What Counts as Real
The Art of Invalidation
Let us start this article with a thought experiment; look around your current environment and ask yourself, do I believe what I am seeing is real. It may seem like an obvious, absurd or even irrelevant question to some, but why is it is important to ponder. What constitutes reality is a question that puzzles many in the current times. Many debates centre on whether dreams, fantasies, imagination, consciousness and morality are real.
The issue with this puzzle is that reality is not a universal agreed-upon concept. Science has equated the realness of things to the degree they can be measured and proved with their stipulated guidelines. The issue is that science is not full proof as some things exist that it can’t measure with its system of measurement, and they are many things measured that it is yet to conclude on. Abstract concepts like consciousness, fantasy, thoughts and feelings that have no physical element have been elusive to measure but exist. The challenge comes from the claim that they are subjective and can’t be measured objectively.
Thoughts on the realness of things mostly trouble people who have had an existential crisis or are in an existential dilemma or even people who have had their belief system greatly challenged or shattered.
So, what exactly qualifies as real?
Reality in totality is related to experience. To the majority, what qualifies as real, is that which is touched, smelled, seen, heard or tasted: associating it with senses and sensing. It holds that anything that exists can be sensed and interacted with, in one way or another. The issue, however, is that the quantification of reality has to be agreed upon by the masses. If sensed, experienced and interacted by the majority, its validity as real increases as there is synonymity between truth and the group. If an individual experiences something solely on their own, there is often invalidation, terming it as subjective. The belief that the truth is in the group means what you experience will only be acknowledged as real if experienced in numbers.
If what is real is dependent on a group and groups have varied opinions, then reality varies. Variations on something as critical as realness is problematic. The realness of something, including an experience, is the truth of it. Questioning if something is real is the equivalent of asking whether something is true. Truth is critical and is the most crucial thing in existence. It is sustainable as it allows for sensing or experiencing something the way it is because it exists; it confirms its existence. By placing confirmation of existence in groups, we doom ourselves as we cannot with certainty confirm something to be true or not.
The surest way to be certain of something is often to interact with it, and that’s why we have the senses for the external world. One interacts with a stone by either seeing it, touching it, smelling it, or tasting it. One cannot technically hear a stone, but that's okay, as one has multiple senses. Even intuition counts as a sense, even when you aren't aware of what you are sensing. People have attested to intuitively feeling danger and realizing that they were right. There are things in existence that are subject to be experienced by one or two senses but can’t be sensed by another. Senses are integral, as they help us interact and develop an awareness of existence itself. That's why the claim of using reason and logic outside our sense awareness in measuring validity is absurd. The argument offered is that sense awareness is subjective because peoples' senses can pick up different things in the same object. Indeed, our sense awareness varies but, why is this the case?
The answer lies again in how we explore and discover the external world. Our exploration and discovery of the external world are dependent on consciousness. Consciousness is from the individual and influenced by experiences, as it distinguishes what is good or evil. Consciousness causes the difference in sense awareness as it is dependent on one's internal existence. Our beliefs about how everything is, are internal, not external, but are critical in experiencing the world.
One's thoughts and feelings are the tools of consciousness as they help you explore whether you are leaning on good or evil. That is why most people avoid their own thoughts or feelings as they do not want to face their internal state; to face themselves. Due to this, people will often focus on the external world to escape themselves but project their internal state outwards. For example, if someone sees people as distrustful, the truth at the core of that issue is that they don't trust themselves. It can be due to the choices that led them to vulnerable situations that resulted in pain or the distrustful things done. It is practically impossible to trust others when you have no trust in yourself. So the differences in experiencing the external world come from the differences in our internal existence. The differences don’t make the object or experience any less real.
Since the truth is sustainable and constant, we should focus on an observable constant. The constant in what is real is simple; something is real if experienced. It may raise some questions when you put into consideration instances like hallucinations. Most, however, consider their hallucinations real as they interact with the voices. Many of them experience their auditory hallucinations as conversations.
Psychologists have observed activation of the auditory and speech brain regions when they experience the stated hallucinations. The hallucinations usually affect their day to day living, especially when it comes to efficiency, but they are real to them. Just because we don’t experience what they experience doesn’t mean it is less real. When told that their experience is not real, they get confused and may even view themselves as broken; but the experience remains real. The realness of something is not dependent on numbers; it is dependent on whether or not you experience it. We might not understand what is going on in detail but, that doesn’t mean it's not real. Even lies are real, as they exist and we experience them.
The claim that something needs to be measured using reason to be real, is problematic. There are many things in existence like consciousness that are real and can’t be measured. Abstract concepts like hope, trust, belief, pain are experienced and sensed. Just because something is spiritual in nature doesn’t make it any less real. Experience is when you are in contact with an event, fact, object or concept. Even in that measurement, one needs to be completely objective, and assurance of that, without a constant, is impossible.
Objectivity requires one to be true in the discovery process of their internal world. The only guarantee of this can only come from being guided and having a selfless nature. One would need to be patient and kind; one would need love to be objective. The claim of being objective will not suffice too much if one has no selfless guide. A scientist can be biased in discovery if they are self-seeking, no matter how much training they receive. Good examples of this are; the preaching of scientific discoveries as truth and facts yet are subject to change (are not absolute), ignoring the golden ratio for years, and that the brain can be a receiver of consciousness instead of the originator.
Your experiences are real because you have experienced them. Dreams, thoughts, feelings, fantasies, imagination and stories are real. They are as real as the stone you once held in your hand as you experience them. It is a matter of being open enough, not only to the realness of the external world but your internal world, as both matter and all are real.