Does objective reality exist?

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Most people assume that there's an objective reality in which all of us exist, with facts that are universally true and more than just a matter of opinion. However, others argue that there is no such thing as objective reality, that everything is subjective and that anything can be questioned or legitimately disagreed with, even facts that used to have near-universal agreement.

So who is right about the nature of reality? Is there an objective reality that we are all a part of? Does objective reality truly exist?

Definitions[edit | edit source]

  • Subjective reality means that something is actual depending on the mind. For example: someone walks by a flower and experiences the beauty of the flower. Would you say that the experience of beauty is dependent or independent of the mind? Would the experience of the form in general of the flower be dependent on the mind?
  • Objective reality means that something is actual (so it exists) independent of the mind. For example: while no one is nearby, a meteor crashes into a car, putting it on flames, leaving only a pile of ashes. Are any of these events depending on some mind? It is actually hard to state a purely objective reality example, as one needs to describe it in concepts that are interpreted by the mind. You see the difficulty? Anything related to experience, like form, weight, heat, color, beauty, etc, etc is dependent on a mind. So we could say, that objective reality is formless. Only when observed by a mind, there is form. This has lots of similarities with a computer rendered game. The scenario is there, but unless it is rendered on the screen, it is formless. So objective reality is here, but unless it is 'rendered' on consciousness, it is formless.

Objective reality exists[edit | edit source]

Arguments for[edit | edit source]

  • Argument for — Humans have physically similar brains and nervous systems. These similarities result in similar interpretations of similar stimuli. The fact that two people, located side by side, and looking in the same direction, describe similarly what they see, reasonably indicates that they are reacting to a single external reality. In the case of hallucinations, radical differences in two people's descriptions of a single aspect of a presumed single external reality, can occur. Some such differences can repeatably be demonstrated to coincide with chemical or structural differences in one nervous system as compared to the other. When such demonstrably dissimilar chemistry or structure are returned to similar states, the re-emergence of the similar descriptions are likely to return as well. Again, this fact is reasonably attributable to there being a single external reality, and multiple various internal realities whose differences are a result of various nervous systems functioning with various abilities, structures, chemistries, locations, experience and knowledge.
    • Objection — Does agreement of description necessarily imply objectivity? Imagine if half of humankind saw the color "green" as the color "red". Regardless of how true this scenario is, note that there would be a clear subjectivity of how we view the environment. Half the population would see a different color than the other half. We would no longer agree, and couldn't agree.
    • Objection — Is it necessarily true that we share a physical brain structure? Certainly, according to science, this is very true, but that says nothing about the existence of an objective reality, because where science comes from is perceived, whether directly by us or through the measurements and assumptions we make, which is an inherently subjective process. This argument takes subjective ideas to be objective, and draws assumptions from them.
  • Argument for — There is no evidence that objective reality doesn't exist, so Occam's razor suggests we ought to accept it as the simplest possible explanation for reality.
    • Objection — If a particle or set of particles in quantum physics can be in 2 different contradictory states at the same time, as in the Schrödinger's cat paradox, that could be considered evidence to the contrary.
      • Objection — Quantum physics might seem contradictory, and in fact it is with traditional logic, but if one uses quantum logic, which theoretical physicists have developed and which is the same as traditional logic other than abandoning the law of commutativity, there are not any contradictions in it at all.
    • Objection — Occam's Razor is not necessarily true, it is just a general guideline to help people guess the most likely answer to a question. It's still wrong sometimes. In the case of objective reality, at best it proves that it's "more likely" to exist than not, whatever that means.
