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I'm sure quite a few of you have heard the philosophical idea that goes along the lines of - "You can't be sure the universe even exists. It may just be an illusion, dream, the matrix, etc".

I've heard it regularly lately and I know it's flawed and it seems inherently contradictory. But i can't express in words why it is.

I was just wondering if anyone could give a clear sort of answer explaining just what is wrong with such an idea.

Thank you.

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I'm sure quite a few of you have heard the philosophical idea that goes along the lines of - "You can't be sure the universe even exists. It may just be an illusion, dream, the matrix, etc".

I've heard it regularly lately and I know it's flawed and it seems inherently contradictory. But i can't express in words why it is.

I was just wondering if anyone could give a clear sort of answer explaining just what is wrong with such an idea.

Thank you.

If we discovered that we were contained in something that gave rise to what we know as the 3d world it wouldn't affect the validity of our metaphysical conclusions. We know this because if such a thing were discovered, we would have discovered this through a means of reason based on sense perception, based on the three fundamental axioms of Existence, Identity, and Consciousness.

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I'm sure quite a few of you have heard the philosophical idea that goes along the lines of - "You can't be sure the universe even exists. It may just be an illusion, dream, the matrix, etc".

I've heard it regularly lately and I know it's flawed and it seems inherently contradictory. But i can't express in words why it is.

I was just wondering if anyone could give a clear sort of answer explaining just what is wrong with such an idea.

Thank you.

"Illusion," "dream," and "the matrix" are all stolen concepts in the argument you are citing. What IS an illusion? To define it, one must contrast it with existence. Same for dream and matrix, etc. What does the questioner mean by "exist" when he supposed that the universe doesn't exist? If he can't say what it means, his point is vaccuous. If he can say what it means, he believes himself to know, and therefore he affirms, existence.

-- Mindy

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DISCLAIMER (lol): Please don't take my opinion to be an informed one. I'm a math major and I've only recently begun flirting with philosophical teachings so I'm still very naive, and my skill with the language is rudimentary at best. So I'm basing my stance on my interpretation of several YouTube videos I watched of Ayn Rand so I'm sorry if it's unsophisticated or completely wrong. Please, please, please... if I am wrong I hope someone will correct me.

In trying to invalidate existence with the argument you cited, in this case that existence is illusory, one must first acknowledge existence. To define what isn't you automatically adopt a standard of what is to achieve your conclusions, or in other words, existence is the necessary context for all things, we always, whether we realize it or not, measure a "negative" by its "positive" (the reverse is impossible).

Can a seasoned veteran tell me if my interpretation is right or wrong or at least on the right path?

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DISCLAIMER (lol): Please don't take my opinion to be an informed one. I'm a math major and I've only recently begun flirting with philosophical teachings so I'm still very naive, and my skill with the language is rudimentary at best. So I'm basing my stance on my interpretation of several YouTube videos I watched of Ayn Rand so I'm sorry if it's unsophisticated or completely wrong. Please, please, please... if I am wrong I hope someone will correct me.

In trying to invalidate existence with the argument you cited, in this case that existence is illusory, one must first acknowledge existence. To define what isn't you automatically adopt a standard of what is to achieve your conclusions, or in other words, existence is the necessary context for all things, we always, whether we realize it or not, measure a "negative" by its "positive" (the reverse is impossible).

Can a seasoned veteran tell me if my interpretation is right or wrong or at least on the right path?

I'm hardly as seasoned as many others on here, but that sounds to be on the right path to me. Basically, what it boils down to is the axiom "existence exists." Any discussion or argument of anything implicitly acknowledges that fact, even if it is explicitly denying it.

Welcome to the forum, btw.

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Thanks for the replies guys.

I feel I have better grasp of specifically why such an argument is faulty.

Just a note to prevent a possible misinterpretation:

When you say, to prove existence is illusory, you must first acknowledge existence, you are correctly characterizing what takes place. However, there isn't a rule that to discredit something, you first must acknowledge its reality.

The argument just notes that to say something is "illusory" one must define that term. And to define "illusory," one must distinguish "mere appearance" from reality, and in doing that, you have validated reality/existence.

This pattern is useful especially when you talk to skeptics, who say things such as, "You can't know anything for sure." The concept of knowledge, the idea of knowing for sure, which has to be meaningful before their statement has meaning or truth, establishes exactly that which they intend to destroy and deny.

If this is just repetitious and unnecessary, I hope you understand my caution--nothing personal!

-- Mindy

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I'm still having a little trouble with this.

Especially in regards to solipsism.

I've seen the solipsist response to a few of the comments here. Generally goes along the lines of (using Mindy's quote):

"The argument just notes that to say something is "illusory" one must define that term. And to define "illusory," one must distinguish "mere appearance" from reality, and in doing that, you have validated reality/existence."

