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Can anything exist apart from our perceiving it so?

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Metaphysics - What is Really Real!

What is Reality?

Do mind and matter exist?

Are we just lumps of matter?

Is everything mind?

Do I really create my universe?

Next: What's in a Name?


Last modified on: 27-Sep-98.
Copyright 1998 ,,
All Rights Reserved.

You see things; and you say Why?
But I dream things that never were; and I say
Why not?
George Bernard Shaw

Naively, we look at something and think, 'This is beautiful!' But is there anything which is beautiful objectively, that is, apart from a person making a subjective judgement? Does 'It is beautiful!' mean no more than 'I like it?' This conflicts with conventional experience because when we say something is beautiful, we imply that everyone would think it beautiful.

Similarly, how do you know that, a tree, for example, exists when no one is looking at it? The question of things and qualities existing objectively is a very old question which humans have been asking since the dawn of time.

This question is not merely philosophical or logical, but has enormous impact on our lives. To some it is morally repugnant. If everything is subjective, then does it not really matter what we do or think?  If there is no objective right and wrong, does it mean there is no morality?

Socrates asks: "Is anything absolutely good?"

If a picture were absolutely good,
If it had good as part of it (instead of in the mind of the beholder), and
If it made everyone who looked at it perceive the goodness,
Wouldn't everyone really say it was good?

Clearly, this does not happen. There is nothing that everyone thinks is 'good.' So the goodness of a thing must exist in the mind of the perceiver. It is subjective. Does this mean it is merely a matter of taste!

For example, on a perfect planet, with no sentient beings, would anything be good or bad? Would you say it had qualities such as colours, if there was no one to experience them? If you argued, 'If someone looked, they would see the colours,' doesn't it mean the same as there are no colours when on one is looking? Colours are after all subjective, aren't they?

Does anything exist when no one is experiencing it? How could you answer 'Yes!' to this question? How could you know?

If this is my world, why is it the way it is?

I do not like subjectivism, even though it has won many arguments. I do not think that morals are merely matters of opinion. No living form could tolerate murder, for example, and survive. If we all murdered each other, then there wouldn't be anyone to support murder!

I believe that some concepts are essential parts of certain systems, and some concepts appear to be almost absolutes.

This is better illustrated by considering the importance of honesty in communication. Without honesty, communication is impossible. If we could not rely on what others tell us most of the time, and had to verify every little thing, we would not be able to or be willing to communicate. Communication presupposes honesty, but neither need to be absolutes.

We are free to create meaning in our own lives ...

Apart from this, the exciting conclusion is that we create meaning and importance in our worlds and we are free to change what we think is good and bad. This is not an absolute (sic) ability, so we can change our worlds for the better. We can change meanings and experience the world in a much more productive way. For example, if someone had a phobia of cats, then this is due, not to cats, but to the ideas in their minds. By changing the ideas, what was previously bad (cats) can become good. It may be possible to change very basic concepts, such as morals, etc, but if we change them, we would change the world as we know it. Some other things which we desire might no longer exist!

For example, if it were possible to change light (a basic concept) so we could no longer see shapes, colours, distance, etc, then we would no longer see ugliness, but we would no longer see beauty either, and we wouldn't be able to seethe way home! This might be more than we really wanted. Clearly, really basic change changes the system too!

Next: What's in a name?

Last modified on: 27-Sep-98.
Copyright 1998 ,
All Rights Reserved.