Fairly recently, Harald Jezek commenced a discussion about the definition of reality on TED debates which I participated a great deal in. The debate included the statements:

What is reality?

Did you ever think about what it is that makes reality real?

How is our reality created ? Isn't it the perceptions our brain creates based on our sensory inputs?

But what if we lack a sense ? How does reality change for somebody who cannot hear or see? Or take it even a step further, assume you are deprived of all your senses, What would reality mean in such a case? And last but not least, let's assume you are born without any senses. What would that mean to your reality ? So what is reality and what are we as part of this reality?


My responses:

Towards the end of the debate, those who participated were asked to provide a final post summarising our own view on the topic. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to provide my final post so I thought I would post it here. I generally agreed with Harald’s closing statement however, I wanted to elaborate on my reasoning.

Shared Reality
I’m definitely in agreement with “there are different aspects to reality.” One aspect is a ‘shared reality’. Harald nicely describes it as, “the reality we deal with on a daily basis and which we share to a large degree. For example we agree upon common things, such as when we see a car we all agree it’s a car, a tree and a house if a house.” I do follow parts of Copenhagen interpretation where reality is described as “our senses are constituted to give us an impression of a material world, but that this reality is a reflection of something of a different nature.” I believe our physical senses each have a spectrum, these senses perceives the sea of energy from a certain limited standpoint and makes up an image from that. This image is just an interpretation. Our interpretations are solely based on the ‘internal map’ of reality which is a result of our collective experiences. Copenhagen interpretation also states, “There is no deep reality.” Initially I was in accordance to this statement however; Harald Jezek and Esteban Trevino made me realize that “our universe will still be here regardless of us being around to observe it or not. Best proof for that is probably that the universe is much older than we are. So, obviously it was around long before we showed up to observe it.” I also came to the realisation that it is a very narcissistic view to believe that one particular state of space time (i.e. the occurrence of consciousness during the big bang) was chosen purely so it could inhabit material bodies simply so we could exist. Such mentality would not have formed the great theory of evolution or disprove that the earth was not the center of the universe. This reality may not be considered a deep reality however, it is a reality nonetheless. One could even dispute it maybe a deep reality because it is a collective reality, it is something that is shared amongst a large number of conscious entities.

Inner Reality

Another aspect to reality is ‘inner reality’. Inner reality is our individual reality and “this can be something simple like the perception of a taste, odor or a color.” The debate questions reality for those with limited or without senses. I believe that ‘shared’ and ‘inner reality’ would still apply to those without or with limited senses and my reasoning would be, take cellular life or plant cells for instance. If we believe that consciousness is an ability to be aware of external forces then cellular life and plant cells would still fall in this category. Their awareness is still considered very rudimentary, but cells do sense in a chemical way light, heat, foreign cells, pH condition in liquids and other states of matter than can be good or bad for their survival. Awareness (consciousness) can be reduced to very minimal states. In addition, I do believe that those without any senses still experience a ‘shared’ and ‘inner reality’. There was a study published in 2011 in Frontiers in Human Neurosciences, Tristan Bekinschtein which found that people in vegetative coma states (i.e. absence of awareness of self or environment, but where autonomic functions such as respiration are preserved), where patients showed signs of brain activity in response to linguistic stimuli. Patients still had consciousness, despite not having the means to express it.

Objective Reality

Lastly, another aspect to reality is ‘objective reality’, which includes the laws of nature. These may include Newtonian laws, Quantum physics and other laws which have not been discovered. It is a reality that exists regardless of whether we are here or not to contemplate on it. Objective reality starts to become complex when you start to think of the singularity event. As the beginning of real time, would have been a singularity, at which the laws of physics would have broken down. Stephen Hawking contends that time began with the big bang, assuming by time he means physical time, since you can’t have physical time before the existence of physical reality. However, Hawking does not preclude the existence of a metaphysical time prior to singularity. Complexity is further added when taking in consideration the possibility of Multiverses. Brian Greene’s system classification of the Landscape Multiverse describes that the laws of physics in these universes are fundamentally different than the universe we inhabit. Subjective and Objective reality is established by Newtonian and Quantum laws however, these laws may not apply in these universes hence, other physical/metaphysical or unknown laws would apply to these other universes’ realities.

Duality of Map-or-Territory

There was also talk about another possible aspect to reality that includes the three dimensions of mind, body and spirit, “duality of map-or-territory”, the “simultaneous distinctive cohesive structure between the territory and map”. In truth, I was struggling to fully understand the correlation to reality however, I could see possible connection to quantum entanglement. An example of what I believed that best describes this connection was Stuart Hammeroff’s description of these dimensions during outer body experiences occurring during near death experiences. He describes how when quantum coherence and quantum computations driven by metabolism ends (when the blood stops flowing), quantum information leaks out to the universe at large because it exists in the Planck scale (it exists in the most fundamental level). Coherence is lost and it leaks out to the universe at large. He states it doesn’t dissipates entirely because of entanglement and plus the universe is holographic. It remains in the phase relationship and can persist in the subconscious dreamlike level outside the body. Hammeroff also describes when an individual dies, quantum information/consciousness or protoconsciousness is not destroyed it, it may sort of dissipate or hang together due to quantum entanglement and can exist in some sort of afterlife hence, the possibility of reincarnation. Esteban mentioned in the debate that “Humans even have the capacity to create stuff or rearrange the existing stuff.” This was in regards to humans having the ability to create their own reality. Joe Dispenza nicely describes this notion with the correlation of mirror neurons, neuroplasticity and quantum entanglement. Hammeroff's and Dispenza’s theories are appealing notions however, I’m yet to fully understand it or believe it.

Image Credit: Bookishly: Inspired by Literature.
Illustration by Freak City

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