Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Belief vs. truth

A simple question: What is the relationship between belief and reality? Here's my theory:
In what way do we know the world? We experience it through our senses, but how can we know what is real and what is not? If one is not aware of the existence of some thing, the thing is not real to the observer because it is not perceived as real. There is no true knowledge that we can know, but we can create knowledge through belief formulated through observation and the other ways of knowing we have discussed, because it is the closest thing we have to the truth. What we believe as real or perceive as real becomes real simply by the act of perceiving it so.
Existence is a web of infinite dimensions in which everything is linked to everything else through the threads, which are cause-effect relationships between events; the web encompasses all space, time, matter, energy - it is everything and is always expanding as time goes forward. Paradoxically, because it is not possible for something not to exist, the blanket is infinite. It is not one-, two-, three-, four-dimensional. It includes and composes everything, in an infinite number of dimensions.
If one part of the web is changed, an infinite number of new threads spring from the changed point. The resulting threads originating from the centre [theoretically the beginning of space, time &cetera] form the web as it grows to fill the future, a process which continually alters the future as the past changes.
Though the web encompasses everything, that is not to say that it is absolute. The present [which is infinitely small because it is simply the point at which the past and the future meet] and the past exist only in perception and memory. We can perceive that there is a present, but it is impossible to define a time as the present because we can only measure it relative to the past and future. In fact, the present is perception, while what we frequently refer to as the present is often the near past or near future. The past, on the other hand, can be altered because it does exist in the web but is stored in memory that is constantly being filtered through perception, making it extremely dynamic and removing the physical limitations that, along with perception of the past, govern the future.
Since the past exists only though perception thereof, because the future does not yet exist, and because the physical world only governs the future, perception is all that is real and therefore every being has a different reality.
It is also possible to delete from or to add to the past by adding or removing events or series of events from the blanket. When an event or series of events is removed, the causes of that event or series run straight through to the effects and the event no longer exists; it never existed, in the perception of whoever removed it. When an event is added, it attaches to effects and causes, forming a new portion of the web. This manipulation of the past can be achieved through either conscious or unconscious change in perception, and when the past changes, conscious choices and in turn the future will change.
George Orwell adequately described this idea of intentional manipulation of perception to exercise control over the past and through cause and effect the future in 1984 with the concept of doublethink and the Party’s slogan that 'whoever controls the past controls the future'.
The future is governed jointly by the physical world and by the collective of individual perceptions of the past and present, making it impossible to predict due to the extremely dynamic nature of perception.
Due to this relationship between perception and reality, life only has a meaning if there is a perceived meaning. Once a meaning has been perceived, that meaning holds true within one's own reality. Life is what you make of it.

If you hear me say "In your perception", it means that whatever you've said is simply your perception, and isn't the only reality. So I guess what I mean to say is "I reject your reality, and substitute my own."



Ryan Beethe said...

You said: "What we believe as real or perceive as real becomes real simply by the act of perceiving it so." This is simply not the case.

To begin with, that which is real is true in existence. That is to say, something physical is real if and only if it truly physically exists. An event is real if and only if it truly occurred. However, we can alter reality by creating something physical just like we can create a perception. So while a perception itself becomes real just by perceiving it (since it truly exists), what you said was not true.

You claimed that that about which we perceive (an object, event--something in reality) truly exists simply because we perceive it. This is like truth by declaration; just as a declaration of what is true cannot define truth, neither can a perception of what is real define what reality.

If I perceive that a bug bit me, but I only imagined it, then so be it. The bug still didn't bite me--it doesn't matter what I perceive. You might say that in my own reality, the bug did actually bite me, but that's a misuse of the word "reality". You are defining someone's "reality" as one person's perception of reality. But again, since perception doesn't make that which is being perceived real, me perceiving reality differently than it truly exists doesn't create another reality.