Solipsist response: "Why? Why can't the mind just create terms and definitions? If I only exist, why does my mind rest on the rules of a created illusion?"

This seems to be what they always resort to - that their view can't be invalidated by the rules of logic we accept in reality because that reality may not be real therefore those rules of logic are moot.

Another idea I heard from someone going down similar lines but in regards to a different issue: "Evolution and creation are equally likely because scientists accept 'reality' on faith and therefore are no better then the christians who accept God on faith".

Sorry about having trouble with this, I'm still learning metaphysics/epistemology after spending most of my time learning about ethics.

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I'm hardly as seasoned as many others on here, but that sounds to be on the right path to me. Basically, what it boils down to is the axiom "existence exists." Any discussion or argument of anything implicitly acknowledges that fact, even if it is explicitly denying it.

Welcome to the forum, btw.

Thanks!

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I'm still having a little trouble with this.

Especially in regards to solipsism.

I've seen the solipsist response to a few of the comments here. Generally goes along the lines of (using Mindy's quote):

"The argument just notes that to say something is "illusory" one must define that term. And to define "illusory," one must distinguish "mere appearance" from reality, and in doing that, you have validated reality/existence."

Solipsist response: "Why? Why can't the mind just create terms and definitions? If I only exist, why does my mind rest on the rules of a created illusion?"

This seems to be what they always resort to - that their view can't be invalidated by the rules of logic we accept in reality because that reality may not be real therefore those rules of logic are moot.

Another idea I heard from someone going down similar lines but in regards to a different issue: "Evolution and creation are equally likely because scientists accept 'reality' on faith and therefore are no better then the christians who accept God on faith".

Sorry about having trouble with this, I'm still learning metaphysics/epistemology after spending most of my time learning about ethics.

You have nothing to apologize for!

If the universe consisted of nothing but one person, solipsism would make sense. But organisms need environments. Well, he might reply, I exist as a mind only, disembodied. But that would mean a mind conscious of nothing but itself. The empty, reflecting mirrors scenario. A consciousness conscious of nothing is not a consciousness. I really like Aristotle's model for consciousness, of the wax and signet ring. The imprint the ring makes on the wax is akin to consciousness. Then, consciousness of pure consciousness would be the puddle of wax imprinting itself...only it already is a puddle of wax. It would have to change so as to become what it already is...which is no change at all.

The mind can just invent terms and definitions, but those terms and definitions won't get it/him anywhere. They won't coincide with the reality he must live in. They won't form a coherent system. If he want's to define "illusion" in a way that doesn't contrast with "existence," it won't mean what "illusion" means, so it won't get him where he wanted to go with his statement.

That reality may not be real is neatly contradicted by stepping on the speaker's foot. (I am not recommending that initiation of force!) If he wants you to get off his foot, tell him to believe you have gotten off. If reality is up to him, it is his fault his foot hurts. You can invite your solipsist to think up things differently, like gravity being a repelling force...if he can't do it, if things still fall to the floor, what does that say about his philosophy?

The tactic here, of course, is to allow reality to manifest itself, independent and potent, stubborn and uncaring as it naturally is. Radical claims like these are so far gone that they are unworkable. The person proposing them doesn't plan to carry them out anyway. They just want an "out" for some immediate rock-and-a-hard-place they find themselves in. If you take them at their word, the preposterous infeasibility of their proposals will become clear.

-- Mindy

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I really like Aristotle's model for consciousness, of the wax and signet ring. The imprint the ring makes on the wax is akin to consciousness. Then, consciousness of pure consciousness would be the puddle of wax imprinting itself...only it already is a puddle of wax.

I've always understood this as an intrinsicist theory of concepts, which leads to an intrinsicist theory of "the good". Consciousness is the wax, reality is the signet ring. The problem is, consciousness is an active process of relating, not a blob of wax, waiting to be enlightened. )

j..

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I've always understood this as an intrinsicist theory of concepts, which leads to an intrinsicist theory of "the good". Consciousness is the wax, reality is the signet ring. The problem is, consciousness is an active process of relating, not a blob of wax, waiting to be enlightened. )

j..

Sensation is pretty passive. Whatever energies impinge on the sense organ, the senses register. Sensory effects are propagated through the structure of the nerve net, and that propagation alone changes the sensory effect in certain ways, especially its time-stamp, so to speak. Propagation also allows separate sensory effects to interact, providing the mechanism for integration. This is all automatic, but except for the initial energy's effect, it is activity, but it is activity following the event of sensory energy impinging on the organism.