    • Objection — The concept of "simple" is subjective due to the subjectivity of the construction of definitions, so it cannot be used to prove the existence of objectivity, which requires the definitions to be true regardless of perspective (or lack of perspective).
  • Argument for — The theory that we all exist in an objective reality is the best theory anyone has ever come up with to describe the conditions in which we appear to exist, so unless anyone comes up with a better theory we should stick with it.
    • Objection — We don't necessarily need to assume anything at all regarding reality and whether or not an objective reality exists. We can remain agnostic on the subject until there is sufficient evidence to prove things one way or the other.
      • Objection — Being agnostic on the subject is not a position against the existence of objective reality, but instead a neutral position that doesn't take either side in the argument. I have not entirely made up my mind 100% sure either way on objective reality myself, but I am about 99% sure that objective reality exists. I could call myself agnostic on the subject too, but those of us who are agnostic on the subject ought to lean in favor of whatever seems to be the most probable explanation.
    • Objection — This just assumes that it exists for the sake of ease (similar to the Occam's Razor proof above). As with that one, I point out that "best" is subjective in nature, and what you consider "best" may be different from what I consider "best". I too, think that there exists an objective reality, but to assume it just exists is just circumventing the purpose of debating this. That is not to say that you cannot have your own opinion on this matter, only that your opinion is not sufficient for a proof.
  • Argument for — All realities exist, including both objective and subjective realities, which exist as parallel realities or as a kind of multiverse. In other words, the philosophy of modal realism is correct.
    • Objection — Modal realism is too radical of a multiverse theory to take seriously. It proposes that all proposed fictional worlds (not just proposed real worlds) actually exist.
      • Objection — This is an attempt to shame people into not believing the argument. Sometimes radical viewpoints turn out to be true.
    • Objection — This doesn't prove objective reality, because it doesn't prove that all realities exist. If all realities existed, then objective reality would exist too, but it isn't necessarily true that all realities exist.
  • Argument for — If objective truth doesn't exist, that fact would be in and of itself an objective truth, disproving itself.
    • Objection — This only proves the existence of an objective truth, not of an objective reality. No argument is given to prove that an objective truth implies an objective reality.
  • Argument for — Some facts have no non-objective interpretation, and are universally accepted as objectively true. Example: The Statue of Liberty exists in Upper New York Bay. There is no alternative, subjective interpretation possible.
    • Objection — The statue and location are known by other names in other languages. There are no universally agreed names for anything.
      • Objection — Changing the name of the statue or location does not change the fact that everyone can perceive that the statue does indeed exist in objective reality.
        • Objection — Blind people can not see the statue in the same way. Nor can people who have lost their sense of touch feel the statue in the same way. Our perception depends on our available biological configuration as it were.
  • Argument for — Since our realities all interact and we are able to independently observe the same things and do experiments that have reproducible results, clearly we are all part of the same reality.
    • Objection — Not necessarily, you could be a figment of my imagination, or we could both be figments of somebody else's imagination.
      • Objection — The human mind is not creative enough to imagine the reality we find ourselves in.
    • Objection — Maybe nobody exists at all and everything is imaginary.
      • Objection — As Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am."
        • Objection — "I think, therefore I am" is a logical fallacy because fictional characters in a story can say that, but it doesn't turn them into real people.
          • Objection — Simply because a fictional representation of an actual phenomena is presented to the reader does not invalidate it as an actual phenomena outside the fiction.