So here's my theory about beliefs vs reality: A belief is true if it corresponds with reality. The obvious implication of this is that two conflicting beliefs cannot both be true. Either one is false and the other is true, or they're both false. Each person might perceive their own belief as true or real, but that does not define the truth or reality of said belief.

Ian B said...

Beethe, you're entitled to your opinion, but I think you need to justify it some more.

My point was not that perception is truth, but rather that we cannot tell the difference between truth and perception if we perceive something as true. I believe that truth matters, but only in the future, because the past and present can be altered through a change in perception. If that perception is then acted on, it becomes part of the truth. However, because the future is limited by the physical world, the truth is not exclusively comprised of perception.

Also, reality will vary from person to person, so I don't believe I've misused the word "reality" - I think that you're actually confusing reality with truth. I define reality as truth viewed through the lens of perception, but if reality exists only in the present and a change in perception can change the present, reality is perception - albeit only in the present. As for past realities, they influence the perception of the present to form the present reality.

You can perceive "I have walked through a brick wall". You can perceive "I am currently walking through a brick wall". These can seem true to you because the past and present are not limited by the physical world.

You cannot, however, perceive "I will walk through a brick wall", because the physical world prevents you from doing so (that is, unless there is no brick wall in front of you, which is a perception of present).

Perception becomes reality through its influence on our actions, regardless of truth. The Matrix is a good (though unreal, in my perception) example of this.

Ian B said...

Oh, and for good measure -

In your perception.

Ryan Beethe said...

First of all, I think I did justify my claims fairly well, and you never identified which ones I missed.

Second, you have not made a consistent argument. First you said, "My point was not that perception is truth." Later you said, "If that perception is then acted on, it becomes part of the truth." Either a perception is either completely accurate (true) or not completely accurate (false). Therefore, acting on a perception cannot always make it "part of the truth," because some perceptions are just not true.

OK, now I'll have to bust out the OED. The fifth definition of "reality" which is labeled "Philosophy:" is as such: "existence that is absolute, self-sufficient, or objective, and not subject to human decisions or conventions." Therefore, I am not confusing reality with truth. Both are absolute and neither are subject to perception.

Therefore, a perception is true if and only if it corresponds with reality and truth. Also, you said, "the truth is not exclusively comprised of perception," but the truth is (ha ha, bad pun!) that the truth is not comprised of perceptions at all.

Ian B said...

Perhaps. But if differing definitions of reality lead to different interpretations of truth and perception and different reactions based on circumstances and preconceived notions regarding what is real and what is not, you will have several interpretations of reality, none of which can be entirely proved or disproved. I argue that perception of reality becomes a part of reality once it is acted upon because the future will be changed by interpretation of the perception of past and present. Of course it can also be argued that it was not reality until it was acted upon, but nevertheless perception of an issue changes our actions.

History is written by the winners. Advertising is effective through manipulation of perception of a product or service, driving commerce.

Our interpretation of what we perceive to be real is what we act upon, and the physical world (the 'truth', if you will) is merely a limiting factor so long as we don't argue that the physical world through biochemistry is the sole driving force behind our perceptions, which I think most people will agree is not the case due to choice.

With regard to the OED, Prometheus didn't bring us an infallible dictionary that defines the truth and cannot be questioned; there is significant bias in making the claim that there is one universal definition for a word in a given context. One must define one's own terms, and perception plays into how one defines truth and reality.

For instance, your acceptance of the OED as an authority and particularly the way you stated it, 'hav[ing] to bust out the OED', reveal overwhelming confirmation bias on your part, and you've left out any source that might suggest otherwise.

Ryan Beethe said...

OK, you said, "One must define one's own terms." That means that we will never have the same definitions to work with, and we could just keep arguing back and forth for ever. If we cannot agree on definitions, there's no point in bickering.

Ian B said...

In other words... differing perceptions of reality make complete agreement impossible. So yes. This entire argument is a demonstration of the absurdity of existence.