my house sleeping and shitting in their boxes, but I do not see them. I knw they were there since when I get home my bed is covered in cat fur and their is shit in the boxes. I’m pretty sure they are at my house even when I am not observing them.

Thammuz's avatar

Damn that Descartes, he fucked everything up from the day he uttered that stupid “I think therefore i am”

Of course yes, if the whole world revolved around a subjective perspective, as in “i don’t see it so it doesn’t exist” there wouldn’t be any kind of accident or unforseen events.

Grisaille's avatar

@nikipedia You tell me, partner. :P

That’s the thing, you can’t prove it. In fact, you can’t prove that I exist, or anyone around you does. They could be figments of your imagination; what if everyone you know and met in life are, in fact, just articles in a very large and long dream?

Here’s a better question: how do you know that now is really… now? What if you JUST “woke up” right now, and every action that has happened in the past are just artificial memories implanted by a big machine? Better yet, what if this – right now, what you are reading and experiencing in your room – is just a very strange dream, and you are an alien living on Zorak VII?

nikipedia's avatar

@Grisaille: Of course, I can’t prove that any of that isn’t true. But you also would have a lot of trouble proving that it is. Which is why as a scientist, I don’t bother with proof—I’m more concerned with likelihood and usefulness.

I think it is most likely that the external world exists whether or not I’m around to perceive it. It would have been extremely improbable for the universe to spring into existence at the moment consciousness was born. It’s much more likely that consciousness grew out of pre-existing materials that were in the universe all along. If the material world predated consciousness, then consciousness can’t have created the material world.

Not only does this fit the likelihood criterion, but it also fits the usefulness criterion. It’s been my experience that it’s most useful to treat the material world as something that exists outside my consciousness. Whether or not this is actually true isn’t especially important. I think.

Thammuz's avatar

@Grisaille You simply don’t know.
What would make much more sense is asking wether or not this would change anything in whatever aspect of your life.

Trasnlating it to a much simpler concept: “Who gives a crap?”

Afterall you CAN’T get any kind of verification so it’s completely irrelevant one way or the other.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Your question sets up a few straw men before it even gets started.

Don’t assume that all reality is the same. Reality is layered as Local, Global, Universal.

I can have the “proof” sitting right here in my hands, and it exists whether you observe it or not. Proof is not dependent upon your Local Reality. Your Local Reality is dependent upon Proof.

Brainwaves existed long before the Electroencephelogram allowed us observe them. They did not suddenly leap into existence upon that invention.

Pluto existed long before the Telescope allowed us to observe it. It did not suddenly leap into existence upon that invention.

Only a hard Existentialist would insist upon permanently hiding in their own Local Reality. I encourage everyone to grow up and step out of that realm.

Breathing is a Global Reality that does not depend upon your observations. Your observations depend on breathing.

Gravity is a Universal Reality that does not depend upon your observations. Your observations depend on gravity.

Be careful how far “Down the Rabbit Hole” you go. It’s a dark and dirty dead end.

wundayatta's avatar

Um… is observation proof? Nothing is certain, but many things are probable. Sometimes we don’t believe our eyes, but we should. Other times we believe our eyes and we shouldn’t. A model of reality that includes existence when there is no observation seems to work pretty well, so that’s what I’m going with. I don’t need proof. Just consistency.

wildflower's avatar

Simple root cause analysis: how and why did the report/evidence you are observing come to be?
you could do this for everything you haven’t observed first hand, but you run the risk of spending a LOT of time on very trivial things – sometimes assumptions aren’t the mothers of all f***ups

Strauss's avatar

@tinyfaery Funny you should mention your cats. A famous quantum theorist, Erwin Schrodinger, used a (hypothetical) cat in a theory about quantum mechanics and probability.
—the cat, in spite of being hypothetical, went on to star or make cameo appearances many media in modern pop culture.

bea2345's avatar

It is a fact: absence makes the heart grow fonder; and distance lends enchantment to the view; BUT, out of sight, out of mind.

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