The Nature of Reality

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 30 November 2016

The Nature of Reality

Reality is an illusion based on gene survivial-individual behaviour and even social institutions are expressions of genes, the vast majority of which are common to humans and the higher primates. The implicit, largely unconscious, principles that inform gene-determined human behaviour are rooted in their survival value; and the entity whose survival is served is not the conscious organism but the genome itself.

Since the actual reasons for our actions are beyond our ken, they are not truly voluntary. Yet more radical attacks on the notion of human freedom have come from neuroscience: ever more sophisticated and seemingly complete accounts of the human mind in terms of the functioning of our (animal, or physical) brains, appear to embed even higher level awareness in the material world. (3)

With the barriers between living- and non-living matter long pulled down, the gap between humans and other animals narrowed, and the identification of the human mind with the functioning of the brain, the assumption of a fundamental difference between human actions and other events in the material world–between deliberately chosen, reason-led, behaviour and materially caused material effects–seems shaky. The impersonal, unbreakable laws of the physical world encroach upon, engulf, and digest humanity.

Human beings are, it seems, sites like any others where the laws of nature operate, places through which pass the causal chains that originate outside of them. Given that humans are so completely embedded in a non-human (or not-specifically-human) material universe regulated according to laws of nature which are (almost by definition) absolutely unbroken regularities, (4) human freedom must be an illusion.

The fulfillment of the illusion did not happen instantaneously: human freedom has grown collectively over many hundreds of thousands of years and in parallel with the elaboration of millions of human selves and the collective world to which they contribute and upon which they draw. Reality is dependent on stored sensory memory (plato’s cave)- Sensory Memory contains information received immediately from a person’s senses into the human brain. Sensory information is stored for just an instant in sensory registers in the brain and is relatively unprocessed.

While this information [pic]is stored in our sensory memory, we decide which information is worth further processing (Matlin, 1998, pp. 105-106). The sensory memory discussed here is different from the memory of the senses, which may well be stored in long term memory. scientific theories, we should still beaware of Plato’s cave parable [1], according to which we are to consider ourselves as being prisoners in a cave restricted to seeing only shadows of the world outside. There can be different reactions to this reminder. One is to query if the apparent world out there, time [2, 3],free will [4, 5] are all illusions.

This was a radical conclusion indeed. But if accepted, how could this illusion come about, based on which assumptions considered to be fulfilled? A challenging task indeed, a happy playground for some philosophers [6]. However, for most physicists, Plato’s allegory essentially points in a different direction: (i) there is something “real“ outside, independent of us, but (ii) we have only limited access to this outside world. The cave may thus serve The Allegory of the Cave 1.

Plato realizes that the general run of humankind can think, and speak, etc., without (so far as they acknowledge) any awareness of his realm of Forms. 2. The allegory of the cave is supposed to explain this. 3. In the allegory, Plato likens people untutored in the Theory of Forms to prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is the wall of the cave. Behind them burns a fire. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a parapet, along which puppeteers can walk. The puppeteers, who are behind the prisoners, hold up puppets that cast shadows on the wall of the cave. The prisoners are unable to see these puppets, the real objects, that pass behind them.

What the prisoners see and hear are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see. Here is an illustration of Plato’s Cave: [pic] From Great Dialogues of Plato: Complete Texts of the Republic, Apology, Crito Phaido, Ion, and Meno, Vol. 1. (Warmington and Rouse, eds. ) New York, Signet Classics: 1999. p. 316. 4. Such prisoners would mistake appearance for reality. They would think the things they see on the wall (the shadows) were real; they would know nothing of the real causes of the shadows. 5. So when the prisoners talk, what are they talking about?

If an object (a book, let us say) is carried past behind them, and it casts a shadow on the wall, and a prisoner says “I see a book,” what is he talking about? He thinks he is talking about a book, but he is really talking about a shadow. But he uses the word “book. ” What does that refer to? 6. Plato gives his answer at line (515b2). The text here has puzzled many editors, and it has been frequently emended. The translation in Grube/Reeve gets the point correctly: “And if they could talk to one another, don’t you think they’d suppose that the names they used applied to the things they see passing before them? ” 7.

Plato’s point is that the prisoners would be mistaken. For they would be taking the terms in their language to refer to the shadows that pass before their eyes, rather than (as is correct, in Plato’s view) to the real things that cast the shadows. If a prisoner says “That’s a book” he thinks that the word “book” refers to the very thing he is looking at. But he would be wrong. He’s only looking at a shadow. The real referent of the word “book” he cannot see. To see it, he would have to turn his head around. 8. Plato’s point: the general terms of our language are not “names” of the physical objects that we can see.

They are actually names of things that we cannot see, things that we can only grasp with the mind. 9. When the prisoners are released, they can turn their heads and see the real objects. Then they realize their error. What can we do that is analogous to turning our heads and seeing the causes of the shadows? We can come to grasp the Forms with our minds. 10. Plato’s aim in the Republic is to describe what is necessary for us to achieve this reflective understanding. But even without it, it remains true that our very ability to think and to speak depends on the Forms.

For the terms of the language we use get their meaning by “naming” the Forms that the objects we perceive participate in. 11. The prisoners may learn what a book is by their experience with shadows of books. But they would be mistaken if they thought that the word “book” refers to something that any of them has ever seen. Likewise, we may acquire concepts by our perceptual experience of physical objects. But we would be mistaken if we thought that the concepts that we grasp were on the same level as the things we perceive.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 30 November 2016

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