While sensory effects are passively received, they are active in the sense that the sense-organ transduces the energy impinging on the sense-organ. (Transduction just means it changes the form of the energy. Light energy and soundwaves, ext., are both turned into bio-chemical events. Notice that transduction is not limited to nerves. Your door-bell, for example, transduces the mechanical energy of your pushing finger into an electrical current that sounds the bell.) If sensory energy were not transduced, it could not be propagated, as our bodies do not contain light channels, etc. No propagation means no mechanism for integration. The activity of relating, as you put it, depends on the transduction of sensory energy.

Now, is transduction passive or active? Your skin gets warmer or cooler as more and less light falls on it. Your eye does also. But your eye does more than that, by transducing the energy. In an organismic sense, it is active. In terms of content it is dictated to, it is passive, tabula rasa.

You see the wax as passive in its being imprinted by the signet ring. However, it is the wax that cools, preserving the effect. If the wax didn't solidify, the ring would have no lasting effect, and wax seals would not work to ID the sources of missives. It isn't that the ring is cold and cools the wax (though that could be done,) but that wax hardens at room temperature. The wax must do its thing for the trick to work. It is the action of the wax material, by solidifying at room temperature, that makes the use of signet rings possible.

In case this is confusing, I'm saying that the activity that consciousness categorically exhibits may be as nearly "passive" as the transduction of sensory energies. Transduction is active at the organic level, but passive in recording (some of) the formal characteristics of the sensory event.

If consciousness is active in forming its contents, objectivity comes into question. If it is the passive reception of content reflecting the world, like a photograph, there is no explaining the relations between contents and the world--they don't match up, as in the question of universals, and in perceptual illusion, etc. Consciousness is active, yet its activity does not falsify. That is the conundrum.

I'm saying the blob of wax isn't as totally passive as you think it is, and sensation, though a part of consciousness, is largely a passive event. (Just to keep clear, the original reason for bringing up Aristotle's metaphor was to show the impossibility of consciousness conscious of nothing but itself.)

-- Mindy

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Binswanger goes into the problems with Aristotles theory of the wax and ring in Consciousness is Identification . You may want to familiarize yourself with the Oist position on this.

Really? And what Binswanger says is automatically Objectivism? I thought that issue had been specifically denied.

If you want to make an argument against Aristotle's metaphor, or against my use of it, please do.

-- Mindy

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Really? And what Binswanger says is automatically Objectivism? I thought that issue had been specifically denied.

If you want to make an argument against Aristotle's metaphor, or against my use of it, please do.

-- Mindy

First I did not say Binswangers lecture was Objectivist canon. What I did suggest was to familiarize yourself with Oism(Rands) position of consciousness as identification. Your position is consciousness as representation.

edit: With appeals to answering philosophical questions by reference to the special sciences to boot. Is there a basis for your rejection of the foundational nature of Oism?

Edited by Plasmatic
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First I did not say Binswangers lecture was Objectivist canon. What I did suggest was to familiarize yourself with Oism(Rands) position of consciousness as identification. Your position is consciousness as representation.

I'm willing to overlook your intended insult, so we can discuss whether or not my position is representationism. Please proceed.

-- Mindy

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I'm willing to overlook your intended insult, so we can discuss whether or not my position is representationism. Please proceed.

-- Mindy

I have no Idea what you imagine I intended as an insult. My intention in responding is simply to have integrity,that is to say what I think is true. If I have sufficient time and inclination later Ill express why I said the wax and ring example is representation not identification.

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While sensory effects are passively received, they are active in the sense.......

You see the wax as passive in its being imprinted by the signet ring. However, it is the wax that cools, preserving the effect. ....

-- Mindy

Okay, I see. You were describing a process of consciousness at the sensory level, or slightly higher. My objection was in referrence to conceptual awareness being active. Indeed, the fact that perception is automatic, and relativly passive is crucial to defending objectivity. Also, the action of the solidifying wax in the metaphor is something I havent given much thought to, and as far as I understand you, with regard to sensation/perception, I agree.

j..

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It looks like so far nobody has brought up another thing here. There is no evidence for this position, it is all just "What if?" This makes this idea subject to the explanations of the arbitrary and why the arbitrary may simply be dismissed. Lexicon Entry On The Arbitrary They haven't presented a case in favor of their position, just made something up and tried to convince you to take them seriously anyway unless you can prove a negative, shifting the burden of proof onto you to prove that it is NOT the case. Also, in the solipsist case, notice them trying to logically convince you that logic need not apply. Quite a failure and contradiction there.

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I have no Idea what you imagine I intended as an insult. My intention in responding is simply to have integrity,that is to say what I think is true. If I have sufficient time and inclination later Ill express why I said the wax and ring example is representation not identification.

Telling someone they might want to familiarize themselves with Objectivism, in this context, is a clear insult. It says that what the poster has posted illustrates they fail to grasp Objectivism.

Now, your "if I have the inclination to explain myself..." is not acceptable. You made the statement, an honorable man would explain what he said, including why he said it. You already made the judgment, you don't need to research the question, just explain and defend yourself.

