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How is reality objective?

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I am currently in an argument with my cousin (we are both fans of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged), and we are discussing Objectivism, specifically whether or not reality can be objective. He argues that reality cannot be objective, because two people can see two different things and they can both assume that what they are seeing is correct. For example, I could see an empty room, but he may see the same room with dancing pink elephants all over the place (such as a hallucination). How can you possibly know what is real and what is not? Which reality is right? Is it possible to say a reality is right, since everyone could just be living in their own subjective reality?

Edited by whackedspinach
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Reality is absolute because the primacy of existence states the irrefutable truth that existence is primary and consciousness is secondary. Existence is independent of Consciousness.

So there is a higher existence that everyone perceives differently? Isn't that basically the same as saying everyone's reality is subjective?

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So there is a higher existence that everyone perceives differently? Isn't that basically the same as saying everyone's reality is subjective?

I don't get what you mean. What is "a higher existence that everyone perceives differently?"

An absolute and objective reality means that reality is not subjected to wishes, whims, prayers, or miracles. If you want to change the world, you must act according to reality. Nothing else will affect reality. If you evade this fact, your actions will most likely not have their desired effects such as praying a bar of gold will drop from the sky.

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I don't get what you mean. What is "a higher existence that everyone perceives differently?"

Is there one true absolute existence? If this existence exists (i.e. everything is not just a figment of my imagination), how can I prove that what I see or interpret is the true existence?

Example:

If I saw an empty room and a person on drugs sees a room full of people, who is viewing the real world and whose mind is "editing" the existence to add or remove people to the room? And if neither of us can be proven right, how do we know there is an absolute existence?

Edit: Grammar and organization

Edited by whackedspinach
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Because it is consistent. Using your example of the pink elephants, you could see them once, but they would not always be there. Additionally none of your other senses would represent them. Nothing but a misguided sense would say they were there.

Now when your sense are functioning right everything is consistent and perceived by others as well. This tells you there must be some consistent reality or else knowledge and living would be impossible.

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I think you are confusing objectivity with relationship. That you and another see something, say a room, somewhat differently does not refute that there is an objective existent there that is distinct from yourselves and other existents. That you see things a little differently is proof of that each of you has a different relationship to the room. Different position in space and time, different sensory apparatus, different interpretive faculties. Because humans have similar systems the sensory data delivered to your interpretive organ will be similar, but the presence of different views and sensory data doesn't make the observed existent a subjective phenomenon. Looking at the room through infrared doesn't change the room, it gives you a view of what is there. Seeing pink elephants there doesn't make reality subjective, it makes your neurology disordered. You can trust your senses to provide generally accurate data on reality because evolution has for the most part weeded out grossly insufficient sensory and interpretive faculties from your species and your entire existence has steadily built empirical data that confirms the validity of your senses.

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Is it possible to prove that my consistent senses are a true representation of existence?

You are coming at this from the wrong angle. What evidence do you have that something exists other than the way you know the world via your senses and reason? There is no such evidence anything else is there. If you are talking about a drugged out person who has tampered with his wetware to the point he doesn't know reality from illusion, you don't have to accept that what he claims to see is really there. Go by your own evidence. Besides, i think the person you are arguing with is making that up anyhow. I don't know of anyone who has been on drugs who claims to see something that isn't there, like dancing pink elephants in an empty room. He might be imagining those pink elephants, and maybe in a drugged state he can't tell the difference between his imagination and reality, but he's not actually seeing the pink elephants, he's imagining them. If you mess with your wetware with drugs that distort perception, you have to keep that in mind, that his perception and differentiation between reality and imagination has been impaired. It doesn't mean you have to take that impairment at face value -- that he is really seeing pink elephants when there aren't any in the room. A drugged mind is not the standard for any epistemological principle -- a drugged mind is not a key to reality. If a man pokes out his eyes and then says he sees real reality, you ought to claim that he destroyed his means of perception; and likewise for someone on a heavy drug overdose -- he has destroyed his mind's ability to be aware of existence, so give him no credence.

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Reality is absolute because the primacy of existence states the irrefutable truth that existence is primary and consciousness is secondary. Existence is independent of Consciousness.

The thread is basically over, but I just can't restrain myself from bitching about this awful reply.

The OP needs clarification on what objectivity means, and how the perceptions of different people can be reconciled. This reply is not only a non-sequitur, the way it is stated is rationalistic appeal to dogma. Reality is not absolute because of anything anyone could possibly say or write, it just is. I post to a couple of places across the internet in threads about the new Rand books coming out, fighting the charge Rand's Objectivism is a cult, and then come back here to this. This is just embarrassing. :P

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I am currently in an argument with my cousin (we are both fans of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged), and we are discussing Objectivism, specifically whether or not reality can be objective. He argues that reality cannot be objective, because two people can see two different things and they can both assume that what they are seeing is correct. For example, I could see an empty room, but he may see the same room with dancing pink elephants all over the place (such as a hallucination). How can you possibly know what is real and what is not? Which reality is right? Is it possible to say a reality is right, since everyone could just be living in their own subjective reality?

