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The Nature of Reality

January 23, 2018

 

Hannah Jones

Staff Reporter | hej006@latech.edu

 

What is more real–the words you are reading or the color red? The person who sits next to you in class or your own consciousness? Why do you say one is more real than the other?

 

The questions of what is most real and what the scale would be with which one could determine what is most real have been debated for centuries, since the very first philosophers.

 

Two well known Greek philosophers who paved the way for modern Western philosophy—Plato and his student, Aristotle–took opposing sides to these questions.

 

Plato is known for his immaterialist stance, believing the spiritual (such as love, a divine being, concepts and ideas, etc.) to be most real. Aristotle believed the opposite, claiming that materialism—what one could see, touch, measure; how well things can be observed—defines what is most real.

 

Materialists would answer the above questions with the first option, attributing their opinion to the logic that what can be measured or observed by the five senses is the most real. To illustrate this point is the cliched line when you wish to know whether or not you’re dreaming: “I pinched myself and didn’t wake up—it must be real”. The physical pain in this illustration goes beyond the imagination.

 

Immaterialists, on the other hand, would answer the introductory questions with the second option, declaring that what cannot be seen or touched or measured exceeds what can be. Their argument would be that what cannot be measured or observed cannot be changed and if it cannot be changed, then surely immaterial side of life must be what is most real. This logic would reason that the immaterial is independent of the material–the physical world is not needed in order for our minds to function.

 

But then this argument for immaterialism brings up the question of whether or not change and interdependency affect reality. Is reality what doesn’t change—is it eternal? Is interdependency a dependant of reality?

 

In other words, if a chair can be broken down, is it more real than the idea of “chair” that simply stays in our minds? Or would the idea of a “chair,” which in everyone’s minds appears different, be less real than the chair of which everyone could make the same observations?

 

What is most real? What is your perception of reality? Is it your perception of reality that is true reality and is therefore most real? Is true reality even able to be determined?

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