Arguments against[edit | edit source]

  • Argument against — Starting from an objective perspective, the objective world exists and the subjective one does not. "Feelings", for instance, exist only as neuron firing patterns and not as they are felt subjectively, because that would not fit into the objective world view. Similarly, starting from a subjective perspective, the objective reality does not exist. Objects exist only as their perceptions and affects on subjective reality, not as a thing-in-itself. Because I surely perceive from a subjective perspective, I assert the denial of an objective reality. So both realities are mutually exclusive. Any starting perception would deny the other reality's existence.
  • Argument against — The existence of an objective reality has never been proven, and all of what we think of reality could just be something similar to the Matrix or a computer simulation or we could all just be characters in someone's dream.
    • Objection — Those are all unlikely scenarios which are similarly unproven.
    • Objection — Even if the Matrix scenario were real, the Matrix itself exists within a larger reality that actually is objective, and in that reality, the people who exist in the Matrix all have physical bodies hooked up to the Matrix, so even if the Matrix turned out to be real, we would still be living in an objective reality. Similarly with the other scenarios.
  • Argument against — There are multiple possible scenarios in which objective reality is wrong, and only one in which it is correct. If we assign an equal level of probability to each one, objective reality is actually highly unlikely.
    • Objection — There is no rational basis for assigning an equal level of probability to the idea that we are all living in the Matrix just like in that movie and the idea that we all actually exist in one single objective reality.
      • Objection — Simply because a scenario makes "the most sense" does not mean that it is correct (see refutations to "Occam's Razor" above). Similarly, just because a scenario is unlikely/unproven, does not mean that it is false (just look to the numerous unproven conjectures in mathematics as an example - both the ones that are currently unproven but seem to be true, and the ones that used to seem true but are now proven to be false).
    • Objection — As a matter of fact, probability shouldn't really be assigned here; this is to prove whether or not an objective reality exists, not if we can ever find such an objective reality. The two arguments are different (though one directly proves the other).
  • Argument against — Reality nowadays is just too ridiculous to be true. Too many practically unbelievable things keep being reported as factual.
    • Objection — This reflects a failure of imagination on the part of the human mind to understand and accept objective reality. It does not disprove objective reality. As the saying goes, "Truth is stranger than fiction." This would seem to indicate that, if reality seems incredibly ridiculous and weird, it probably really is real, since it is many times weirder than anything the limited capacity of the human imagination could possibly think up using only the creativity of a single finite mortal human mind.
      • Objection — Multiple people can work together to create a very intricate and detailed narrative that runs counter to reality. Who is to say that the most popular narrative used to describe what people call "objective reality" is not similarly false, with its elaborate complexity and absurdity the result of the cooperation of many people?
        • Objection — There is a major qualitative difference between double-blind peer-reviewed scientific studies with reproducible results and conspiracy theories or tall tales that are simply made up. Your argument deliberately ignores this in order to equate the two and dismiss both of them.
  • Argument against — We all live in our own subjective realities. The human mind is not capable of being truly objective. Therefore, the entire idea of a single objective reality is purely speculative, an assumption that, while popular, is not necessary.
    • Objection — Why must there exist only one objective reality? This has not been proven (though it is not particularly relevant to the point of the argument).
    • Objection — This isn't about the necessity of believing whether or not an objective reality exists, this is about whether or not an objective reality exists.
  • Argument againstPostmodernism is one of many philosophies that does not believe in any objective reality and successfully undermines the idea of objective reality.
    • Objection — Postmodernism is rather absurd, either sheer nihilism or some form of relativism, disbelieving in things that are obvious facts.
      • Objection — "Obvious" is subjective - though saying that doesn't take much away from the argument. I will preface my objection by stating that I have not personally researched postmodernism in depth, so I do not know what facts are exactly disbelieved by postmodernism. That said, postmodernism is built upon skepticism of facts in general, which is understandable, considering that our facts come from what we observe, and our perspectives are subjective. Thus, disbelief of facts in general is not particularly absurd. As an example, flat-earth was assumed to be fact for an incredibly long time (and by some people, it still is assumed to be true), but was eventually disproved. There's no reason that any of our present facts won't have the same thing happen to them either.
    • Objection — Postmodernism has not been proven.
      • Objection — Postmodernism doesn't have to be 'proven'.
        • Objection — In the context of this debate, postmodernism, as a matter of fact, does need to be proven. The argument is assuming that postmodernism is true, but does not prove that the ideas and beliefs expressed by postmodernism are factual. As of right now, there is no particular reason for me to believe that postmodernism is "true" - that is, the concepts that form postmodernism are objectively true.
  • Argument against — Again one must consider using which parameters is objective reality to be understood. How is it perceived or measured. To be truly objective, objective reality must be perceived and measured without any limits or filters. Because any such limitations arise from a subjective viewpoint. For example, humans perceive 0.0035% of the entire electromagnetic spectrum. But the entire electromagnetic spectrum must be included in an understanding of objective reality. Any scientific instrument is likewise circumscribed in its ability to measure everything. Therefore what is objective must be unlimited - everything that is possible. And that means the whole universe without limits. All of it including dark matter, dark energy etc. And such an understanding is only theoretically possible for the whole universe itself to have. We humans are permanently in subjective reality, as are all conscious life forms.
    • Objection — Objective reality must exist independent of subjective reality. Just because we do not or cannot perceive it, does not mean it does not exist.
  • Argument against — As it is impossible to see the world, that is the eyes are like cameras only receiving light, they supposedly get two images, somehow these images get merged as one and then projected as "the world around us". The same can be said of all the senses. And, this sense of world includes the body which is external to that which sees it.
    • Objection — What does this say about the existence of an objective reality? Is an objective reality necessarily perceived? It certainly isn't by the definition above, and it certainly isn't by my definition.
  • Argument against — The fact that objective reality is a debatable concept makes objective reality subjective.
    • Objection — Debating its existence does not make its existence subjective, it just means that we do not have enough evidence (and may never have the evidence) to prove that it exists. For instance, debating if the twin prime conjecture is true does not disprove it, only shows that we do not have enough information to currently prove it.
    • Objection — Debatability does not imply subjectivity. A debate could be caused by a mistaken interlocutor, with the debated subject nevertheless being objective.
  • Argument against — Recent physics experiments suggest objective reality isn't real but directly relative to individual perceptions, and is basically a subjectively manifested, consciously perceived, and somewhat mutually agreed upon collective manifestation.[1][2]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. "A quantum experiment suggests there's no such thing as objective reality". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 2021-10-03.
  2. "New Physics Experiment Indicates There's No Objective Reality". interestingengineering.com. 2021-08-30. Retrieved 2021-10-03.