You can’t ascribe attributes to reality, because reality simply is. So, in the strict sense, reality isn’t objective. How can you know what is real and what is not? There is only one way: thinking. Now, since you can’t argue by reference to nothing, the first thing to do is ask for evidence. If he can’t offer any, then you can throw out his proposition without any further argumentation. Suffice it to say that your example contradicts known facts of reality. I won’t go into detail, but you should know that arbitrary assertions are automatically invalidated. Also, to ask which reality is right is a big mistake, since to be right is to identify a fact of reality. For the sake of full clarity, there is only one reality; not two, not four, not ten. This issue has been discussed in other threads, so that would be a better place for you to start.

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The thread is basically over, but I just can't restrain myself from bitching about this awful reply.

The OP needs clarification on what objectivity means, and how the perceptions of different people can be reconciled. This reply is not only a non-sequitur, the way it is stated is rationalistic appeal to dogma. Reality is not absolute because of anything anyone could possibly say or write, it just is. I post to a couple of places across the internet in threads about the new Rand books coming out, fighting the charge Rand's Objectivism is a cult, and then come back here to this. This is just embarrassing. :dough:

Thanks for that, I was thinking the same thing.

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It does not matter how many times you repeat the fact of the primacy of existence to a hardcore subjectivist, he will evade it with appeals to the authority of his/her experience. Even if they concede that there is an objective reality, they want it both ways and will state that ones perception of such a reality is not complete and never can be due to faults in ones perceptions. Kantianism at work. It is pointless debating with such a person if they do not accept the intial premise of the primacy of existence. Only when they accept this can they be open to further discussion.

Edited by Axiomatic
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I post to a couple of places across the internet in threads about the new Rand books coming out, fighting the charge Rand's Objectivism is a cult, and then come back here to this. This is just embarrassing. :P

Objectivism is a pretty open "cult", all the information one needs is available online for free, or for very little money in her bokks, on official AR websites. Anyone who doesn't bother reading about it before they comment is a moron, for reasons 100% unrelated to any mistake made in this thread, by anyone.

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My response in another thread, after considering this issue, was that reason is objective, so it can be used to perceive an objective reality through senses that may provide subjective data.

You can see pink elephants, or not, but there are more senses than sight, there is data over a period of time, there are the witnesses of other people and their senses. If you integrate all the available data using reason, you can come to a conclusion about objective reality. That isn't a guarantee that your outcome is perfect, but it is objective - reason and logic can't vary from person to person.

That's my personal conclusion, as a 'fan' and student of Objectivism, not an official one. However, I hope it helps you win a debate against your cousin.

Edited by ZSorenson
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The thread is basically over, but I just can't restrain myself from bitching about this awful reply.

The OP needs clarification on what objectivity means, and how the perceptions of different people can be reconciled. This reply is not only a non-sequitur, the way it is stated is rationalistic appeal to dogma. Reality is not absolute because of anything anyone could possibly say or write, it just is. I post to a couple of places across the internet in threads about the new Rand books coming out, fighting the charge Rand's Objectivism is a cult, and then come back here to this. This is just embarrassing. :)

Sorry about the bad reply. Still new and learning about Objectivism.

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You can see pink elephants, or not, but there are more senses than sight, there is data over a period of time, there are the witnesses of other people and their senses. If you integrate all the available data using reason, you can come to a conclusion about objective reality. That isn't a guarantee that your outcome is perfect, but it is objective - reason and logic can't vary from person to person.

This is a good description of the method of validating one's senses.

When people talk about "objective" reality, what they're talking about is *validated* perception--one which they have confirmed as originating outside the operations of their sensory apparatus. Over time this confirmation becomes accepted as the norm and many people seem to have difficulty distinguishing between validated perceptions and whatever they happen to perceive. Terry Pratchett actually has a phrase for people who stick always with validated perception: he says that they have "First Sight", to see what is really there instead of what their mind tells them ought to be there. Because it's also a fact that the mind does some filling-in for you if you're not completely focused. Stage magicians take advantage of this fact in their illusions.

Objective is not a metaphysical term, but an *epistemological* one. It is not a totally independent conclusion but rests on metaphysics, to whit, that there is something, it is what it is, and you are aware of it. While perception needs to be validated by tying it back to reality, metaphysics *is* reality, there is nothing to tie it back to. If your friend wants to say that there is no existence independent of consciousness, then all he can do is shut up because there is nothing to discuss and discussion is pointless.

