The Instigator
Friedman
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
Jibby_page
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points

Reality is what we mentally create through experience.

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/8/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,182 times Debate No: 18664
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (6)
Votes (0)

 

Friedman

Pro

Hello everybody,
I am excited to put forth an idea that I have had for a while. The substance of this idea is that the experiences that we have are not true to reality, but that our combination of them in our minds creates what constitutes reality. For example, we as humans with a limited perspective cannot experience a cube from more than one perspective and there is a subjectivity that arises from this (one person seeing something quite different than what another sees when looking at the same object). The only way a cube can be understood is through a mental creation of it as an entirely unique entity informed by our experiences, but completely intangible and yet more real than what was seen. Events as they occur over time, such as motion etc., are understood by the same principle.
This idea is more widely applicable than just the physical world. To illustrate this point I will use art, the creations of our minds, in its different forms through history. In the Renaissance perspective was used to stimulate this kind of mental creation of physical realities. Inducing the creation of worlds, people and things in the viewer. In modern art the abandonment of perspective did not create an escape from the synthesis of experience into realities, but merely changed the nature of this synthesis as it took over this part of the work for you. Cubism, based on representing the plurality of subjective views over time (see Nude Descending Staircase) or through many perspectives (Picasso), by doing the work of physical creation for one drives the mind to synthesize the other meanings in a painstaking process that leaps in quantum bounds of intuition. Thus as modern art can be understood through a non-physical conclusion, so can our reality be a non-physical conclusion.
As far as rules for this debate go it is three rounds, conclusions in the third round, and arguments everywhere else. The first round I put forward an argument so feel free to do so. Thank you.
Jibby_page

Con

Hello there
The idea of reality being a by-product of our own doing and experience, in my eyes, frankly, is one born out of convenience and self-assurance. Through time immemorial, man has always thought and fantasized of being in perfect control of his surroundings and the master of his will. "I don't want to be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me". While a sarcastic cynic's retort to this would be, "Then go ahead, let it rip! :)", I see it as a fear to accept the fact that after some point, we are no longer the creators of our destiny or, more specific to this topic, our perception. Call it reluctance to come to terms that there is more than what we see, hear, smell and feel. Or call it plain ignorance.

To support my argument, I will quote the work of eminent neurologist, Dr. V.S. Ramachandran of the University of California, San Diego. In his book, 'The Tell-Tale Brain', he discusses the concept of phantom limbs. And to explain this concept to everyone, I quote, "In the majority of cases where people have lost limbs, they continue to vividly feel the presence of the missing limb. Chronic phantom pain — which strikes roughly two-thirds of patients who have had a limb removed — can become so severe that patients seriously contemplate suicide."
Pain, as we all know it, is an experience learned time and again from childhood. But in the case of amputees, who have unfortunately lost a limb, the amputated 'part' continues to relay pain signals to the brain, the center of perceiving 'reality', as understood by you. But does the amputated part exist? No it does not. Is it real? No, it is not. Yet your experience of pain tells you it does.
And this issue is more serious than you think. The patient has to be trained to unlearn experiencing this pain, which, I reiterate, is born out of past experience. And why? To accept reality. The harsh one. Not the one born out of experience.
Another simple example I'd like to demonstrate. Have a look at the picture on the link below. I apologize as I could not do anything to get it to show on this page as I was unable to find any option to attach media in my argument (and plus I am kind of a greenhorn with computers, so)

http://www.badcut.com...

The image is an optical illusion showing circles moving about when you know perfectly well they are not. Obviously you would have seen examples of similar motion, say a giant wheel at your local fair, in the past. That is experience. And that very experience is making you believe something which you know is a trick your eyes are playing on you. So again, is past experience a parameter enough to define and describe reality?
Your argument is much awaited.
Debate Round No. 1
Friedman

Pro

Thanks for joining the debate.
I'm sorry, but what I said earlier may not have been as clear as I meant it to be (I know that sounds lame but it's true). The idea that experience forms our conception of reality is based on the idea that what we create must be, eventually if we have any integrity, subordinate to actuality in some way. A phantom limb is a perfect example. The pain the patient feels is real (as in they actually feel it) because of the lag between the mental construct of reality and the actuality of their current experience. The readjustment of reality as we perceive it is one of the most difficult experiences we can go through.
The thing that we mentally create we can understand on many levels (hence when you read a story etc. there is a mental creation that exists in isolation from your other experiences and is only mixed with them by abstraction). The whole purpose of this kind of creation is to give us more power to understand the world as it is, was, and will be. It is quite possible to not put your conception in the right frame for instance Zeno's paradox comes from taking our artificial construct of space as a series of points too literally (or in a more nuanced argument of it as a criticism of this constructs limitations). In actuality space and time are immeasurable being one continuum (each). Science is continually using these mental constructs to explain reality. Gravity, electricity, strong force etc. are all vague essences that we construct and give laws to, but never define.
This mental creation is an act of intelligence and is natural to human beings. The pitfalls that it leads to are those we must overcome to obtain knowledge. To overcome the we must carefully subordinate our minds to reality while not backing away from things we don't understand that are working.
If this totally changed the debate I hope that's okay. Please be forgiving of my inability to express myself clearly before.
Jibby_page

