The philosophy of Realism has been one of a handful of natural philosophies which have shaped and heavily influenced modern thought. Not just scientific, but also, common, everyday thinking. We hear people say “Is that real?” when encountering a beaufiful or large gemstone, and when one thinks about it, if one could point to a thing and question its reality, we must assume that at least something about it…is real. In this question, we are asking if a thing is as it appears. This is a very wide and general usage of the word “real”. It is, however, not what a scientist means when they say “real”.
For one, the above understanding of the word has one critical element, which causes it to be disregarded as scientific. It relies, by at least half, the subjective. For when we ask, “Is this what it seems to be, by me?”, in science this question is often considered entirely invalid. The subjective viewpoint is erased from scientific reasoning. This is a powerful statement, and so we must consider the scope of what scientific branches of reasoning this is true in. For it certainly is not true in every area of science, especially those areas which study this very thing. This “subjective view”. In this area, and areas related to it, there is either no science at all without the subjective view, or, the science is significantly changed by such an assumption to confirm a conflict between theory and observation. For this reason, we may only say such a thing about scientific reasoning in physical sciences, as opposed to say, animal husbandry.
Although, many modern people feel as if thier subjective views were less significant than their objective ones, or simply outright fictions. Illusions, lies, and deceptions. In this, many people feel as if half of their experience of life, is idle triviality. Less or more, depending on how objective or subjective a person might be. We all vary, and I also posit that we may also go to extremes. However, I might contend that it would be suspiciously strange if we ever found anything to be fully one, or the other. Either fully objective, or subjective.
Because they are both in our experience, and if they are in our experience, then certainly they are in our existence. If they are only in our existence, then they still exist. One may not claim that either a subjective experience, or an objective experience is invalid. They are both experiences, and they both exist. I would go so far as to say…if we ever encountered any experience which was fully one, or the other, objective or subjective, we should find that very suspicious.
The philosophy of Realism insists that there is a state of reality which relies nothing upon the subjective state at all. This particular subjective state is what we call, “consciousness”. In this philosophy, reality has nothing to do with consciousness, but that consciousness is itself, an accident. (Well…they actually say, “a by product of”). It also goes further to say, that by definition, only the objective can be said to exist.
This is what allows a scientist to say that unicorns and faerie dust are not real. Even though both, have certainly been in most of our experiences, especially in childhood. When a scientist says a thing is “not real”, he is saying that all subjective states are invalid.
If this interests you, do some studying on the philosophy of Realism, because I’m not telling the full story. But that story goes down…other rabbit holes of reason as well, but those are off topic.
I would posit, a simpler defintion of the word “real”, one perhaps may not need so many mental gymnastics to tell if something is real or not real.
If it is in your experience, it is real.
If it is outside of your experience, it still is.
So too, it must be real.
Some may not like that this view of reality has no means to tell what is real or not. Every question put to it returns a “yes” answer. There is no understanding of anything beyond “Yes.” In short, it says, that if it is then it exists. And I can find no logical argument in a tautology. Therefore it must be. The philosophy of Realism can only, in defence, restate itself and say “because we say so”.
So when you are conscious, whatever it is that you are aware of, in any way, is your experience. So as your experience exists, it is a thing, and therefore must be real. Given discoveries made almost a century ago, incontrovertible evidence that absolutely nothing is certain in the universe. Except when it is, but these are very, very, very rare.
We may consider ourselves thankful, because the most recent theories of the universe is that we are one of many, and that ours was birthed in a moment when it’s temperature had dropped to certainty. It dropped to zero. If this happened alot, that might be just a bit chaotic. In a clockwork universe, this would be the case. However, we know, but adapt slowly away from the idea that we live in a clockwork universe.
We have known that it is not… for almost a century.
What the universe is…or at least around the 3% of it we can understand (maybe), is so bizzarre that the real question is “Well then…what of THIS universe we see?”
Some scientists will tell you that this world does not exist. When as many experiments have been run which validate the bizzarre nature of reality, the funny thing is:
When we are looking at it, it is what it is. When we are not, no one can gaurantee that it is anything more than a mathematical wave function. In short, nothing may even be real at all. Not by our classical definition. Not until we look will it be what it was.
So then, one must ask, “Who is asking the question?”
“Who is asking the question?”
This is my toe.