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The famous quote "Perception is Reality" can lead to solipsism as a philosophy - that perhaps "I" am the only being that exists, and "reality" is only what I am creating it to be through my own imaginations.

Objective Reality is determined by some set of rules, and can be defined as the truth of facts that exist outside of one's own consciousness, typically based on empirical methods such as data gathered through the 5 senses. However, objective reality rely's heavily on independent verification by other sources. For example - I see a blue boat, and you agree that it is a also a blue boat in your perception, which implies the other sources are real and exist outside of our perception of them (a bit of a tautology).

Doesn't this approach to truth - rules that help us empirically determine objective reality - just boil down to a democracy of individual perception? In other words, if I can get 99 of 100 people to agree with my perception of reality, then at least us 99 will believe that our collective, individually subjective, perception is actually objective reality.

Is the 1 person out of 100 definitely "wrong" about what reality it?


The Questions:

1) Is any definition of objective reality really just a democracy or vote which is relying on the most popular perception?

2) If #1 is true, doesn't this just mean that reality is truly subjective, just there may be larger and smaller populations of people that basically agree on the same nature of reality?

3) If #1 is false, then how can it be explained that ideas like logic, empirical data from the 5 senses, the scientific method, and any other basis used to determine objective reality is true outside of an individual's perception of both these ideas and the other observers needed to verify them?

  • If in your dream tonight, you dream that you are standing on a hill with 100 people, and that you ask them if they all see the shining river flowing at the center of the valley bellow you, and they all shout as one that they do, then does this mean that the dreamt up river really exists outside of your mind? – nir Dec 12 '15 at 8:19
  • I suppose that is the essence of my question. What moves us past the solipsism argument, as you restated it. – LightCC Dec 12 '15 at 8:42
  • in my opinion? just a belief, which can turn out to be false if you happen to be dreaming. anyone with experience in Lucid Dreaming may tell you that it can be really tricky sometimes to realize one is dreaming — that is, to realize you are dreaming right now! – nir Dec 12 '15 at 8:52
  • Not sure why this isn't drawing more response, I'm not sure where to go to dig into it further. Should I look for a way to break this down to more fundamental questions? – LightCC Dec 17 '15 at 0:43
  • As worded, it's not a very good question. First off, this seems to be a kind of personal philosophy definition of "objective reality" -- it could use a source and some more thought. The questions building on it don't seem to be especially good fits for an SE either. The SE is not a place for doing philosophy but rather for asking questions one has about philosophy. – virmaior Dec 17 '15 at 1:41
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1) Is any definition of objective reality really just a democracy or vote which is relying on the most popular perception?

Clearly this is not democratic, by simple observation. A small number of individuals have a great deal of the determining power, even though huge segments of the population know nothing about them, and hold completely different models of the world.

As a political system this is clearly an aristocracy and Aristotle alone is at least a Grand Duke. If there is an Emporer, no one knows his name.

Some useful refinements of perception are not at all popular, and the effective-but-unpopular one survives. Gallileo's notion of inertia is not natural to us in the same way as Aristotle's. But it is the one we inculcate into one another, because it has the nature of giving its holders power.

2) If #1 is true, doesn't this just mean that reality is truly subjective, just there may be larger and smaller populations of people that basically agree on the same nature of reality?

Despite that #1 is not true, objective reality is still a mass 'inter-subjective' effect. This is the basic idea of Wittgenstein's circularity between meaning and usage. Our shared reality is negotiated. It does not assert itself. This is because we can only address it with thoughts, and our thinking is bred up with words, which hold their meaning in a socially-determined game.

But the nature of that game is unlike political decision-making. Its game-like and competitive nature is almost entirely unconscious, for one thing. And it is clearly refined by continual feedback that proceeds from its ability to control aspects of the environment outside of ourselves.

It may not be governed by any external force, but it is also not independent of external forces. Unless you want to claim natural disasters are some sort of mass choice, this social process has a physical dual, either in a process separate from the mind, or in a layering of minds that allows for a prominent part of our thinking to lie outside the human species.

3) If #1 is false, then how can it be explained that ideas like logic, empirical data from the 5 senses, the scientific method, and any other basis used to determine objective reality is true outside of an individual's perception of both these ideas and the other observers needed to verify them?

The best answer that can be easily laid out is 'The Selfish Gene'. We as a species evolve to accumulate power over our environment, like any other biological species. Since we are 'troupe' animals, our biological process is a social process, but it is not a democratic one.

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So lets say that you and the 99 other people are pointing at an object parked across the street in a lot.