Con

Ok, I'm a little confused, but good to go. Before we proceed I thought it would benefit everybody if we got some good, solid definitions on paper. I apologize for not doing this myself earlier. I admit the topic had excited me a bit too much. :)


Reality: The state or quality of being real
Real : true. not merely ostensible, nominal, or apparent
Mentally :
in or with the mind or intellect; intellectually.
Create : to cause to come into being, as something unique that would not naturally evolve or that is not made by ordinary processes
Experience : a particular instance of personally encountering or undergoing something.

Pro's claims in the initial round were as follows

" the experiences that we have are not true to reality, but that our combination of them in our minds creates what constitutes reality. For example, we as humans with a limited perspective cannot experience a cube from more than one perspective and there is a subjectivity that arises from this (one person seeing something quite different than what another sees when looking at the same object). The only way a cube can be understood is through a mental creation of it as an entirely unique entity informed by our experiences, but completely intangible and yet more real than what was seen. Events as they occur over time, such as motion etc., are understood by the same principle.".

I refute this argument with a simple idea. By what Pro has tried to convey, it comes across that reality is always about something we have seen, heard or smelt in the past, namely, past experiences. But Pro's argument has left out something very crucial to the survival and sustenance of the human race : new experiences. And by new experiences, I mean seeing, hearing or smelling something which was never seen, heard or smelt in the past. Are such things not real just because we haven't experienced them before? Imagine the consequences of such an attitude. No discoveries would have been made, nothing would have been invented, all because man would think that all he had experienced was all that was real n the world. For all you know, the idea that the world was flat would have persisted till this date.


While it is an interesting idea of yours, Pro, it is not entirely free from flaws. Assuming you would have said 'Reality is what we create through experience', it would have held more meaning, as the physical aspect contributing towards reality is definitely greater than the mental ("Actions speak louder than words", age-old saying). In fact, physical efforts tend more to reality than mental efforts, which actually tend more towards imagination, which cannot be considered similar to reality. My examples of the phantom limb and the optical illusion support this statement fully.

Looking forward to your argument.
Vote Con.





Debate Round No. 2
Friedman

Pro

I am glad that you posted I was worried you were going to forfeit and that was no fun for me the last time it happened.
I am thankful for the definitions, but the problem is that this is an attempt to define a new paradigm of all these things. Not that that necessarily invalidates them, but that is why I won't spend much time on them. As far as the definition of real goes I will talk about that for a moment. Things that are ostensible and nominal I hope I have not used. The main jab of this definition is, if I understand it correctly, linked to the presentations of the phantom limb and the optical illusion, which I discuss later, but would now like to prime by stating that as far as the pain of a missing limb is concerned it is by no means nominal only (the patient feels it and produces the biological symptoms of pain) and the optical illusion though admittedly, by this definition, is not moving the result is an abstraction of motion which was intended.
The actual argument that you make is that reality can encompass no new things (I hope that isn't over simplified) if it is based on past experiences, but the problem with that is that past experiences themselves are an ever growing group (i.e. what just happened when you read the last sentence is now a past experience). The result is that my idea actually explains the production and discovery of new things as the raw materials of reality grow over time (I am not suggesting though that what we didn't know about didn't exist before, but rather I am suggesting that it has become more visible as experience accumulates through history and writing). As for imagination it is not exactly like reality, but is very similar to it. When we read a book not only do we build the reality inside it, but afterwards what we built is like an experience that we extrapolate lessons or facts from (for this is true even of technical non-fictional writing) it later. To say that imagination is dislike reality without qualifying this statement makes reading, writing, art, and music useless to any individual even on practical level (a diagram of something, a mathematical model etc. all have no meaning without the use of the mind to build these imaginary realities or experiences).
I am not concerned with the fact that my opponent has not answered the questions of space and perception, but what causes me some alarm is his not acknowledging my, perhaps too briefly and ineffectually stated, arguments about the phantom limb and the optical illusion (in the comments on the illusion).
As far as the phantom Limb goes I state again that the pain they feel is a real thing. How could this be created save by a mental construct? The fact that they under go physical as well as mental therapy is evidence of the self-creation by mental understanding that goes on.
Here I would like to use Searle's Chinese Room in a semi-non-conventional way to express better how the optical illusion functions. The set-up is that some one creates a computer that can write in perfect conversational Chinese (i.e. it can pass a Turing test 100% of the time convincingly) and places it in a room where people write to it and it writes back. Then we say that instead of a computer we have a man with all the books, pencils, pens, paper, etc. that are needed for him to reproduce the same algorithm and that the man dose not understand an iota of Chinese. The final question is: where is the mind that understands Chinese?
I propose that the mind that understands Chinese made the algorithm and that it passed along process of doing this without giving the interior knowledge to do so. So is the optical illusion; to the question, "where is the movement?" I posit that it exists in the creator's mind and he used this to pass it to our minds through his creation. He has effectively used reality to communicate a "non-real" idea through a medium of reality, or, in other words, he created a reality from the abstractions of his mind that we all experienced.
I have lost almost all structure here and am going to clarify the statements I made about imagination. The imagination is required for basic understanding when reading any material. The creation of a mental construct of reality happens even in the least imaginative papers. The fact that we go to school to before actually operating on people is good evidence that these mental constructs can inform us as to the reality of things when coupled with the experiences we have (again remember that this is not inconsistent with my idea which relies on both these things). In the previously hinted at example of medical school there is both mental construction through study and perfection through the, eventual, practice of the science. Mark, however, that the mental constructs come before (in the prerequisites and initial training) the action implying that such constructs are the basis of an enhanced experience.
Jibby_page

