• Michael McMahon

Anti-Realism

Updated: Nov 2

https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/6006/anti-realism

The world would be a desolate place were it not for other minds.

Here I wonder about the scientific implications of anti-realist philosophy. What would unreality entail for our sense perception? There must be knock-on effects. In order to follow suit from this mysterious initial premise, all other scientific variables would need to be adjusted accordingly. Through illusory parallax we can detect depth when the world in the background almost appears to conter-rotate when we stare at a close moving object. The organised chaos of language can help verify the existence of other minds. A lot of our communication might be based on arbitrary symbols or random starting points in conversation but it can deterministically progress into complex patterns of behaviour. A computer would struggle to write metaphorical poetry. (Anyone who got a D- for their Shakespeare essay is a robot.)

We usually take the physical world for granted. Even religious folk often concede that our lives in this world are boringly materialistic in order to make their belief of a certain afterlife in a spiritual realm more compelling. But what if the physical world itself is more open-ended and exciting than first expected? There are many interpretations of quantum mechanics so maybe in the future when we know more about it there could be multiple competing versions of how we should perceive reality. Maybe there’ll be several perfectly valid solutions to the mind body problem even though they’d be somewhat incompatible with one another. We could each focus on different layers of reality.

Metaphysical beliefs can be shown to deterministically affect our physical behaviour. Christians tend to live a different lifestyle than Hindus for example based solely on their spiritual beliefs. We can each be either more or less attuned to different parts of our sensory input and end up seeing the world differently. So perhaps a deterministic agent who believes themselves to be free really will gain some degree of freedom by way of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Therefore free will isn’t wholly irreconcilable with determinism. We can take it as literally or symbolically as we want.


In terms of our vision, every single object we see is ultimately only made of light. We can’t synaesthetically see mass or atoms. We can feel tangible objects with our sense of touch. But matter is a different sense to sight even though photons happen to illuminate and correspond to where the physical substance is. Physical entities are invisible in and of themselves. The way light somehow locates tactual solid elements might be indirect. (I learned the following in a failed science interview about attempting to minimise the solar system where density is constant) If every object was equally minimised it would have no effect on the speed of light (the speed of gravity = speed of light). Another way to put it is that photons are real while colour exists within our virtual image of the world.

Light moves so fast that we don’t actually see it move directly. We can only see colours after the light has already moved and not their original frequency. Although colours can still move much like they were pixels turning on and off in a screen. It would be like the colour of a moving object simply replaces the previous colour of the background using the same pixels. All we can detect is the retina. We’re not aware of the individual muscles that move our head so it feels like we’re leveraging our entire field of view in order to rotate our neck. If our perception is just an approximation of reality then it doesn’t have to be the same size to create a ranking of the relative depth of all objects. A 3D TV screen can do so through emphasising a few mere centimetres in difference to convey an apparent distance of several meters.


I suppose a mental shortcut for imagining a holographic reality would be if your eyes were like a mirror where everything you see is behind you inside the brain. The optic nerve is directed backwards towards the brain. If our vision is 2D then that would imply that our perception of empty space isn’t real and is simply a rendered version of external reality. I’m not too sure what that would translate to; maybe the overall shape of the object appears far away even though their constituent colours are all right beside you. The minute atomic perimeter of the boundary between two large coloured objects are so complex that they’re like a fractal pattern.

Objects get smaller from perspective because our subjective impression of an object is based in some way on an external entity and a world bigger than ourselves. One could reinterpret that by saying perspective doesn’t exist in external nature and is self-imposed and self-created through magnification in our visual subconscious. Objects can remain the same size regardless of distance if we had the capacity to zoom with our eyes like a camera lens. Perspective minimises the flat area of an object evenly so length and breadth at eye level are proportionately changed. But the internal volume is excessively reduced relative to the frontal area and appears foreshortened. Objects above or below eye level will have an uneven aspect ratio in terms of area. The further away an object the blurrier it becomes as our eyes don’t have infinite resolution. The way we perceive and move through depth is different in a dream.


No one can ever withstand an infinite amount of pain even if the pain sensation and our own response to it are both deterministic. So we can’t be deterministically programmed to be somehow fearless in a literal sense. Therefore there’s an element of both determinism and free will in the idea of “free won’t”.

The mind body problem has been a puzzle forever. I’m not sure about you but at least my mind can affect my body because I must be a pure genius! It’s just that the unique talent comes to me so naturally and effortlessly that I’m actually unable to describe it to others! I suppose the most immaterial entity we know is light. I know it’s simplistic to combine mysteries but my guess is that consciousness has something to do with light given how ethereal both substances are. It’d be like each of our own consciousness were the medium of light that we perceive. When we’re awake we’re each travelling at light speed into the future one second at a time! Our mind would be like a tachyon that never goes below speed c. And just to reassure you I never took speed; just a few mild doses of anti-psychotics!

