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The Five Features of Reality Essay

There are five characteristics, or features, of reality. These five features are coherence, reflexivity, interaction, fragility, and permeability. This essay will discuss the meanings of these five features of reality. In addition, these features will be applied to the examples of religious beliefs and pygmalion in the classroom, in order to describe how the features work in these examples and provide a better understanding of the complexities of these features, and further, of reality itself. Coherence if the theory that suggests that perception is reality.

What a person believes in his mind is, therefore, real. The mind cannot distinguish between physical actions and imagined actions. For instance, a pianist can visualize that he is performing perfectly during a musical. The mind believes the pianist is playing well, that his task was completed. Therefore, the pianist’s reality is that he played well. Thagard (2007) theorized that coherence of the right kid, explanatory coherence, only provides an approximate truth. Explanatory coherence involves progressive theories that broaden as time passes.

Thagard’s theory of explanatory coherence has seven parts: Explanation, Analogy, Competition, Acceptance, Data Priority, Contradiction, and Symmetry. In the first part, explanation, a belief is coherent with its explanation. Multiple beliefs can cohere with each other when they explain a suggested belief together. However, when there are multiple beliefs for an explanation, coherence levels drop (Thagard, 2007). In the second part, analogy, similar beliefs are coherent when they explain similar parts of evidence.

In the part of competition, when two beliefs explain a suggested belief, but are not connected by any explanation, they are not coherent. In the part of explanation, the acceptability of a suggested belief system is dependent on coherence. In the part of data priority, suggested beliefs that describe the results of observations have a degree of acceptance on their own. In the part of contradiction, suggested beliefs that contradict each other are not coherent. In the final part of Thagard’s theory of explanatory coherence, symmetry, two suggested beliefs can cohere with each other (Thagard, 2007).

According to this theory, people will build models that are coherent with the models that they already have. Knowledge is not true, but it corresponds to outside realities. It is true because it is coherent with other knowledge (Thagard, 1989; Rescher, 1973). The theory of reflexivity states that reality contains unquestioned beliefs that cannot always be proven wrong, even when contradictory evidence is presented. Pfohl (1985) stated: “…reflexivity express(es) that paradoxical characteristic of human existence whereby objects only exist in the people who behold them.

In other words, for all practical purposes, who you are is never independent of the way in which I construct and express my understanding of you…There is no pure objectivity, or for that matter pure subjectivity…Everything is in relation to everything else. By the principle of indexicality I understand my interpretations of you to be bound by the social and material context in which we are related. Thus my grasp of you is never purely subjective. Yet, since I must make interpretive use of our context to arrive at a certain knowledge of you, it is also impossible for my knowledge to be purely objective.

” The reality feature of interaction states that all realities are created and maintained through social interaction. A belief is, therefore, socially constructed. In addition, changes can be made to a person’s beliefs through social interaction. Herbert Blumer (1962) theorized that meanings are handled, and modified, through an interpretive process that deals with the things a person encounters. The fragility feature states that realities are very fragile. Any reality is changeable when the rule to that reality is questioned.

A person’s construction of reality is so volatile, so fragile, that any questioning deviance can cause that person’s whole perception of reality to fall to pieces (Mehan & Wood, 1975). The final feature is permeability. It suggests that realities can be changed with changing a person’s cultural context. A person’s realities can change with the passage of time (Mehan & Wood, 1975). Applying the coherence feature of reality, the theological aspects and beliefs of religion’s followers is very coherent to them, regardless of whether other religions have the same aspects and beliefs.

Thus, a person’s religious beliefs are justified because their beliefs are based upon other beliefs. Religious coherence is relative to the body of a person’s theoretical doctrine. The theory of reflexivity suggests that religious beliefs can be compared to superstitions, in the sense that even if person A presents person B with information or proof that contradicts the beliefs of person B, person B still maintains the belief that they originally had. For instance, in many forms of the Catholic religion, the Church and its members believe in demonic possession.

