Materialism espoused by many atheists, is supernatural, ironically. To believe there is any force holding things together or causing stuff to do what it should, or follow a preestablished course, represents the coercion of what is natural into form. So it is belief in form and thus Platonism. As humans we use logic, assessing what will probably happen, and why with regard to rules we construct ourselves, but there is no direct connection with nature or the universe itself. Saying there is such a connection is return to form again. When logic leads one to assume this, it becomes the historically logical trap of realism. It is a paradox only so long as one refuses to relinquish the concept of realism.
Today I saw an episode of the PBS television series “Nova” titled “Fabric: The illusion of Time”. It was well done with novel explanations for the relationship between space and time. But I have a problem with logic given to show why past, present, and future all exist simultaneously. I liked what I saw because the premise was explained and demonstrated well. I think, because it was explained so well, I was able to see the problem I have with it, and the problem touches on my criticism of reality.
Many challenges to classical thinking were made which is appreciated. An interesting place was where images of mathematical equations floated around, it was said the equations represent laws of physics, and the equations are based on observations done over hundred or thousands of years. This comes close to my way of thinking, to the extent I feel laws of physics are totally made up on our part, or fabricated, emerging over time, based on initial subjective experiences by people, to become legitimate through continued challenge and use of ideas. There is no authority in the universe. There is no obedience. There is therefore no physical or natural law, per se. There are the observations we've made, and over time we've created elaborate logical systems of cause and effect probabilities. Must any of it necessarily have to be? No. Will any of it probably be? Yes. That is why physical law works for us, though the phrase “physical law” itself comes from medieval times when objects in the environment were said to exhibit obedience to god. What is an object? What are the component parts of the object? What are those component parts, etc., etc., such that there can be no objects in any real sense, and what objects we say exist are merely abstract ideas based on our own observation and depth of observation. The Nova episode I saw today didn't say all this, but it does begin to challenge classical thought.
A premise was given saying past, present, and future exist simultaneously, and we move through time not unlike the way we move through space. My criticism of this premise is, all it serves to do is mess with realism, when what we need to do is throw realism out altogether. People are left with a confusing paradigm they don't understand. Belief in reality or realism is retained, but content in things like the Nova episode support belief in a corollary to realism, which is, reality cannot be known or understood. Again we see the similarity between supposed reality and religion: people believe in god but admit they do not or cannot understand god. Materialism or the “supremacy of reality”, and religion are branches of the same realism tree, both representative of Western culture where it is required to have some nebulous representation of authority present at the top, authorizing, officiating, and legitimizing what people think. Such is not empiricism or the Scientific Method.
Past present and future do not exist simultaneously within a given context. The problem with reality and realism is they are context-less; above and beyond context so not to be mitigated by context. For this reason reality and realism have nothing to do with logic, but are assertions, assertions of what should be. Going back a few hundred years the Church and the Pope asserted what things should be. Empiricism and the Scientific Method do not produce what should be, but produce whatever knowledge, emergent through observation.
We should not bend reality, continuing to marvel at it, continuing to think it is hard to understand or know. Instead we should throw it out. There is always context. If not forthrightly stated, context is implied. We should learn to stop seeking super truths that exist above or supersede context. We should learn to construct context to match our needs, then think logically and make logical assertions within whatever context.
The problem with realism goes like this. You are having a debate and want to prove your point. You have some good evidence. Some people see the value of your evidence. Some write off what you have to say, seemingly without considering your evidence or logic. This affects reality! A nitwit realist purist will say “no”, reality is reality regardless. Let's just set the nitwit realist purist aside for now by referring to “effective” reality. How good your logic is makes a difference. How well you sell yourself makes a difference. Your grooming and how you cut your hair makes a difference. What does underlying truth have to do with any of this?
If you respect your idea and if you respect those you share with, you will present yourself well.
I often ask myself. “Do you truly wish to challenge the idea of reality?” Sometimes it seems a bit silly and extreme, as if carrying things too far. Then I consider all the things in my environment, again, looking around the room, seeing each thing as a logical construct. I see the expectation what each thing *should* be. I try very hard to assert there is a reality, but all I see are definitions of things with associated expectations what those definitions represent, and I am unable to convert that back to reality. I have never been able to come back to reality. I am unable to believe things are just there in a standalone fashion without me attributing some value or expectation to them.