Does consciousness perfectly coincide in time with the physical world? If consciousness lagged behind by 1 second that would actually make a big difference in terms of the mind-body problem. It’d mean consciousness could read our senses as a memory in the brain instead of a location in real-time. An analogy is a horse rider that sits behind the horse to steer it with the reins even though the horse is moving by itself. A timeless universe means we don’t actually have to be conscious all at the same time!

The brain is physical so dualism would imply that your consciousness doesn’t actually have a brain and that only other people could perceive our brain. Speaking to the brains of others would be like you were making a telephone call to another mind who’s own reality isn’t real or palpable from your point of view; as if their brain were a tachyonic antitelephone! It’d be like a phone call that’s separated not by distance but a chasm of time. Are other people conscious at the exact same time we’re conscious? How do we know other people’s minds aren’t in a different timeline altogether where all we can observe are their insentient physical selves?


Not only can we not detect other minds but we don’t even observe their brains in absolute space. If we don’t see physical reality directly then even though it’s counterintuitive it’d logically mean we don’t perceive other people directly either. They too are part of our visual perception with the rest of the physical world. If my consciousness weren’t inside my brain then to be consistent that would mean other people’s minds aren’t inside their physical brain that we perceive inside our own vision. Everyone else’s brain is coloured red but of course we are told that any red we see is merely a qualia within ourselves. Something has to give! Might it be like our bodies were inert robots that follow around after our conscious mind! Anyone who disagrees can feel free to excuse themselves from my vision! If one thinks of the Turing test then any information the deceptive computer gives is ultimately programmed by another conscious agent initially even if the computer itself isn’t currently conscious. That is to say inert computers don’t make themselves. They don’t exist in nature. People make complex computers and so any comeback the computer gives can still be used to infer the existence of other minds in general even if that computer itself isn’t conscious. It’s like a secondary version of consciousness. It shows the after-effects of other conscious beings. If someone spent long enough inquiring about my personality and feelings then I’m sure it will be theoretically possible to encode all of my responses on a lifelike machine. Even though my clone wouldn’t be conscious it’d prove to an unknowing spectator that the clone was based on the true existence of a conscious being even if they didn’t know the real me. Therefore they can disprove the robot being conscious by outsmarting it but they can still derive the consciousness of an entity somewhere external to their own mind.


I remember a panicked feeling I had a few years back where it seemed my visual perception was somehow inside me which motivated me to investigate anti-realism. I recall staring at my bed from one end and thinking the image was hollow with the front and back equidistant from my eyes. When people said "good morning" it seemed formulaic. When I looked into the mirror my thoughts appeared to arise automatically. I tried going back to sleep to see if I could reawaken properly and when I couldn't I felt trapped. Perhaps it was possible to describe our perception of the physical world differently. I tried to work backwards from that dizzy sensation. Even though anxiety can play tricks on the mind and the effect disappeared after 30 minutes, I was amazed afterwards that my perception of the world as unreal seemed visually self-consistent. I’d to rely solely on my understanding of other people as being external to me for the anxiety to eventually go away. This was instead of saying everything was physical and back to normal. Other people have information that’s too complex for our own subconscious minds to have made it up. When we empathise and visualise with what someone has told us then you’ve to use your own mental concepts but in a different way than you’d normally think yourself. It’s both understandable and novel relative to ourselves whereas a foreign language is novel but not readily understandable. Chaos and complexity in and of itself is never subjectively understandable and so the physical world by itself doesn’t prove it’s fully real in the sense that there’s other minds.


As conspiratorial as this may sound, the thousand year mystery of free will might attest to radical flaws in not just our academic understanding but also our very own sensory perception of the ordinary medium-sized objects around us (rather than solely quantum-level mysteries or larger-scale gravitation). The weirder the idea the more realistic a chance it has of been correct! So we can keep coming up with as many random solutions as possible to try to home in on the eventual answer. Colours are hollow and fail to describe anything other than the surface area of a solid object. So colour by itself doesn’t show any volume. Their emptiness could be perceived as fake and unreal. At the end of the day our brains are medium sized objects. Anti-realism acknowledges the existence of a shared and objective material world but reminds us that we could be perceiving it indirectly through immaterial colour qualia.

Caveats:

(Sorry Aztecs; it still doesn’t mean that logic goes out the window even if the world isn’t entirely materialistic! There’d still have to be mathematical and philosophical truths despite the inherent strangeness of consciousness and ineffable mysticism of dreams. Materialism was first promoted to counteract religious dogmatism but it’s now at risk of going into overkill and impinging on consciousness itself.)


(Our rational free won’t ability means we’ll never be rabidly “possessed” by our very own emotional mind.)



