By "essential reality" I mean consistent aspects of human nature and those of our temporary and ever-changing physical environment(domain of science) as well as overlapping views on spirituality(e.g. mysticism).

Something similar to the expansive history of human societies maps(commercial link to graphic). My interest is that unproductive conversations seem to get rehashed without an agreed-upon basis, and if we could point to a readily understandable visual model, we can decide where our starting positions are relative to one another and even if there enough common ground to engage. While this is less a problem in studious environments, it can only be the studied that builds and maintains such a model. Wouldn't this also help identify degrees of "misinformation"?

In summary, I'm asking does a multimedia 'Model of Everything'(1) that is knowable and communicable exists, and if not can we start building one right now? I'd suggest starting with the most basic and consistently agreed-upon aspects of reality.

(1) Like a visual Wikipedia where one can adjust presented detail(course to fine), then drill down into a selected area.

[2nd Edit] Selected models mined from the comments. I imagine the "Everything" model to be encompassing of interlocking/overlapping frameworks starting with the most generally useful and accepted truths. Life's Formula Unified Theory of Knowledge Also Mind Map: Philosophy Eastern philosophy mind map Introduction to Philosophy A Map of Reality.

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    You're essentially trying to positively scientificize philosophy, but even scientific theories aren't verifiable to have an absolute verisimilitude of reality at its joints only falsifiable realized by some positivists... Feb 7 at 19:17
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    Maybe you're looking for mindmaps of philosophy?? See, also, etc
    – Rushi
    Feb 8 at 1:52
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    To be educational or be educated is not the nature of people, to be useful or helpful to solve their own expressed problems is... Feb 10 at 19:34
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    @ScottRowe "whether it could be achieved in some way" Summarizing what I wrote to others posters(which I don't expect you to wade through!) It's more a model of basic truths and whatever those readily connect with. Like a Wiki there would be a community version(s) but also individual versions optionally adopting selections from others and using std. or custom connectors linking info. As I wrote @J D and believe I got buy-in, as human knowledge grew it became more specialized, compartmentalized even as western thinking grew more analytical(McGilchrist 2018, 2022). This could remedy that. Feb 12 at 16:33
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    My pleasure. I can't help myself- years as a beta-reader have made me do that kind of stuff on autopilot, yet in spite of that I make all the same mistakes in my own writing! Feb 13 at 22:48

5 Answers 5


Your "essential reality" sounds a lot like observations of the world given the presupposition of phenomenology as emanating from direct realism. It presumes that somehow, we are in direct contact with the physical world free of our own influence, of our own conceptual and perceptual biases: the product, a WP-like catalog of "things" in the universe. What certainly gained prominence with Kant and has been thoroughly developed over the last 100 years with the failure of logical positivism is that our mind, even by virtue of deciding what a thing is at the subconscious level, makes that impossible. (See Thing-in-Itself.) Modern psychology in its study of perception makes it clear that out minds, if you believe they are derivative of brain activity in some sense, construct our phenomenal awareness from sensory systems which are probably influenced by the entire body, say proprioception, etc. A philosophy that continues to gain in popularity that aligns with this is embodied cognition.

The view that there is an "essential" and "objective" world is entangled with issues like natural kinds (SEP) and claims that there is a Goldilocks ontology derived from a "Goldilocks principle". Similar motivation drove Leibniz to postulate the existence of Universal Characteristic. The thought that there was some sort of universal language with universal meanings inspired the idea there could be some sort of calculus rationcinator, a universal way to decide all issues. Modern logicians now largely accept that classic logic is not an embodiment of some objective, universal Laws of Thought, but rather, can vary at the whim of the logician, and that non-classical logics are both legitimate and useful in understanding reason and rationality.

Thus, the situation you describe is a map that will never successfully describe the territory. See also theory-ladenness and Myth of the Given.

