Consciousness and reality

Matthew asked:

If reality of any given organism is true, yet do not coincide with one another, then what does that mean for reality? If individualistic perceptions of reality can be true then what role do we play in reality? If we play a role then what does that mean for concepts of which we create that we accept as true of reality?

Where does Time fit in reality when only perceived by organisms? If we took out the concept of time then wouldn’t there still be movement? If movement is not constrained by the concept of time, would that not then explain our own bodily movements more?

Could consciousness be another facet of matter? If we accept the thoughts of Kelly then could we not say we are 5d organisms that biochemically interact with 3d selves while perceiving a 4d forming the image of our 5d selves?

Last one but more personal, you see I wonder, that if one mind without any other mind to contradict it can form any truth it wants, then another mind arrives in contradicts those truths, yet finds some truths that are true to both, then how did the first mind find those truths without anything?

That wording might be strange how about this, if god is alone then all things are true as long as god believes it to be so, if another god showed up to contradict the first then wouldn’t everything they didn’t share in common then disappear, leaving only truths they shared to remain, How then did those entities find these common truths without the knowledge of the other?

Honestly I hope for a reply of any kind to any of these questions that preoccupies my mind constantly.

Answer by Jürgen Lawrenz

Seems to me you have set yourself an agenda for a life of thinking and study, Matthew! One thing I want to say ahead of my reply, which I think is important: That philosophy is not problem-solving, but a search for understanding. Most of the issues you raise belong into this class. They don’t really look for a solution, but for a way of handling them intellectually.

Your first paragraph is a case in point. An obvious riposte would be: Reality precedes all these criteria, because an organism’s survival hinges on whatever is ‘true’ for it. Perceptions may differ; and intellectually they can be interpreted in innumerable ways — e.g. reality meant very different things to a scholastic than to an empiricist thinker. Also of course, for a beetle in contrast to a fish. Nonetheless all organisms seek out the ‘truth’ of their reality as they have to live by it, including humans; and the scholastics were still empiricists to the degree that alimentation and other ‘facts of life’ could not be ignored, irrespective of the concepts that governed their thinking.

Re time, the situation is no different. We are today in a position where quantum events highlight the full ambiguity of our concepts. In terms of understanding, time cannot be classed as a perception — cf. a prisoner locked into a dark cell, who would quickly lose all sense of its passage. In other words, it seems motions are converted into temporal intuitions by our sensibility to establish a locus of ‘when’ in the context of a living present, so that it gives us a sense of ‘what was’ and ‘what is’ coupled to necessary anticipations. It pre-supposes a self-reflective capacity. We think that this capacity is only rudimentary in animals, sufficient to lay down instinctual adaptations; but they probably have no genuine sense of passing time. Whether true or not, it seems to make no difference.

For us humans, however, it is very vexed issue and always has been. The mountain over there appears to be timeless, as it doesn’t move for untold ages; and the stars are ‘fixed’, measuring out the wheel of eternity forever rotating on the same axis. Whereas, apropos Herakleitos, I “cannot step into the same river twice”. But does this mean the river must be copulated with time? Could it be used as a wobbly kind of clock? Hardly; and it reminds us that his adversary Parmenides, about 2500 years ago, offered a set of logical propositions designed to show that both time and motion are illusory features generated by our phenomenal estate. We alone among all creatures co-ordinate our experiences with a putative steady flow of successive events which grow out of the past into an unknown future still governed by the same of law of ‘tick, tock’.

Recently a cognate ambiguity posed by strobe lights was highlighted by Julian Barbour, which invites the notion that time (or rather, our experience of temporality) can be accelerated, retarded and made to stand still by changing the rhythm of impingements on our vision. In other words, the on/off patterns of light can be calibrated so that a rotating disc is perceived as motionless. For this context and its ramifications on our concept of temporal flow, I recommend you to read his book “The End of Time”, which opens a real can of worms on the question.

Re your third question, I am far from convinced that dimensions above 4D can be meaningfully discussed outside of their special scientific terminology. Moreover I regard the suggestion that consciousness has anything to do with matter as egregious nonsense — maybe fit for scifi aficionados, but in every other respect of the same calibre as the medieval conundrum of how many angels can dance on a pin’s head.

Lastly, “one consciousness” alone. You will be surprised, perhaps, that John Scotus Erigena around AD 900 worried the same problem and came to the conclusion that God could not know himself, i.e. be conscious of his own existence, because consciousness is a relatum, it hinges on the consciousness of something ‘other’ with which to compare it. Of course he believed in God; but wanted to find a rationale for the creation of the world. And so he surmised that his lonely God pulverised himself into ‘prototypa’ (in our language, particles), each of which is a partial mirror image of himself. That this has to be a temporal event landed him in trouble with the Church; but it seems a respectable proposition to add your list of questions.

Well, these are my thoughts; a small surrogate for a library that your questions demand. Hope they give you something more to mull over!

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