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What is real?

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blankslate
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Posted 12/14/08 - 4:15 PM:
Subject: What is real?
I stumbled across this forum while looking up research for my blog. I figured instead of looking around and posting my opinions in several topics, I'd go straight for the throat and ask a question everyone likes to answer- what is real? This is entirely subjective and personal, you don't have to quote anyone or try to prove your point, it's all opinion.
e.
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Posted 12/14/08 - 5:39 PM:

blankslate wrote:
I stumbled across this forum while looking up research for my blog. I figured instead of looking around and posting my opinions in several topics, I'd go straight for the throat and ask a question everyone likes to answer- what is real? This is entirely subjective and personal, you don't have to quote anyone or try to prove your point, it's all opinion.


Blankslate,

Welcome. smiling face

I would say that what is real is indeed subjective and personal. This is not to say that the world of objective science isn't real, of course it is, but our own reality is the experience.

e.
Nihil Loc
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Posted 12/14/08 - 6:42 PM:

Welcome to the forums, blankslate.

I believe one would need to scour all the contexts in which the word is used, to understand its absolute limits. Or just look it up in a dictionary.
blankslate
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Posted 12/14/08 - 7:11 PM:

Thank you.

Nihil Loc, I just meant your personal interpretation of real. For example, I have a friend in the Special Forces who believes nothing is real and even he doesn't exist, therefore it doesn't matter if he dies. My personal interpretation of real would dualistic- that which is physical and mental. It's a simple concept I know, but for the time being I'm sticking to it.

Also, I'd just like to say this is a great forum. In most I've been to I write something and it never gets responded to. It really is relaxed. Thanks again.
libertygrl
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Posted 12/14/08 - 7:32 PM:

hi blankslate,

i would say too that real is what we experience. that means that dreams are real, hallucinations are real, whatever we can imagine is real, because of all these experiences, in addition to our waking states, inform our memories and affect the way we feel and the decisions we make.

i think we naturally draw boundaries around things and distinguish one thing from another, saying for example "oh this is more real" or "this is less real", but we're only able to do that by comparing one experience to another at the individual level. constancy has a tendency to make things feel more concrete.

what are your thoughts, blankslate? how would you distinguish real from not real in terms of a physical/mental duality?

and welcome,
smiling facelib
blankslate
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Posted 12/14/08 - 8:07 PM:

libertygrl wrote:
what are your thoughts, blankslate? how would you distinguish real from not real in terms of a physical/mental duality?


Well, I just recently abandoned my beliefs as a Christian (it was my parents' religion, not mine) so I don't have much foundation in any belief at this time, but I would have to say that the divide between physical/mental duality would be very basic:

physical things are things we all have knowledge of in the world we all experience. This is the world of mass and space. The world of birds chirping and hot teapots and things we all relate to- sights and sounds and touch (but not limited to only these things of course). The "concrete world" as I refer to it.

The other world, the mental world, is that of the feeling of loss and the excitement of winning and the pressure of missing a deadline. In the mental world, everything is individual and subjective. You can stub your toe in the mental world and describe to me in poetic terms of the pain you feel, but I will never know how it hurts unless I did it exactly the same way. In the concrete world, however, I can see a man across the room waving his hand and so can everyone else in the room.

I hope that answers your question.
e.
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Posted 12/15/08 - 6:07 AM:

blankslate wrote:
You can stub your toe in the mental world and describe to me in poetic terms of the pain you feel, but I will never know how it hurts unless I did it exactly the same way. In the concrete world, however, I can see a man across the room waving his hand and so can everyone else in the room.

I hope that answers your question.


Blank,

Your example points up the very banality of objectivity. A waving hand we can share, schizophrenia - never.

e.
libertygrl
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Posted 12/15/08 - 3:18 PM:

blankslate wrote:
In the mental world, everything is individual and subjective. You can stub your toe in the mental world and describe to me in poetic terms of the pain you feel, but I will never know how it hurts unless I did it exactly the same way.

even if you did it exactly the same way, the interpretation of the pain still has the potential to vary greatly, based on your tolerance for pain and your personal values. but i'm not sure how seeing a person waving their hand across the room is necessarily less subjective.

blankslate, you might be interested in the following related topic which raises the question of how tangible mental states are:

http://www.thecouchforum.com/comments.php?id=1166

e. wrote:
Your example points up the very banality of objectivity. A waving hand we can share, schizophrenia - never.

my thoughts are that we do share mental states in ways very similar to how we share other experiences. this is how the process of communication is able to take place, by means of our ability to empathize. something to consider along these lines is the phenomenon of traumatic transference. for example, a therapist may develop symptoms of PTSD after hearing a client relate an intensely traumatic event.

of course, limitations on perspective dictate that no two experiences can be exactly the same, no matter how well they are communicated. but the commonality of our environment and genetic makeup also dictate that our experiences are not too different, either.