  • It will take some time to unpack the specifics of what you wrote but I both agree and disagree with your conclusion. A map and the model I propose will always be reductive. As George Box is quoted as saying, "All models are wrong but some are useful." My aim is to show all known and communicable concepts in a model that indicates both compatibilities and incompatibilities. Like clusters of jigsaw puzzles but some conditionally don't connect. Specifics will still be left to debate but established knowns should fit. Maybe it will be the process of attempting such a project that educates. Feb 7 at 17:52
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    I hate that mashing the Enter key submits a comment! Feb 7 at 17:54
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    @Mark_NoBadCake Ah, its good you persevere. I maintain a similar attitude. When I say "a map that will never succesfully describe the territory", I am of course arguing a hyperbolic position for rhetorical effect (to challenge presuppositions of objectivity inherent in your beliefs), if one simply lowers one's sites from one-true-map to highly-adequate map, then I agree with that you disagree. What you'd be interested in is both the psychology and language of metaphysics (SEP). Feel free to chat me up on chat.stackexchange.com.
    – J D
    Feb 7 at 19:11
  • @ J D I will research "psychology and language of metaphysics (SEP)." Thanks. My replies by message board are more thoughtful and clearly worded but I may take you up on the chat offer eventually! Feb 7 at 20:17
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    I read the first few paragraphs of "Metaphics(SEP)" which started with "The word ‘metaphysics’ is notoriously hard to define." My thought is that as McGilchrist(2018, 2023) has emphasized that Western thinking has become obsessively analytical, ~left-brained in our comprehending the world. When the ~right hemisphere, which handles ambiguity far better, is dominate we gain tremendous flexibility in interpretation - but within a range. The Bible, for example, can be reduced to abstract concepts that heavily overlap w/ other belief systems. [cont. to next] Feb 9 at 20:26

I developed a personal model for drama as the essence of human reality.

Inspired in part by this song Modern Love - David Bowie:


God-and-man ... put my trust in God and man!

walks beside me (Modern love) walks on by (Modern love) gets me to the church on time (Church on time) terrifies me (Church on time) makes me party (Church on time) puts my trust in God and man (God and man) no confession (God and man) no religion (God and man) don't believe in modern love

This pattern also comes from legal analysis in which there are discussions of ultimate cause, proximate cause, Acts of God, human moral cause, and natural causes. Also, sole cause versus joint cause. God-and-man or Nature-and-man would be joint causes of events which anyone in their mature reasoning mind must regard as the broad context of human drama!

Ultimate Proximate TYPES OF CAUSE
God Man Moral
Reality Nature Natural

Based on patterns of drama the human body generates the recognition of four types of cause given in bold by the terms Ultimate, Proximate, Moral, and Natural.

God maps roughly to the ultimate moral cause but those who recognize God also allow for a transcendent source of cause beyond the distinction between moral and natural. Reality also maps to ultimate natural cause but if morality is emergent from nature then moral attributes are features of natural reality!

Baruch Spinoza describes an affect (emotion) as a feeling of desire, pleasure, or pain accompanied by an idea of its cause. The generic causes of drama in The Ethics are God, Nature, self, and others.

Ultimate Source Proximate Source FEELINGS
God-Nature Self, Others Desire, pleasure, or pain
God-Nature Natural Events Desire, pleasure, or pain

Spinoza's working definitions are useful to decompose patterns of drama, however, he describes desire as appetite accompanied by consciousness thereof; and this makes appetite an idea of cause wherein the ultimate source of desire is an unconscious appetite. Also, there is a desire to feel pleasure and avoid pain, which means that pleasure and pain seem to be different than desire in terms of the generic term "feelings". Spinoza describes what exists in the ultimate sense as God and/or Nature or God-Nature. So I put that in the ultimate category.