You all agree it is a blue car. Blue car in your spoken language briefly touches the surface of the object across the street.

It has a specific set of properties that make it blue, and a car. Cars have certain functional requirements, these requirements might be broken, like a broken starter keeps it from being drivable. Most have 4 wheels etc etc.

Some philosophers tried to find the smallest logical chunks in langauge. Others argued that these small chunks did not fully capture the discussed object. Even further some argued that in defining the object we must also define the definitions with vigor and precision in order to correctly and fully describe the object in question.

However, when the 1 other guy says "Nah, that is a teal buggy", one thing remains true. The object you two point at is the same object. Now, there are of course situations in which people disagree over things and are both attempting to communicate about different topics or objects, however it would vastly expand the scope of this example.

The 100 people including yourself point at the object across the street and say blue car.

The one person stands firm in his belief and says blue buggy.

Same object. That object has properties. Some which are debatable. Others not so much. Lets say another person comes along and says, "Nah That is a Mazda suchinwhat, new 2016 model, seafoam green with a tinge of white in the light. Wheels are randombrand on a carbon fiber alloy blend. It goes 0 to agh speed in faster than blah blah blah"

A portion of your 99 are swayed, the other one is swayed. "Oh yea, I see the Mazda logo!" exclaims one of your original 99 agreers. Yet they still agree, to them seafoam green looks blue (this is subjectivity ) but scanned the car will match the factory Seafoam Green hex code perfectly.

Now you are there with the other 101 people, you see the logo as well, you are all talking about the same object.

As for soloipsm, did you predict with certainty every move of the 101 people? If not, why do you hide things from yourself? Perhaps your mind typed this mentally before you read it. I doubt it though. Do we write in the same style? My answer, and your question contain some objective properties. # of words, for example. Some things can be reduced to subjectivity, but to argue against objective reality is a fool's chore. Even if all my/our/your experiences are subjective, there still is a qualia of what those experiences are like to us, you, or me. We might not be able to perfectly communicate it, but we experience it directly, and it is such as it is... perhaps one day langauge will fully surpass the requirements to completely communicate what our subjective experience is to one another. Until then we can only paint a picture with the words we have, and try to keep them in scope of what we describe.

Lastly, were any of the 3 positions really wrong? A common gem from Eastern thought was that there is no objective answer, but that some answers are better than others. In this case likely the last joiner to the discussion. However, it seems like if you say an object has a property, and it indeed has it , you are capturing that aspect of the universe, and that it is an objective truth.

The Questions:

1) Is any definition of objective reality simply just a democratization of the most popular perceptions of a given population?

No, here is an example : "Spiders have 8 legs" This is a fact about spiders, and would be considered an objective truth. In contrast to "Spiders are creepy because they have 8 legs" a subjective opinion. It does not matter if the majority of a population believes that "Spiders have 4 legs" as they would quite simply be wrong.

2) If #1 is true, doesn't this just mean that reality is truly subjective, just there may be larger and smaller populations of people that basically agree on the same nature of reality?

Number 1 is false N/A

3) If #1 is false, then how can it be explained that ideas like logic, empirical data from the 5 senses, the scientific method, and any other basis used to determine objective reality is true outside of an individual's perception of both these ideas and the other observers needed to verify them?

You do not need to know or believe that spiders have 8 legs for it to be true. You could live oblivious to the knowledge that spiders even exist, and they would still have 8 legs. If you observe a spider you will see it has 8 legs. If you rip a leg off of a spider you will see it has 7 legs. If you show this spider to someone else they will say, that is odd, why does this spider have 7 legs? When you explain that you ripped one leg off they will resolve the confusion that arose from being presented with a case that is contrary to their belief that spiders have 8 legs.

  • The issue I really have with solipsism is sort of what you argue here - I am really creating the entire universe and all independent actors in it. My consciousness is much more than just "me", it encompasses everything. It really says that, I am both God and the universe itself, but I have decided/chosen, or am somehow actually restricted, from viewing the world from any other perspective but my own. I agree the "missing information" argument you've given is a good one. – LightCC Dec 12 '15 at 20:10
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    I see, you might enjoy reading Spinoza, and or liebniz... – hellyale Dec 12 '15 at 20:55
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    But I think in your worldview, objective reality could be defined as the sum of the individual limited perceptions, in concurrent with the objects that exist independently of minds. – hellyale Dec 12 '15 at 20:56
  • Now that is an interesting idea. That objective reality extends to perception. Thank you for that. :) – LightCC Dec 15 '15 at 17:21
  • @LightCC yup, the subjective beliefs of individuals are also objective. – hellyale Dec 15 '15 at 17:21
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Objective reality exist independently of the perception of discrete sentient beings. It doesn't rely on or mandate the existence of such beings whatsoever.

