Our belief in the fundamental reality of the material world – what we can see, hear, taste and touch – is so strong that it utterly dominates not just our psychological landscape but our intellectual one as well. In the halls of science, there is no greater truth that the material truths, based mostly on mathematics, that have been discovered by the great scientists of the post enlightenment era – Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, Einstein, Schrodinger, Heisenberg… Their ‘discoveries’ provide the basis of Physics, as an academic discipline, but also provide the basis for what most scientifically minded intellectuals considers real – provide the definition for reality essentially.
Philosophy grapples with these issues, in particular philosophy of science, but this boundary between Physics and the rest of science is pretty strong – just ask any Physicist. Their grounds for this delineation, and they are sound grounds really, is the mathematical precision and predictive power of their ‘discoveries’. But their discoveries are of measurable quantities and their values ultimately, not of metaphysical or philosophical principles from which Reality, or even Nature, are constructed out of. This leads us to a bit of a predicament, in particular in light of Quantum Mechanics, where it is not clear what the mathematical formulation upon which it is based, nor on some of its fundamental principles, that the materialistic and mechanistic view of reality that we have since the post-enlightenment era can still stand.
We look at this notion of what I call ‘objective realism’, its implications, strengths and weaknesses and in general the problems associated with confusing the map with the territory (Pirsig, 1974) in my latest diary entry published yesterday on the tube here. Enjoy a few minutes of an intellectual journey into what we think of as real, and whether or not our current definitions of the same are in need of some revision.
And happy new year folks. Let’s make it a good one.