  • I'm not familiar to all that you referenced. The idea that desire is separate from pleasure and pain seems invalid but then you cite Spinoza which I've read selections of and heartily agree with but reading his works directly I only get static! Take B. Russell's Four Desires that Drive All Human Understanding: hoarding, rivalry, vanity and at top, Power. We experience pleasure when satisfying these and pain otherwise. This I tie to our most basic instinct: survival. I need to hit the books, evidently! Feb 8 at 3:46
  • @Mark_NoBadCake Spinoza calls it Conatus. In humans he means the drive to persist in vital pleasure but also resistance to emotional change if one is adapted to live with pain. Spinoza argues, in The Ethics, that a feeling of pleasure tends to drive out a feeling of pain and a feeling of pain tends to drive out a feeling of pleasure. Sigmund Freud maps appetites, the source of desire, to an unconscious id, I call the source of inner drives. This is valid but leads to Unconscious == God or Unconscious == Nature! The original appetite, intention, desire of a mammal is to feel pleasure not pain. Feb 8 at 17:17
  • @Mark_NoBadCake I am speaking with a man who identifies (1) as a Christian brother; and (2) as a psychotherapist. In a context where I am ambivalent about paying his fee, due to residual pain in the dramatic context, he says, "Do you believe in unconditional love?" I think, "God is love. Whoever abides in love abides in God and God in him!" (Gospel of John). But I inhibit my impulse to shame him for his effort to impose his version of "conditional love" on me! The pleasure and pain I feel maps back to my desire to feel vital pleasure, avoid pain, and exists in memory maps of emotional drama! Feb 8 at 17:23
  • I deleted my post previous to your last two due to terminal typo: "Spinoza quote which seems to support statement that pain/pleasure are [edit: NOT] categorically the same as desire" You seem to have worked around it in your responses but I need to get a better understanding of Spinoza vs. Freud mental models. Philosophy/religion is difficult to discuss without certain basics - WHICH is why this world needs views of essential reality modeled. : ) I should have a better understanding of your posts this weekend and possibly a response. Thanks for posting! Feb 9 at 2:21
  • People have long used music as a touchstone for recording, representing and communicating their impressions. Interesting that you picked that song, it is very dynamic. I didn't take the chance to see Bowie in college, but saw The Ramones, Prince, The Dead Kennedys, Grateful Dead among many others. "I Wanna Be Sedated" still occurs to me in airports. Rest in peace.
    – Scott Rowe
    Feb 11 at 14:07

This was my stab at it, made a few years ago: A Map of Reality.

DISCLAIMER: Quoting from the movie, "No one can be told what the Matrix is. You'd have to [piece together your own understanding and] see it for yourself."
This, I think, is the implicit (unconscious?) claim behind every philosophy book, or any communication in general -- even though it describes the author's understanding of things, it is impossible to communicate this understanding directly to the reader. The book's purpose is, therefore, to share pieces of the puzzle -- to help the reader piece together an understanding of their own, at their own pace.

  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Philosophy Meta, or in Philosophy Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Feb 14 at 9:14
  • @GeoffreyThomas It seems StackExchange doesn't facilitate the kind of discussion people making comments here prefer. 'Answers', chat and comments, imo, lack the functionality for extended and thoughtful discussion of humanities topics. It is a great format for technical and simple, closed-end questions - which is how I found it. Can you recommend another platform? Feb 14 at 19:36
  • Mark_NoBadCake : I note your point, well set out, but discussion can continue on Chat, to which a link is given. Moving comments to Chat doesn't close discussion; it only moves discussion to another space. Does this help? Best - Geoffrey.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Feb 15 at 8:04
  • @GeoffreyThomas "Does this help?" Since you asked. For open ended and potentially long running discussion I'd prefer the option to transition to(or begin in) a more feature rich 'message board' with branching, formatting and option to delete. I think of 'chat' as live interaction w/ offline as a fallback. Having the user option to convert a chat exchange into a message board discussion would be ! Again, I think the current platform is great for questions with quantifiable answers. That said, these responses have been very insightful and helpful. Others seem to have benefited as well. Feb 15 at 17:53

A few observations that might be relevant...

Wikipedia has over 60 million articles, so the production of a pictorial equivalent would not be a trivial piece of work.

Part of the challenge associated with reaching common understandings of 'essential reality' is that it can be difficult to express nuanced ideas in an unambiguous way. I suggest that replacing narrative text with mind maps, or with pictures linked by arrows etc, will in many cases be increasing the scope for ambiguity rather than reducing it.