Is Objective Reality really just the Subjective Agreement of a given group?

It is at best "perceptual consensus". Subjective reality is just a subset of objective reality, distorted and limited by a finite and usually flawed perception. Therefore, it doesn't exist outside a particular mind, making it entirely imaginary. And you cannot call something imaginary a "reality" because the two are complete opposites.

Is the 1 person out of 100 definitely "wrong" about what reality it?

The beliefs of the majority at best define the status quo.

And the status quo is not guaranteed to be neither right nor reality defining.

  • looking back at every previous status quo belief, there is not a single case of one being correct. They have been proven wrong and abandoned time after time. And there is absolutely no reason to assume the current one finally got things right. Surely, it might be more convincing than the previous ones, but I reckon the same applied to every previous one as well. So no, the majority is not necessarily right

  • there are many cases in which the 1% introduced social doctrines that were largely accepted by the 99% without defining reality according to them. For example religion trained people to be obedient with the belief that god will reward them for it, while also punishing the wicked. And the 99% believed that, however that belief never defined reality according to it. Good people were trampled on and bad people got their golden ticked to capitalize on it. So no, the majority does not mentally define reality. On the contrary, the majority is exploited to physically redefine reality into a form that is more beneficial to the minority.

Hopes, deceptions and illusions exist in the mind, they are imaginary, and as such have no effect on reality. They do however condition the population to be harnessed into physically altering reality, usually in the completely opposite direction.

The subjective is subjective, and adding more subjective to it doesn't change that, there is no tipping point in which it magically turns into objective. It is not something that can be enforced or agreed upon, it is absolute and universal and is not subject to the beliefs or delusions of its creations. We can alter it physically to a degree, but the way we see it or are being made to see it in no way affects what it is on its own.

You can raise Johnny in isolation and teach him that EM radiation with wavelength of 700 nm corresponds to the color green rather than red, and one day Johnny might park "his green" car next to Larry's red car, and all of their coworkers might agree that Johnny's car is red too, but for everyone both cars will have the exact same color, reality won't bend and snap to produce a tangible difference, because the color itself, as a product of objective reality is absolute, regardless of what words different people might use for color, light, frequency, wavelength, units or numbers of measurement.

If you put 100 people on an island, and poke the eyes of 99 of them, the world won't turn dark for the one that retains his sight just because the majority has lost it.

99.99% of the people cannot last 5 minutes under water, and perceive and agree on that fact, but that doesn't define a reality in which no one can.

I can go on and on, the point is there is plenty of obvious observation to answer your questions, but still:

1) Is any definition of objective reality really just a democracy or vote which is relying on the most popular perception?

No, it isn't. Whether it is smart people agreeing on empirical evidence to forge intelligent theories, or it is idiots collectively fooling themselves with something convenient and reassuring, it doesn't affect objective reality whatsoever. It only affects our perception of it. And what we perceive is defined by objective reality, refracted through our subjective and imperfect minds. Not the other way around - that would mean we are necessary as precursors to reality, and there is ample evidence reality existed long before us and was the framework of what eventually resulted in our existence.

2) If #1 is true, doesn't this just mean that reality is truly subjective, just there may be larger and smaller populations of people that basically agree on the same nature of reality?

Obsolete...

3) If #1 is false, then how can it be explained that ideas like logic, empirical data from the 5 senses, the scientific method, and any other basis used to determine objective reality is true outside of an individual's perception of both these ideas and the other observers needed to verify them?

Those things just allow us to communicate. It just gives common things common identifiers so different people can understand what they are saying. We don't invent laws of physics, we only come up with approximating descriptions of what we discover is already at play. Those things do not determine objective reality, they merely attempt to approximately describe and quantify it.

It doesn't have to be democratic either, the way it usually works is a single individual discovers it and gets to name it, then tells it to someone else referring to it the way he conceived. It sometimes happens that things are discovered independently by different groups of people, leading to different names for different groups, when those groups interact sometimes both terms apply, but usually the more popular eventually prevails. But that's just how the brain works, if 1 is refereed to as A more often than B, then over time that's what grows on you. It has nothing to do with objective reality, it is still entirely in the mind.