my belief is that given enough time, any kind of formal language set or internal lexicon can be established to facilitate communication and solidify the way experiences are shared, even between highly schizophrenic individuals. in fact, i would suggest that this is something which happens involuntarily in most cases. in other words, put two people in the same room together who speak different languages, and they will inevitably find ways to communicate.

i agree that the communication of mental states is generally more complex than the communication of a simple visual signal such as waving your hand across a crowded room. but for some people emotive communication comes very naturally and as such, they have higher degrees of empathy than most.

food for thought,
lib
blankslate
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Posted 12/15/08 - 8:03 PM:

e. wrote:

Your example points up the very banality of objectivity. A waving hand we can share, schizophrenia - never.

e.


I'm sorry, I don't think I understood this. Are you saying that you agree with my view of physicality as objective and mentality as subjective or not?

libertygrl wrote:

even if you did it exactly the same way, the interpretation of the pain still has the potential to vary greatly, based on your tolerance for pain and your personal values. but i'm not sure how seeing a person waving their hand across the room is necessarily less subjective.


I would say it is less subjective because everyone sees the man waving his hand. If you asked everyone who saw it if they saw it they would have to say yes. Their angle of perception would be different of course, depending on what area of the room they were standing in, but the man waving his hand in the physical world is a man waving his hand.

Also, their interpretation of it might be different- person A might say he was saying hello and person B says he was saying goodbye. In all reality he might've been trying to flag down the waiter for a martini. That's the point I'm trying to make. In person A's mind he is correct and the same in person B's and no one can tell them any different until they ask the man waving his hand what his intentions were. The objective action (hand waving) was interpreted by subjective opinions (Person A and B). Physical and mental.
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Posted 12/15/08 - 8:24 PM:

blankslate wrote:
Also, their interpretation of it might be different- person A might say he was saying hello and person B says he was saying goodbye. In all reality he might've been trying to flag down the waiter for a martini. That's the point I'm trying to make. In person A's mind he is correct and the same in person B's and no one can tell them any different until they ask the man waving his hand what his intentions were. The objective action (hand waving) was interpreted by subjective opinions (Person A and B). Physical and mental.

so, to see if i understand your view properly - are you saying that in your view, physical events are real and mental events are not real?

smiling facelib
blankslate
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Posted 12/15/08 - 9:19 PM:

Ha ha, no I'm saying they're both real. We were turned into the subject of physical and mental differences after post 5, so I was just trying to clarify on that. I would, however, say that there are some aspects of the mental realm that are not real. These would be things like imaginary parallel universes and concepts.
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Posted 12/16/08 - 5:07 AM:

blankslate wrote:
I'm sorry, I don't think I understood this. Are you saying that you agree with my view of physicality as objective and mentality as subjective or not?


b,

I'm saying that I broadly agree with you, although I think physicality is a slippery concept to pin down.

Your point about subjectively interpreting the meaning of a hand wave is strong. When searching for clear cases of objectivity I usually use the example of a bus timetable, which has less room for interpretation than the hand wave.

With the hand thing I was thinking of G E Moore's lecture in which he raised his right hand and wiggled his fingers. No one in the audience denied that he was raising his right hand and wiggling his fingers. It's not exactly a proof, but it was the best an empiricist philosopher could come up with I guess.

e.




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Posted 12/16/08 - 5:17 AM:

libertygrl wrote:

i agree that the communication of mental states is generally more complex than the communication of a simple visual signal such as waving your hand across a crowded room. but for some people emotive communication comes very naturally and as such, they have higher degrees of empathy than most.

food for thought,
lib


Lib,

Indeed. I'm thinking that to have empathy we just need to sense another's distress. It's another thing to know what is going on with them. Maybe this is why "What's wrong?" and "Are you OK?" are such common expressions.

This is not to say that we can't make a good guess about anothers thoughts, but it will never have the authority of a thermometer IMHO.

When I was in hospital the staff fell back on the old "What is your pain on a scale from one to ten?" Problem is my answer depends on my personal scale, which is private. If I just wanted some pain killers I could lie for example.

e.


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Posted 12/16/08 - 6:54 PM:

confused I'm so easily miffed when it comes to philosophy.