What do you mean by 'misinformation', exactly? So much of our understanding of 'reality' is debatable, so what you might consider misinformation might be accepted as unquestionable truth by someone else.

Your idea of a 'readily understandable visual model' is denying the fact that some topics are so inherently complicated or abstract that a readily understandable description of any sort is unachievable.

If you want to make some kind of progress, you might try creating an index to wikipedia, one which ranks pages and their contents according to how 'basic and consistently agreed upon' they are. Of course, the challenge there is in defining scales for 'basic' and 'consistently agreed upon', and finding sources of information that tell you how to quantify the positions of different topics according to those scales.

  • I concur, few things are inherently visual or can be visually represented without distortion. I'm still waiting for Smell-O-Vision.
    – Scott Rowe
    Feb 11 at 14:04
  • Re:"Wikipedia has over 60 million articles" which are already ~interlinked. I'm thinking a visual mapping where one can zoom in/out in sections of interest. Re:"common understandings of 'essential reality'...difficult to express nuanced ideas in an unambiguous way." Yes - Plato thought everything should be discussed, not written down. I imagine common knowledge bases assoc. with individuals' custom knowledge stores and gated contributions in part via message board and chat with an anonymous, opt. weighted voting system. A user can choose their view and what they link to or copy. [Cont.>] Feb 12 at 18:46
  • [< Cont. ] Re: "misinformation" Working through basic truths inoculate us against falsehoods. Eventually via AGI magic, apply a model to a news article and you get a breakdown of degrees of accuracy. Re:"some topics are so inherently complicated" Yep. Put those on the shelf until that changes! Re:[last para] Yea, it can get complicated but I see two sources of benefit: First, working through puzzle pieces of knowledge with an end product to show for it. Enjoyable, self-paced education. 2. A framework of knowledge that can be compared and contrasted to news and other media. Feb 12 at 18:47

There are a LOT of different ontologies that philosophers operate under. Each will have a DIFFERENT visual map!

Eliminative reductivist materialism, for instance has a very simple map.

Non-eliminative reductive materialism, with its need to couple math, information, ideas, and awareness somehow into matter, will also be simple, but with some addendums attached.

Spiritual dualism is a bit more complex.

Popperian triplism, is a bit more complex yet.

Popper brought in emergence for mind from matter. He kept his emergence pretty simple, as a one-time event. But emergence is part of physics, and is arguably the phenomenon that leads to our multiplicity of sciences. Emergent naturalisms can develop a VERY complex structure. Here is one: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/theory-knowledge/201702/psychologys-grand-unified-theory.

Most idealisms also assume emergence. In their case, emergence of matter from mind, or from abstractions (the Math is Everything physicists treat matter as emergent from math!).

There is no common shared visual map of ontology! But mapping competing ideas could be useful.

  • Multiple maps is not a useful idea. The point of a map is that it correctly models the terrain. Perhaps your reply could be, "for whom?" The map for a person on foot would need different things prominent than for someone in a car, or a helicopter. A map for a possum would differ from the map for the coyote outside in my backyard, or a songbird or an ant. If people have such different objectives or needs, then a single map is impractical. Who would know enough to use it?
    – Scott Rowe
    Feb 11 at 23:16
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    @ScottRowe These are speculative assumptions about the ontology of the universe. Some of them are simple enough to not need a visual illustration to “map” them, but Gregg Henriques’ model benefits tremendously from such a visual illustration.
    – Dcleve
    Feb 12 at 15:33
  • Dcleve @Scott Rowe " no common shared visual map of ontology! But mapping competing ideas" YES, linking distinct ontological maps - to the extent that they can be AND showing what one has and another does not(optionally explaining why). Interlocking and overlapping 'jigsaw puzzles' where the connecting bits can be defined. Again, being able zoom detail and create individual puzzles/maps is key. The building process is more puzzle(game fun) with practical result of making sense of news stories and the world in general. The Gregg Henriques’ model is GREAT, btw. Feb 12 at 18:19

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