I sometimes wonder if I have locked myself into a ridiculous intellectual posture, but I am unable to see how the premise of realism can be logically supported. How can people work so hard to prove their ideas, empirically of course, if what they prove was already true in advance of their efforts? The ontologist steps in, assumes credit, and they continue allowing the ontologist to do that. Seems like people would see things differently, that they would see emergence rather than realism, that they would get angry over the ontologist taking credit for their work, but no, they submit. Why realism is so persistent and why mankind changed so slowly for hundreds of years is understood.
The hardest thing is communicating with other people. I know what the debate between classical-rationalism, or just simply rationalism, and empiricism is. I understand the Scientific Method did not win a victory over religion, but realism, and what was proposed by Plato 2000 years before. But occasionally I have opportunity to speak of history, and language, and where the meanings of words come from. I always enjoy those times.
I heard a neat podcast today from skepticality.com, number 164, an interview with Cathy Davidson, http://www.skepticality.com/gorilla/ . She spoke of how Socrates didn't like written language, preferring dialog. She explained how those in authority didn't trust people to read books on their own or possess books. They were afraid reading would give them strange ideas, or rebellious ideas. As books started becoming available people would read in secret. This goes along with my opinion of realism and what realism represents. It is control. People accustomed to being controlled have a hard time letting go of realism. They need to feel some manner of authority, order, or purpose exists in the universe. God does not represent this. Realism does.
Cathy goes on to talk about significance. Some people pay attention to some things. Other people pay attention to other things. For a long time I've thought significance leads to other significance, etc., etc., as knowledge continues to evolve.
Her site is http://www.cathydavidson.com/
When challenging realism, the purpose is not to sneak in fantasy and mysticism. Realism is all about control of knowledge. A few centuries ago, realism and rationalism stood against personal observation, saying such was untrusted and emotional. Not using approved, sanctioned knowledge was frowned upon. But the Scientific Method is based on personal observation. When observation follows protocol and can be reproduced, reliably, it becomes science.
Empiricism is not compatible with realism and classical rationalism. These are two different ways of thinking. So, is there any form of approved knowledge? Today, scientific and other communities serve as knowledge gatekeeper. It is no longer a title or office like the Pope held, Bishops, or even Plato.
Why, if people readily use the Scientific Method and empiricism, do they continue trying to assert realism, too? We manufacture truth. We do not discover it. What magic causes truth obtained through empirical means to align with reality? Someone may say “truth is truth is truth”, or “A is A”, like Ayn Rand says, but no it isn't. These general statements do not acknowledge context. When we acknowledge context we become less general and become more specific.
The point when challenging realism is to speak in terms of logic and not reality. Logical statements are superior to reality statements. They are not the same. Logic does not imply reality or vice versa. Strive for higher intellectualism. Higher intellectualism involves use of better abstract ideas. Realism itself is an abstract idea.
As we ask questions, the arbitrary, emergent, evolved nature of definitions in language becomes evident. We seek to refine definitions and create new ones as knowledge expands. Definitions of supposed real, physical things may be deconstructed at any time through study of language and how those definitions evolved. The end result is a deconstruction of reality in general. To the extent the idea of reality serves us and is necessary, that usefulness conflicts with the deconstruction of reality.
Do things exist outside the definitions we have of them? A materialist or realist will say “yes”, begging the question: “What things exist that we have not yet defined and of which we are not yet aware?” Do these unknown things make any difference? Again the materialist or realist will say “yes”, since unknown does not remove the effect of unknown things.
The problem is context. Realism is not compatible with context. The idea of realism was first formed in a much simpler environment where it was easier to have static ideas and concepts.
Take any supposed real thing postured as beyond dispute that it exists. How does that thing compare to other things like it? What irregularities and imperfections are apparent in the thing? Does reality also cover those irregularities and imperfections? Does not further analysis show more irregularities and imperfections, going on to composition of the thing of smaller things, serving to deconstruct the thing? Are not definitions of the thing and smaller things arbitrary and convenient? Reality is therefore reduced away, in light of a better more descriptive reality. The idea of context is thus introduced, and the need for everyone to share the same level of abstraction, usability, and need. Such is not realism.
If I don't support the idea of reality and especially external objective reality, it would behoove me to say what I do support.
I support the idea of environment, that we each live in an environment. It's not a real environment because again, I don't believe there's such a thing as reality. So the environment we each live in is a mental or virtual one. As we each construct our mental landscapes, the premises of those landscapes either survive or fail.
It seems like things are real. We seem to hold and work with real things. But the question is, what thoughts pass through the mind corresponding to supposed real things we hold in our hands? The mind only works with ideas. There is no table and chair in one's head; only ideas what a table and chair should be. If not for values and expectations in the mind we would be holding, working with, doing, and believing something else. The mental landscape would be different.
