What is reality?
Science is extremely fascinating because it can tell us how things are. Sometimes it is straightforward, and sometimes it can be quite counterintuitive.
However, at the end of the day, even scientific arguments are just that — arguments, and their purpose is to convince. Yes, science is a set of extremely sophisticated tools of discovery, analysis, and argumentation, and the arguments it produces can be very intricate. But it is important to remember that conviction is the desired outcome of the whole process.
However, my experience tells me that to be convinced of something is quite a personal thing.
When I examine my convictions, I realize that at their bottom lie firmly held beliefs. I term them axioms, and I have described some of my musings on the subject in this article. For example, one such axiom would be that the material world, as a set of all material things, exist. What convinces me of it? Of course I can say that I can see and feel it, I can interact with it, experience it. But I can do so with a dream world too, and once I’m awake, I’m convinced that that was just an illusion. And why do senses convince me so much? Would I be more convinced if there was a scientific argument studying many other individuals who believe that such a world exist? Or if there was a study of the fact that it doesn’t exist? It probably depends on the argument.
However, similar to Descartes, trying to get to the bottom of things and understand what is truly convincing, I come to realization that everything is quite dubious in nature. However, it is easy to see that out of all these dubious things, personal existence seems to be the most convincing, yet still not free of doubts.
I have to admit that I agree with Descartes that this is one of the best starting points for any further inquiry. It is very refreshing to understand that the model and concepts that you can formulate from here will depend on the axioms that you will put together as the foundation. However, it is still a very personal thing to choose what is going to end up making its part.
And here is where I will probably lose every modern reader, admitting that one of my axioms is that consciousness is primary and matter is secondary.
I am especially convinced of it because I realize that we become aware of material only through consciousness and consciousness alone, as I have never “stepped outside” of my consciousness and “seen” the world as it is, and I am not aware of such possibility. Even when science claims to see the world for what it is, it is still a set of analytical tools made by conscious humans aimed to methodically describe a given phenomenon to our consciousness.
I am also convinced of this because reality, the world, can be described by us, and its descriptions can be more true and less true. When we learn through science that things are one way and not the other, for example that Earth isn’t at the center of the Universe, and that living organisms are composed of cells that are composed of carbon based matter, we essentially referring to this as what the world truly is, which doesn’t depend on what others think. However, in this case, the truth is nothing more than a description — funny, that science always describes things to be understood by humans or human made machines — it is certain understanding, certain imagination of how things are. The fact that science keeps on trying to get to the bottom of how things are means that at the bottom of it is a firm belief that world is nothing more than a description, an understanding, an imagination, but a very specific one. And these things are all part of consciousness. So, if scientists believe that there is reality, they believe that there is such an understanding, and this understanding to me is nothing other than a product of “super-consciousness.”
My experience tells me that accepting the axiomatic framework of idealism is less prone to contradictions than a materialistic one. For the materialistic framework can’t even describe what information is, let alone explain why mathematics describe the Universe or even give an coherent explanation of what makes something true or false. Yet, it gives a great example of how far you can go with a certain set of axioms.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate the fact that that it is important to understand how we become convinced of arguments, and that it doesn’t hurt to disassemble the axiomatic set on which your reality is based on as it is certainly going to prove very insightful.