Philosophy, Society

What is reality?

Saying “reality is everything” is hardly helpful. In fact, it’s “obscurantist”: a position which, deliberately or not, actually lessens human knowledge. The reason for this is that in order to understand what you mean by reality is everything, we must first understand what you mean by “thing.” There’s no other option because “reality is everything” is far too vague to mean anything in and of itself. Now, you and I no doubt disagree on what “things” actually are, as I would regard them as separate entities in physical reality and you might regard all nouns as things (just guessing). So right there we’re stuck.

What you’re talking about is ontology, the nature of existence. Ontological questions have been asked and answered for nearly 3000 years (if not longer) and no one has yet come up with a definitive answer. (They come up with answers, but everyone else disagrees.) I mean, there is a definitive answer: the common sense one. To paraphrase an existentialist – I think it was Ortega y Gasset, but maybe not – existence is a fact in which we are plunged up to our ears. It is everywhere for us to see and experience. The only way we deny reality is through abstract reasoning, such as saying “reality is everything.”

The argument that physical reality isn’t everything is one of Karl Popper’s non-falsifiable arguments. I can never prove you wrong because we can never observe this “everything” you claim as reality in any objective way. As a result, the argument will be endless with no human being ever proving beyond doubt that they are correct in their views.

So I can’t help but say, “what is the point?” And I can’t help but think that the time and energy of smart people is better spent on actual problems that impact actual lives.

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