The idea of physical law is straightforward deism. Before Descartes, people believed the Word of God caused everything to happen in the immediate sense. God was seen to be giving incessant, continual commands to everything there was, and everything obeyed. Life was simple then, so the premise was easily entreated. God might tell a boulder to roll down the hill, but did they wonder whether God told chips of the rock to break off, too, or for the rock to form indentations in the ground, or for specific atoms to be displaced? Again, life was simple. Descartes said God was not giving commands in the immediate sense, but established physical laws in the beginning, and everything obeys those laws. What Descartes offered was obedience, but a different type of obedience. With skillful salesmanship Descartes was able to continue divine authority while establishing the idea of a mechanical universe.
We must now ask: what authority and what obedience? To whom or what are matter and energy being obedient? Why? What force causes things to be obedient? Magic? Is there a guarantee anything will necessarily happen, as if obedient? At the subatomic level, stuff can go any direction and we can only assess probability. The big, larger, macro object exhibits sufficient over all probability, so we can say, yes, the big, larger, macro object is being obedient, but doesn't that seem a bit convoluted? Granted, if we had sufficient means of observation on the sub atomic level we could precisely see factors on that level, and not be hamstrung by probability. But what if there's an error in the premise of obedience and physical law to begin with? What is it exactly we are trying to substantiate?
As human beings we forecast events. This allows us to build ingenious machines within a tight little context, and the machines usually do what we expect. Because we're intelligent our forecasts and resultant technology are impressive. There is no cause and effect in the outward universe – at all. There is only cause and effect in our logical thinking. We create cause and effect. We do trial, error, and observation, coming up with logic and schemes based on probability of success that work reliably. Still, nothing we see is obedient. There is no authority present. None of the stuff we look at must necessarily do anything. We go forward only on our own logic and reasoning, that things will do what we think they will. It is not that the universe obeys physical law, but that we use logic to successfully forecast events.
A type of permanence or consistency moving through time can be assumed. Close examination shows change occurs at the microscopic and sub atomic levels. Change occurs on the macro level, too, but much more slowly; slowly enough for things to stay around awhile, allowing us to define, think, and speak in those terms. What realism does is take a dynamic environment full of change and block it off into abstract ideas of what things should be. We then look at our environment in terms of those abstract ideas, and work with those abstract ideas as if real things. Differences from one thing to the next which should be the same, or have the same definition, are discounted, allowing us to proceed with certainty and sureness in our environment, but all we have are workable abstract ideas. We call this reality. How strange it is, reducing reality to whatever set of abstract ideas, and seeing reality itself as merely an idea, when people so often posture reality in contrast to idealism.
Being able to block off our environment into abstract ideas of things is necessary. Being able to discount inconsistencies is necessary. Engineering and manufacturing refer to this as “tolerance”. People in past centuries were more locked in to their definitions than we are, and their definitions were more inflexible. There was also less for them to define. They did not look as deeply into things to form ideas how things are constructed.
Does the idea of realism therefore survive? Can we as human beings and each of our separate environments be defined, ultimately, through physicalism? If physicalism, what authority created the rules physicalism would abide by, what manner of obedience, and what manner of enforcement is employed? We shall analyze more. We shall go farther and deeper, with an infinite number of created ideas and definitions. Can realism keep up with that? How long shall we continue bending reality simply to facilitate our ideas and express them? When we set reality and realism aside, ceasing to carry it along with us as if a dead family member, we will move forward in evolution considerably. We must learn to base our premises on logic, without the need to ground what we say in fictitious, idealistic realism. Name dropping god, or the “Prime Mover” as Plato called it, is how things used to be done.
Before closing I want to say there is no express tie or link between laws of functionality we make up, which we call physical law, and an underlying supposed physical universe. It seems like there's a link. Repeatability of what we see and do infers a link is there, but what we have is the result of continued trial and error. It is our logic which is rigid – not a supposed physical universe. The fact we know how to exploit and use probability does not prove there is a physical universe. Just as we form abstract ideas to have supposed real things in our environment, and it is our ideas that supply any rigidity there is, rather than underlying physical nature, the same goes for logic. It is our logic that is rigid – rigid enough to be physical law.
So if we do not live in or exist in reality, where? If we just deflated realism and threw it out the window, it doesn't make sense to continue asking questions in terms of realism. We live in terms of context. Live or exist in what regard? Live or exist in terms of what issue? If these are not the same for everyone then there is no external objective reality. Speaking in terms of external objective reality is a gimmick. It's an attempt to name drop god to make a point. It's an attempt to force everyone else's life and thinking into one context, and it's a call upon nebulous nonspecific authority. Please give it a rest.