Con

I am thankful for the definitions, but the problem is that this is an attempt to define a new paradigm of all these things. Not that that necessarily invalidates them, but that is why I won't spend much time on them. As far as the definition of real goes I will talk about that for a moment. Things that are ostensible and nominal I hope I have not used. The main jab of this definition is, if I understand it correctly, linked to the presentations of the phantom limb and the optical illusion, which I discuss later, but would now like to prime by stating that as far as the pain of a missing limb is concerned it is by no means nominal only (the patient feels it and produces the biological symptoms of pain) and the optical illusion though admittedly, by this definition, is not moving the result is an abstraction of motion which was intended.

My point is not whether the pain is real. Sure it is. But is the foot sending out pain signals real? And not just pain. Patients having phantom limbs wake up in the middle of the night to scratch their foot, only to realize it isn't there. So by this, all I want to say is that though they've scratched their foot earlier (which gave them experience), the sensation of having a foot which needs to be scratched is no longer real. So experience does not create reality fully.

The actual argument that you make is that reality can encompass no new things (I hope that isn't over simplified) if it is based on past experiences, but the problem with that is that past experiences themselves are an ever growing group (i.e. what just happened when you read the last sentence is now a past experience). The result is that my idea actually explains the production and discovery of new things as the raw materials of reality grow over time (I am not suggesting though that what we didn't know about didn't exist before, but rather I am suggesting that it has become more visible as experience accumulates through history and writing). As for imagination it is not exactly like reality, but is very similar to it. When we read a book not only do we build the reality inside it, but afterwards what we built is like an experience that we extrapolate lessons or facts from (for this is true even of technical non-fictional writing) it later. To say that imagination is dislike reality without qualifying this statement makes reading, writing, art, and music useless to any individual even on practical level (a diagram of something, a mathematical model etc. all have no meaning without the use of the mind to build these imaginary realities or experiences).

Your argument is very hazy, to put it politely. Past experiences grow in quantity, true, but what about events like getting punched on the nose for the first time, experiencing an orgasm for the first time or even being kicked in the nuts for the first time? You have to experience such things personally to know what they really are like. No amount of reading theory or watching instructional videos on these three issues (the mental creation) will give an idea of how their reality is like. And as far as imagination goes, what is written in a book CANNOT, and I repeat, CANNOT be taken as reality. Sure, they may be true stories, but there is also a genre called FICTION, which is basically rehashed and recycled experiences of writers which is a mental creation, but NOT REALITY.