Person B is Catholic, who has had a childhood friend that experienced an episode of demonic possession, with eventual intervention from the Church. Person B never actually witnessed any of such events, but still believes them to be true. Person A is a Baptist, who believes in demons, but not demonic possession. Person A presents person B with factual information, published by a well-known psychiatrist that states that demonic possession has been proven to be the result of severe mental dysfunction.

Person B refuses to believe the information and instead chooses to continue believing demonic possession is possible. If all realities are created, and further maintained, through social interaction, it can be theorized that a person learns religious beliefs and practices through the interaction of members of their religious organization. In addition, religious beliefs can also be changed by such interaction. Person A and person B, from the instance above, have a different set of religious beliefs. Person B starts to interact with person A more regularly, and starts to attend the Church’s services as well.

Person B gradually begins to adopt the same beliefs of person A, and can thereby justify their religious beliefs through social interaction with other members of the same religious group. In applying the theory of fragility to religious beliefs, it can be said that a person’s reality of religion can be changed if one crucial aspect of the religion is questioned. If the belief of the apostles is questioned, the reality of Jesus and God is also in question. If the reality of God and Jesus are in question, the whole religion is under scrutiny. The entire perception of the religion begins to fall apart.

Religious permeability theorizes that if you change the cultural aspects of a religion, realities of that religion can also be changed. Since religions involve a constant evolution of beliefs, and the introduction and removal of beliefs, defined by culture, it stands to reason that if you take a particular individual out of one culture and put him into a different culture, his religious beliefs will change as well. Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) studied their theory that a teacher’s expectations of a student affected the students performance and behavior.

If a teacher believed that a student would always behavior poorly, then the student’s behaviors would be poor. If a teacher believed that a student would perform well, the student would generally perform well. The coherence theory suggests that a teacher’s belief that a child is good or bad, or will succeed or fail, is real. The teacher visualizes a student’s success, or failure, in their mind, and therefore the mind assumes the reality that a student will perform exactly as envisioned. The teacher’s perception is real because the mind cannot make the distinction. The student’s reality can be similar.

Since the teacher’s visualization is assumed as reality, the student believes that the similar visualization of their own failure, or success, is real as well. The reflexivity theory suggests that if a teacher believes that, ultimately, a student will always have poor behavior, no other evidence will change this belief. The teacher’s reality is that the student is a failure. Even when there is evidence presented to contradict this belief, like rising grade levels, or less reports of trouble, the teacher’s belief remains the same. The student can perform poorly on many occasions and then begin to perform better.

The student’s reality is that they will always be a failure, regardless of improvements in behaviors or grades. Applying the interaction theory to pygmalion in the classroom presents a few possible scenarios. Interaction between the social constructs of teachers provides realities created by such social constructs. Interaction between the social constructs of students provides realities created by those social constructs. Social encounters between students and teachers also create realities. In the same way, realities of students and teachers can be changed by such social constructs.

The fragility and permeability features of reality suggest that if a teacher or student has a belief that is questioned, the belief system that hosts that particular belief is at risk for deconstruction. Also, if a reality can be changed by changing cultural contexts, under the permeability theory, it stands to reason that both the student and the teacher’s realities will change over time.

Works Cited Blumer, H. “Society as Symbolic Interaction,” in A. Rose Human Behavior and Social Process: An Interactionist Approach. Houghton-Mifflin, 1962. Mehan, H. & Wood, H. Five Features of Reality: The reality of ethnomethodology.

Wiley Publishers, 1975. Pfohl, S. Images of Deviance and Social Control: A Sociological History. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985. Rescher, N. The Coherence of Truth. London: Oxford University Press, 1973. Rosenthal, R & Jacobson, L. Pygmalion in the Classroom: Teacher Expectation and Pupils’ Intellectual Development. New York: Rinehart and Winston, 1968. Thagard, P. “Explanatory Coherence. ” Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12(1989): 435-467. Thagard, P. “Coherence, Truth, and the Development of Scientific Knowledge. ” Philosophy of Science, 74(2007): 28-47. Available at http://cogsci. uwaterloo. ca/Articles/coherence. truth. pos. 2007. pdf


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