What does empiricism mean? Realists waste no time saying how things are, but when they cross the line saying “show me otherwise” and challenge others to prove them wrong, unbeknown to them they are no longer realists but empiricists. This is good! Too bad faith in the idea of an underlying reality external to self continues, but let's give credit where credit is due.
For a long time I've had interest in the connection between reality, as a concept, and authority. If I step off the curb in front of a moving car, do I then experience reality, or simply a more immediate form of empiricism? The oncoming vehicle represents unmitigated force, therefore authority, and that apparent control translates into reality. Here I said the oncoming vehicle “represents” unmitigated force and I said “apparent” control. Does this imply variability? Does it imply a possibility the car won't hit me? Does it mean I think I can will the car away? Maybe it means I think I can slip into an alternate universe at the last moment. As a realist, you be the judge. The point is, we must be able to form opinions about our world and what's around us. How do opinions we come up with, magically align with underlying truth and reality? A scientist gives a lecture. To be truth it must really be truth, right? What magic causes words spoken by the scientist, to coincide with secret underlying truth and reality? If in reasoning, logical cause and effect relationships are used, is that the magic that causes alignment with reality?
Realism and religion go hand in hand. They are one in the same and a materialistic atheist is an oxymoron. Faith is required to support the ideas of reality, realism, naturalism, materialism, essentialism, physicalism, objectivism, and Platonic-Realism, citing the one who started us down this cultural path. If the truth of your words already exists before you say them, if the truth of your reasoning already exists before you do it, why not simply say and think the right things to begin with? Would it not help to have divine revelation? A materialistic atheist believes in a creation while removing the creator, which doesn't make much sense. So the universe is what it is, the materialist says. According to what standard? According to who's values? The problem materialism has, along with other variations of that theme, is that it is a call to authority, and a nebulous one at that. The materialist says the universe is here and is what it is and we should only describe things that really exist, but the materialist cannot say how the universe got here, or why. To be a materialist, when analysis gets to that point it's best just to stop thinking. Yes, just stop thinking. Give no answer at all. Otherwise reasoning becomes circular and self justifying, like the reasoning demonstrated by religious people, which reasoning materialists say they hate.
What materialistic atheists fail to understand about religious people and their belief, is that it has nothing to do with existence or proof of existence. Religious people are inspired by authority, too. They make a call to authority, too. They believe in god, because they feel it is wrong not to believe in god. God is their authority figure. Questioning that idea to them is disrespectful and immoral. Materialistic atheism requires faith, but a more difficult faith, such that the universe is because it is, because it is, while the religious person at least personifies it a bit more.
The answer, friends, lies in the difference between a priori thinking and a posteriori thinking. A priori thinking always sounds good. With it we can clothe ourselves with truth and certainty, yet not have to justify with logic. We can call on god. We can call on books. We can say right is right is right, and at the same time imply we say what is right. We can run our detractors into the ground with moral assertions, just as Plato did to his contemporaries, and just as realists throughout history have done when challenged. So is there no truth? Is there no ultimate foundation for knowledge of the universe? That's up to you, whether you want that, and how you construct it. What would you do with it if you had it? What do others do with it, even though they do not have it? If you challenge reality at all, you are a subjectivist. If you give yourself the right to question, you are a subjectivist. As subjectivists we might learn to live and work together intersubjectively, not as if obedient to authority, but because we like it. Thank you very much.
Yes, I dare to be subjective! My opinions are mine. My values are mine. We may have ideas, concepts, perceptions, definitions, and truth in common. We may not. If you can accept that I'm glad to meet you!
The word “subjective” is opposite the word “objective”. A subjectivist believes truth comes from the individual and external objective reality amounts to idealism and myth. Each item of knowledge adopted into the collective library of human understanding was first considered by at least one individual, and it was done so subjectively with regard to personal reasoning, understanding, and experience. Each person participating in society can only do so individually, or subjectively, and only self can apply and interpret laws, rules, standards, protocols, morals, and ethics. The idea of external objective reality reduces and negates individualism, and wherever expressed, external objective reality does not represent logic, but is a call to nebulous, nonspecific cultural authority.
The subjectivist is often rebellious asking who in society has the privilege to state what is true, what is moral, what is valid, or what exists, and why that person has the privilege. Maybe the subjectivist will agree, maybe not, but the subjectivist declares the right and freedom to question and challenge anything.
We don't read from the Book of Realism and implement, but make stuff up as we go along.
I plan to put content on here again, but right now this is just for email.