Here I would like to use Searle's Chinese Room in a semi-non-conventional way to express better how the optical illusion functions. The set-up is that some one creates a computer that can write in perfect conversational Chinese (i.e. it can pass a Turing test 100% of the time convincingly) and places it in a room where people write to it and it writes back. Then we say that instead of a computer we have a man with all the books, pencils, pens, paper, etc. that are needed for him to reproduce the same algorithm and that the man dose not understand an iota of Chinese. The final question is: where is the mind that understands Chinese? I propose that the mind that understands Chinese made the algorithm and that it passed along process of doing this without giving the interior knowledge to do so. So is the optical illusion; to the question, "where is the movement?" I posit that it exists in the creator's mind and he used this to pass it to our minds through his creation. He has effectively used reality to communicate a "non-real" idea through a medium of reality, or, in other words, he created a reality from the abstractions of his mind that we all experienced. .

My argument still holds good. When you say 'using reality to communicate a non-real idea through a medium of reality" you are communicating something which is not real. It passing through a medium of reality, using reality does not hold the slightest importance. You see something moving because you are tricked by the illusion. And what appears as reality, similar to previous seen similar motion (the experiences) is not in fact real.

Thanks.
Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 3
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by Friedman 5 years ago
Friedman
I am sorry that have stated the ideas here so poorly that this has been interpreted as a version "Dream Theory", but maybe now I can point out some key differences. The first major difference is that what I propose is not that reality is entirely subjective, but that reality (what we experience) is not simply product of our the world around us, but is instead a dialogue between ourselves (our actions, thoughts, understandings, senses, and perception) and the world around us. The argument I make explains, encourages, and justifies scientific behavior and discovery rather than throwing it away. Without this argument you run into the problem that Kant tried to solve of how synthetic a priori judgments are possible (the kind of judgments that science and math rely on). His solution is very neat, but severely limited as it cordons off major sections of the outside world and interior concerns of the soul (transcendental unit of apperception or whatever he calls it).
He makes the noumenal (the real world as it is without us experiencing it) in opposition to the phenomenal and then outside of that there is the realm of faith of which no knowledge can be gained only opinion rules. This theory makes the question of a noumenal world foolish because although we can't experience reality that we don't, reality actually includes us and a reality (since it has never occurred the way it doesn't) that doesn't include us dose not exist to be experienced. That is all kind of confusing but I am really saying that the noumenal world is actually what we know because we are a part of it. As for the world of faith there are clearly things we know the answers to and things we don't even have a way to know, but Kant makes this relationship static. The idea set forward here is one that says that knowledge is ever expanding into the realm of faith as faith is exercised (a little like an experiment). If there is an end to the realm of faith is up for grabs, but I see no end in sight.
Posted by Leftii 5 years ago
Leftii
This argument is a version of "Dream Theory". Dream theory states that our reality is forged and our observations are a product of our mind and may not be correct. This is a theory which lazily casts aside knowledge, the need for all other physics and even the meaning of science, for, even if this is a pseudo reality, it is better to introduce physical theories which improve our way of life in the forged world where we have no knowledge of its being false, than to cast aside all other physics in the hope that we will all simply wake up in reality, when there is a high possibility based on our knowledge of this reality being true. Therefore, this theory is not necessary, so is not an accepted theory.
Posted by Friedman 5 years ago
Friedman
Sorry for posting that last comment twice.
An after thought on the optical illusion: The motion that we perceive is not a reality, but is a product not only of experience but of the search for meaning. The creator of the image intended this information to be passed along and as a result of our mental constructs he created a thing that did so. This is an instance where an experience was intentionally created that was not real. The same thing that I said about paintings, they engage us in the creation of non-present or even non-extant realities, is true of many things. This is the beauty of the mind things which are not real become functional.
I hope this made sense to anyone.
Posted by Friedman 5 years ago
Friedman
I am sorry for not being clear about my argument in the first place. I was going to get on and edit it, but then pesky midterms got in the way. Thank you for your patience with me.
As a side note I probably sound grovelling and this is for two reasons. First I am trying to offset a natural pompousness and second I can't expect others to be understanding if I myself am not.
Posted by Friedman 5 years ago
Friedman
I am sorry for not being clear about my argument in the first place. I was going to get on and edit it, but then pesky midterms got in the way. Thank you for your patience with me.
As a side note I probably sound grovelling and this is for two reasons. First I am trying to offset a natural pompousness and second I can't expect others to be understanding if I myself am not.
Posted by GrizzlyAdamz 5 years ago
GrizzlyAdamz
Have you seen much involving additional dimensions? In addition to what you said, the fact is our 'reality' is still only a fraction of existence. Also, any 'truth' held by a person is off, just like a picture; no matter the resolution, it is still a picture and not the actual thing. When you apply this to ideas, thoughts, memories, and factor in communication, humans are fucked. All kinds of convolution and contradiction, sounds like fun.
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