I'd ask him, though, if his consciousness controls reality, why isn't he ruling his own little private universe where nothing happens but what he wants?

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Objective reality means that one understands that existence exists independent of one's consciousness and is fundamental epistemologically -- i.e. one's reason must be based upon the facts of reality, and not one's wishes, hopes, or fears. While optical illusions exist and one can be confused about what one is really seeing, one has to take the evidence of the senses as valid -- of giving real information about existence -- and check one's premises about what one may have seen or heard. One can cross validate the senses -- say seeing with touch -- but one has to be aware that one's senses do not distort reality -- that one observes reality the way it really is and one is not presented with illusions.

I, personally, have never seen something that wasn't there or heard something that wasn't there; though there have been times when I have had to continue to observe until I was clear on what I was seeing. I've never experience having illusions or having something appear to me that wasn't really there, and I think a lot of these claims are just people not paying attention enough to what was going on and intellectually misinterpreted what they were seeing.

As an example, a friend and myself once went camping and were sitting outside our tent one evening, when something seemed to be coming down silently out of the sky at us. We kept looking and would have sworn some sort of flying and silent aircraft was landing upon us. After further inspection, turns out it was clouds spreading out showing the moon behind them, so it looked like that big bright thing was getting larger and larger. In a sense, it was an illusion, there wasn't really something getting larger and larger, it was just the moon coming out from behind some clouds, but we were able to see that's what it was by continued observations. Our sense were accurate, and it really did look like something was getting larger and larger, like it was getting closer and closer. But this was a misidentification of what was really happening. Our senses didn't deceive us, we interpreted what we were seeing incorrectly.

I don't really buy into the idea that certain drugs will make you see things that aren't there, at least I have never experienced that, and I don't do drugs, but even first-hand accounts of what drug users were seeing was a misinterpretation due to messing with the wetware so that their perception actually was distorted -- reality wasn't distorted, their senses were, in these kinds of cases.

The fundamental that needs to be accepted to grasps that reality is objective is to realize that existence exists independent of oneself; that neither your senses nor your mind makes reality what it is. Existence exists, and only existence exists, regardless of misinterpretations or drug misuse.

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  • 1 month later...
I am currently in an argument with my cousin (we are both fans of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged), and we are discussing Objectivism, specifically whether or not reality can be objective. He argues that reality cannot be objective, because two people can see two different things and they can both assume that what they are seeing is correct. For example, I could see an empty room, but he may see the same room with dancing pink elephants all over the place (such as a hallucination). How can you possibly know what is real and what is not? Which reality is right? Is it possible to say a reality is right, since everyone could just be living in their own subjective reality?

Simple. Reality is what it is regardless of how people perceive it. What anyone "sees" does not determine what reality is. To claim that reality is subjective is plain nonsense that only the mystic and/or the insane believe. Reality is not whatever the sane or insane perceive. It is the universe as it is.

One can argue about the validity of perception, but not about the nature of that which is perceived. Fortunately, there are tools available for us to determine the validity of what we perceive, namely the scientific method backed by solid philosophy (Objectivism).

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Objectivism is a pretty open "cult", all the information one needs is available online for free, or for very little money in her bokks, on official AR websites. Anyone who doesn't bother reading about it before they comment is a moron, for reasons 100% unrelated to any mistake made in this thread, by anyone.

A cult that, more than anything else, demands people apply reason to reality - essentially thinking for themselves? Absurd. A cult of hardcore individualists? Nonsense.

During the Q&A of Rand's second appearance on Donahue, an audience member claimed to have been influenced by Rand's writing in the past but, fortunately, was no longer part of Rand's cult. Rand cut her off, saying, "I am not a cult!" Indeed - no individual could be, and no true individual could belong to one.

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Sorry about the bad reply. Still new and learning about Objectivism.

Hi, allow me to give you some pointers.

In your reply, you stated:

Reality is absolute because the primacy of existence states the irrefutable truth that existence is primary and consciousness is secondary

I have put your claim in bold, and your grounds for that claim in italics. This is essentially circular. It is similar to making the scientific claim "Voltage is proportional to resistance because ohms law says that voltage is proportional to resistance". This is of course untrue - it amounts to "because I(or Rand) said so".

In future, it might be worth mentioning in your post that you are presenting your own grasp of the topic, and not claiming to present the Objectivist theory. Something like "I'm still learning Objectivism, but as I understand it…" - this etiquette will make sure people don't assume the worst of you.

If you want to clear the issue up in your own mind, Dr Peikoff's OPAR has a brilliant description of the metaphysical premises of Objectivism.

Have fun learning =)

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