Posts Tagged ‘epistemology’

It seems to me that, although there might be an objective reality, we will probably never know it.  Our world, let alone the universe, is simply too complex & weird to understand completely.

So, while there might be something called “the Truth” with a capital “T”, in reality, all we can ever know are “truths” with a lower-case “t”.

It seems like nobody really knows what the hell is going on right now.  We might think we know, but in actuality, all we know is some small subset of reality.  We see the world in what Robert Anton Wilson called reality tunnels.

The way I think about this idea that we’re all seeing a different subset of reality, is with reference to the parable of the blind monks trying to describe what they don’t know is an elephant.

About the parable, Wikipedia says:

The story of the blind men and an elephant originated in India from where it is widely diffused. It has been used to illustrate a range of truths and fallacies. At various times it has provided insight into the relativity, opaqueness or inexpressible nature of truth, the behaviour of experts in fields where there is a deficit or inaccessibility of information, the need for communication, and respect for different perspectives.

As the blind monks illustrate, we all have our own reality tunnels through which we see the world.  Depending on our lens (i.e. ones position vis-a-vis the elephant), we might think what we’re touching is a tree trunk, or a rope, or a fan, but if you’re only seeing your reality through that one lens (of touch), it’s easy to miss that it’s an elephant.  To the able-eyed observer – someone who sees the situation from a different dimension – it wouldn’t be an issue to identify the object as an elephant.

The trick is to recognize that, like a digital SLR camera, there are multiple lenses, filters, and hence, reality tunnels through which we can view the world.  Having multiple perspectives from which we can describe and approach a situation allows us to get a more holistic sense of what’s actually going on.

Given how many pundits & gurus have been proven dead wrong over the years due to their rigid views, a good analyst nowadays knows to look at phenomenon from a variety of different angles.  By taking a multi-dimensional & evolutionary view, and by studying the different forces that influence a system, one gets a much better sense of how a system operates than would applying rigid organizational plan and operation philosophies.

If only the machine minds of the world could broaden their thinking about causality & the nature of reality – perhaps we could then see the elephant in the room.

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I couldn’t really find any background info on the video posted below, but it is one of the best combinations of audio & video about the cosmos & nature of reality that I’ve ever come across.

In the film, the speaker talks about the nature of reality and our ever expanding understanding of it.  Despite how much we seem to know, the speaker makes it clear that actually know very little.

“It’s not that I think I know.  It’s that I know, with absolute certainty, that I don’t.  And I know, with seemingly identical certainty, that nobody knows, because nobody can.”

“Our poets do not write about it; our artists do not try to portray this remarkable thing.  I don’t know why.  Is nobody inspired by our present picture of the universe?  The value of science remains unsung by singers…This is not yet a scientific age.” – Richard P. Feynman