It is audacious that you say both that you only might substantiate your claim against my post, and then repeat your unsupported (and unsupportable?) opinion that my position is that of representationism. You need to put your mouth where your mouth is!

-- Mindy

Edited by Mindy
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Okay, I see. You were describing a process of consciousness at the sensory level, or slightly higher. My objection was in referrence to conceptual awareness being active. Indeed, the fact that perception is automatic, and relativly passive is crucial to defending objectivity. Also, the action of the solidifying wax in the metaphor is something I havent given much thought to, and as far as I understand you, with regard to sensation/perception, I agree.

j..

I brought Aristotle's metaphor up only to illustrate the impossibility of consciousness being conscious of nothing but itself. Aristotle brings it up to explain consciousness as a process of the assimilation of form. The wax assimilates the shape/form of the ring, but leaves the material of the ring (and its form, incidentally) unchanged. The comparison is to digestion. We assimilate the material of the food we eat, changing, not preserving, its form in the process.

I don't know what Harry Binswanger's point is. The metaphor, like all metaphors, is valid in a narrow context. It is a metaphor.

The relative passivity of the wax and the relative passivity of sensation are important to objectivity. If mental contents are entirely the result of an organism's activity, they cannot claim a causal connection with reality, and thus objectivity. However, the mind clearly is not a photo album. Parsing out the active and passive aspects of cognition is critical to defending the objectivity of knowledge.

-- Mindy

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Telling someone they might want to familiarize themselves with Objectivism, in this context, is a clear insult. It says that what the poster has posted illustrates they fail to grasp Objectivism.

Now, your "if I have the inclination to explain myself..." is not acceptable. You made the statement, an honorable man would explain what he said, including why he said it. You already made the judgment, you don't need to research the question, just explain and defend yourself.

It is audacious that you say both that you only might substantiate your claim against my post, and then repeat your unsupported (and unsupportable?) opinion that my position is that of representationism. You need to put your mouth where your mouth is!

-- Mindy

It just seems so obvious to me. You stated you liked Aristotles model. Aristotles position was that consciousness(the wax) only holds the form/idea and does not contain the things in themselves(the bronze/gold metal ring). Do you deny this was Aristotles position and that he did not hold direct realism?

Edit: Just read your last. Aristotles position was not simply that the object is left unchanged. His position is that consciousness holds the form and NOT the object itself.

Edited by Plasmatic
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It just seems so obvious to me. You stated you liked Aristotles model. Aristotles position was that consciousness(the wax) only holds the form/idea and does not contain the things in themselves(the bronze/gold metal ring). Do you deny this was Aristotles position and that he did not hold direct realism?

Edit: Just read your last. Aristotles position was not simply that the object is left unchanged. His position is that consciousness holds the form and NOT the object itself.

Yes, his position is that consciousness "assimilates" the form, but note that that form is the form of the object. And what is not assimilated is the matter of the object. And no object can have one without the other.

When you imply that Aristotle has erred by not saying "consciousness holds...the object itself," you are speaking nonsense. We do not take the objects we are conscious of into our bodies.

If you would attend to the distinction Aristotle made, and which I have repeated here, you would see that the assimilation of matter is a process akin to digestion. The apple you see stays outside you. The apple you eat enters within.

Now, you need to defend your assertion that my view amounts to representationism.

-- Mindy

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The correct answer, the one alluded to by the conclusions of Objectivism, is that existence is a condition - and where that condition is met there is existence, and where it is not there is nothing. Something/identity/definition of any kind requires that condition being met somewhere/somehow. Note my use of the word 'condition'. Existence is necessarily independent of any of its particular component parts in the sense that it cannot be reduced to any discrete phenomenon. Therefore, there is no dream or illusion that is somehow apart from 'real reality'. Whatever rules and relationships emerge within existence have to meet the conditions that allow existence. Therefore they are legitimate components of it. So life may be a dream, but it exists and so if it is a dream this evidence must exist somewhere. Read Dr. Peikoff's excellent article on the analytic-synthetic dichotomy. One of my conclusions from it is that because definition exists at the moment of definition, not before or after, epistemological methods require a mental scaffolding to develop a concept of definition that exists independent of the actual event (percept). Falsification is only a method to broaden the scope of a given concept so that it more accurately refers to something in reality. But concepts subsume both known and unknown (potential) characteristics of an 'existent'. So reality as we perceive it is real, even if there is an unseen bigger picture, that does invalidate the more constrained contexts.

Objectivism simplifies it by not trying to answer why/how existence exists, but reduces it to a simple axiom. Existence exists. Only a stunted epistemology, or a non-epistemology could fail to slowly and surely grasp reality. I refer you to the saga of Copernicus for evidence.

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