#1. What is real?
#4. Subscription to Dualism --> Categories of the physical and mental.
#5. Real as a continuum of empirical constancy --> 'what is experienced can be regarded as more real and less real'
#6. A"Concrete world" of public and private experience, shared and unshared.
#7. A private concreteness, "reality", of schizophrenia.
#8. The means of making private reality public reality: empathy, expression and language.
#9. The multivalence of signs: an interpretive void between the physical event and mental explanations between two or more people.
#11. Some theories and mental concepts are not real.
#12. The communal utility of shared signs as consistent real(ity).
#13. Deceitful trustees and distorting another person's mental realm.
libertygrl
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Posted 12/16/08 - 8:31 PM:

nihil wrote:
confused I'm so easily miffed when it comes to philosophy.

hug

nihil wrote:
#1. What is real?
#4. Subscription to Dualism --> Categories of the physical and mental.
#5. Real as a continuum of empirical constancy --> 'what is experienced can be regarded as more real and less real'
#6. A"Concrete world" of public and private experience, shared and unshared.
#7. A private concreteness, "reality", of schizophrenia.
#8. The means of making private reality public reality: empathy, expression and language.
#9. The multivalence of signs: an interpretive void between the physical event and mental explanations between two or more people.
#11. Some theories and mental concepts are not real.
#12. The communal utility of shared signs as consistent real(ity).
#13. Deceitful trustees and distorting another person's mental realm.

yes
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Posted 12/17/08 - 5:31 AM:

In his investigations, Kant applied a two-fold conception of how the world is and how we perceive it. The world, as it exists independently of all perception, is what he termed "noumena." The mind can only perceive the world through categories of understanding unique to the human mind. When perceived, this world and its contents become "phenomena."

I think that what is real is what exists independently of all minds and is only available to us through categories of understanding: quantity, quality, relation, etc. We catalog and interpret these things as we can through scientific and philosophical inquiry, but looming questions remain in regards to knowing what we attempt to know in its totality.
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Posted 12/17/08 - 8:43 AM:

e. wrote:


b,

I'm saying that I broadly agree with you, although I think physicality is a slippery concept to pin down.

Your point about subjectively interpreting the meaning of a hand wave is strong. When searching for clear cases of objectivity I usually use the example of a bus timetable, which has less room for interpretation than the hand wave.



I understand. I agree that physicality is a very hard issue to really get an unwavering fact about, but still I figured I'd give it a shot. Where would you say you wouldn't agree with me on the individual subjectivity of a hand wave, though?
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Posted 12/17/08 - 12:30 PM:

dullard wrote:
The world, as it exists independently of all perception, is what he termed "noumena."

dullard wrote:
I think that what is real is what exists independently of all minds and is only available to us through categories of understanding: quantity, quality, relation, etc. We catalog and interpret these things as we can through scientific and philosophical inquiry, but looming questions remain in regards to knowing what we attempt to know in its totality.

hi dullard,

reminds me of panentheism. would you say that "noumena" is synonymous with god?

smiling facelib
e.
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Posted 12/18/08 - 5:24 AM:

blankslate wrote:


I understand. I agree that physicality is a very hard issue to really get an unwavering fact about, but still I figured I'd give it a shot. Where would you say you wouldn't agree with me on the individual subjectivity of a hand wave, though?


Blank,

Well, there is a great deal of subjectivity in a room of people looking at a handwave, mainly with individual interpretation, as a hand wave is a human signal and value loaded for humans. I guess we could get agreement on "Looks like a hand waving" from most people.
Moore wanted to get past 'Looks like' but I'm not sure he did.

With bus timetables the case is clearer. We could set an exercise in which people have to use the timetable and their arrival on the correct bus at the correct time would be a good benchmark, with little room for subjective opinion.

It's still a minefield, all this. thumb upthumb down

e.

PS - I once went to a good lecture from an Oxford empiricist who claimed that triangulation in the world defeated scepticism. It was certainly better than Moore's hand, but made the same case.



Edited by e. on 12/18/08 - 5:31 AM
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Posted 02/25/09 - 7:05 PM:

Seems like "What is real?" is a question that people ask frequently, especially during times of social confusion and tension, or very uneasy social complacency. Asked on an emotional level, the question suggests that what is sold most emphatically as real and substantial is flimflam. There's a tradition of fiction in which people go in search of something real (a real enterprise, the true self)--for example, J.D. Salinger's people, the ones that are not totally lost, Maxine Hong Kingston's tripmaster Wittman ah Sing, and, you know, many others... And living people do it, too.
The philosophers that ask the question, using in their replies (of course) the tools of philosophy, may be doing so from the same emotional base that motivated Christopher McCandless to go into the wild. Zum
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Posted 02/26/09 - 10:11 PM:

That we are all here now and then in this forum is real, really? Am I real?
smokinpristiformis
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Posted 02/27/09 - 10:18 AM:

I once before had someone ask me to prove that I was real. Trouble is I can't for the life of me remember what I answered. laughing
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Posted 04/27/09 - 3:38 PM:

'Real' is a word!laughing Real is a thought!There is nothing called " a thought" because every thought is a 'group'!So 'real' is "group of thoughts".Being a bit more philosophical- 'real' is a 'tag' --some sort of value assigned to some entities on basis of utterly subjective/tentative axiological context by an axiological agent(OR group of agents).Hope it helps!rolling eyes


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