I for one don't recall anyone calling general elections to define what words we use to describe certain aspects of reality. In fact it is usually a minority that defines those things for us without asking us at all, at least when it comes to official nomenclature. Slang can be different, it is sometimes spread through popular usage, although quite often a few popular or influential public figures play a key role in spreading it. We are after all just primates. Monkey see monkey do.

Last but not least, democracy in translation means "people's rule". What a minority fooled the majority into believing to be democracy is actually a blatant mockery of both true democracy and our very right to chose. Obviously, even if most people believe it to be democracy, that didn't result in a reality where it really is democracy. It is still a bunch of mindless cattle getting to chose its butcher every few years, the option to not have a butcher or not be cattle is not even on the table. I mean the moment they say that the vote of a firefighter or a professor has the same weight as that of a drunken hick living on welfare it should rise a big tall red flag. And of course, we never got to democratically vote what democracy is either, but the words are still translatable without any room for ambiguity as of what they mean, for those who are interest in objective reality rather than subjective illusions ;)

Wouldn't it be swell tho, if we could all just come together and solve all our problems simply by agreeing we don't have them.

  • I think you missed the point which your final quote shows: "Wouldn't it be swell tho, if we could all just come together and solve all our problems simply by agreeing we don't have them.". The point of the question is related to whether those problems are objective or subjective. You also give no references - why should I believe your view? If solipsism is true, you are just a figment of my imagination anyway (literally)... – LightCC Apr 29 '18 at 23:00
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Shrodinger's Cat. Some realities, whether objective reality or subjective reality do not exist until they are observed. Until you observe it, you can live oblivious to the fact that the cat is dead in one reality or you can live oblivious to the fact that the cat is still alive in another reality. It isn't until you open the box that only either one of the realities exist. Reality is subjective, and regardless of a democratic system of realities, if one sees a blue and black dress then it is blue and black in a subjective reality, and no matter how many votes there are that the dress is white and gold, subjectively it will remain black and blue... Now, you could accept that both realities exist and stare at the dress and become an observer of the objective fact that "to some people the dress is blue and black and to others it is white and gold," effectively forming a 3rd objective reality. For the others who only see either dress at once, they can't be conscious of what they are unconscious of, therefore the counter-argument to their subjective reality is non-existent. You can't be conscious of what you are unconscious of.

  • Hi and welcome to Philosophy.SE. Perhaps your answer could be improved if you can more clearly address the three questions asked by the OP. Thanks for contributing and enjoy SE. – PV22 Jun 19 '17 at 13:01
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I think it might be important to define what "reality" you're questioning. In hellyale's example, he proved and disproved the subjective nature of all things. On a purely physical level, he's right in that the object is what it is and all of the observers see it as such. Where it gets subjective is when they attempt to describe, define or otherwise "semanticize" the object by labeling it with various words having meaning which makes sense to each of them.

My point in calling attention to this has to do with the reality that is created by humans from their perceptions. This reality, though extant alongside the natural physical reality, is where most humans spend much of their time. What is read, thought, believed and "known" is steeped in subjectivity for it is all a matter of one's perception of the matter.

Though 99 of 100 agree that "it's a blue car", does not necessarily mean it is objectively a blue car. Consider other life forms that can perceive the physical object but not at all how a human would (dogs, bats, et al.). Thus we might say that while the physical reality is objective, the reality of consciousness is not.

Physicist Tom Campbell takes it further in his TOE (www.my-big-toe.com) by stating that even physical reality is only "approximately objective" (in his view). He thinks that consciousness is the only fundamental reality and everything else - including physical matter - is derived from that. Whether you go that far with it is up to you, of course, and the verdict is out for me still. However I still hold that our conscious reality which informs the majority of our decisions and viewpoints is indeed highly subjective.

Edit: As I did not directly answer the OP's original questions, I'm doing so now:

  1. I believe that, "Yes", what we call objective reality is simply just an agreement among the majority.

  2. I think "Yes" naturally follows here based on #1.

  3. N/A

  • Well - that it may not objectively be a blue car was sort of the point of the question. In fact, that's what I'm trying to better understand - doesn't that just mean that this "objective reality" a certain group has agree upon, is, in fact, limited to that group and their definition and agreement upon it - on an epistemological level? You don't really answer the questions directly - perhaps you could edit to clarify - it appears you would answer #1 Yes and agree with #2? – LightCC Dec 13 '15 at 3:19
  • LightCC Thanks for pointing that out. I've edited my answer to include direct responses to your questions based on what I wrote. I do think that we are always in a kind of conundrum when trying to determine what is "objectively true" as there is never a way to experience or view anything outside of our own senses (physical and non). – etipaced Dec 13 '15 at 13:59

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