The indirect metaphors of language and the colour of unobserved trees falling in forests do indeed present intriguing problems. But I openly admit that there must be some sort of shared physical reality. Not everything about our world is a mystery. Otherwise we’d just be speaking Elvish:

Footnotes: Below is a replica that shows secondary consciousness. Her usually limited set of replies can be contrasted with the depth of knowledge and apparent self-awareness in making those complex though infrequent statements which implies she’s not conscious herself. A child can be inferred to be conscious despite a lack of a verbal responses. They’re held to a lower standard and are judged only on a repeatability of lower information. However the talking portraits are inconsistent in how they can give intelligent information yet can’t follow through on other questions with a corresponding level of intelligence. Signs of self-awareness are normally continuous irrespective of the degree of insight they display. If they say something once with a lot of information then they can be held to the same standard on the next question. So it’s not just the quality of the information but also the repeatability of that quality. Anyone who get’s bored of being interrogated will be deemed a robot!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pxjpWPJo8vM


Maybe “we are what we see”. In other words if the individual colours we see are internal then our overall vision is internal. It’d be like our sense of self within our head is where our memory is located while our perception is actually our consciousness that is being continuously sculpted down to reflect reality. It takes less than a second for light from the horizon to reach your eyes so the difference between a 3D and 2D world are a few nanoseconds.



As I reach out to a photo on a wall, my hand is the same size as it and it looks like I can grab it without reaching any further. I would fail if I tried because they’re separated by a material distance and there’s a discrepancy between my vision and solid reality. Objects don’t physically contract but what if it’s not just an illusion and they really do visually contract as they move away from you because our representation of it exists in our own mind. Our retinas are less than a centimetre yet our sentient view appears relatively larger and magnified in comparison. My hand really would be right beside the painting in terms of the photons in my perception. Visually speaking objects in our field of view are made of empty space because touch and sight are separate senses. Touch is made of atoms while sight is made of photons and luckily they just so happen to coincide. A way of thinking about the problem from this vantage point is that your consciousness is beyond the horizon behind everything you see. A shadow gets bigger the further it travels so for objects to get smaller then that would imply that actually you were somehow the shadow and the light source is behind your perception of objects rather than reflecting off them from in front. Receding objects appear to get smaller because it might be your visual screen that gets bigger. It’d be where the multidirectional light is blocked by the rear of the object like a polarised lens and you see its straight shadow being cast in the form of colours. For example in the textbook reflection works by the object absorbing all non-reflected colours. In my analogy above that would correspond to the colour we do see being passed directly through the object while the rest are blocked. The light bulb is itself in your mind!



When you think about it the visual imprint of the skyscrapers at the horizon can be no bigger than the width of your eyes. Light is so infinitesimally dense that we don’t notice it. What if matter is like light that has been solidified? Which is most fundamental: unreal light or material atoms? If colour only exists in our brain then it follows that photons aren't travelling between you and the internal visual object you see but rather the photons must all be somewhere behind your perception of colourful objects. That means there'd be no physical photons in the space between your eyes and any colour you see.



Boring voices will be viewed as non-conscious:

Father Ted - The Wrong Department



Other comments I made in the philosophy forum (OP’s thread title on top):


I don't think there's free will:

If all of our thoughts and actions were preprogrammed and merely passive responses to external causes, wouldn't one expect far more uniformity among people in general? Even if a supercomputer could mimic all of my behaviour, would it be able to copy other people's responses at the same time? We all seem to have a different 'operating system' in the sense that meeting one person is a qualitatively different experience to meeting another person. We have an ability to improvise and deal with uncertainty. There is so much diversity and contrast between people which seems beyond that possible than if our decisions were completely deterministic. 1y


The mysteries of light. I think I actually stood behind this guy briefly going up in a lift inside the Ezdan Hotel Qatar 2015. I was over there to watch a tennis tournament. Small world!

I don't think there's free will

Randomness is unpredictable.— TheMadFool I'm a compatibilist. I think free will might be a complex interplay of determinism, chaos and randomness. The mind may well have both deterministic and random elements that counterbalance each other. For instance, lets think about cognitive dissonance. This sensation forces us to reconcile our actions with our thoughts. It's a stressful feeling. If one were to try to act on an evil thought that randomly pops into their head, they will be prevented from doing so by this stress reaction. Maybe this stress is deterministic in nature. So the randomness of our thoughts is counteracted by an instinctive feeling of stress and tension if we act against our true beliefs. This makes us responsible for our actions. If hard determinism is true, then why can't we go on "autopilot" or "cruise control" and sleepwalk to where we need to get to? Consciousness must have a function. 1y

Below is a tachyonic antitelophone being updated during sleep!

I don't think there's free will

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dont-delay/201106/free-wont-it-may-be-all-we-have-or-need Perhaps your idea of self-restraint and frugality as an antidote to hedonism may provide a sort of veto power. We're not slaves to happiness and our emotions. This might provide a limited sort of freedom in and of itself. 1y

The brain is mysterious. I know what your thinking: he must have eaten a lot of plant seeds and now there’s some cauliflower growing up there. But that’s actually the cerebellum! From now on I won't call people by their names and only by a cortex number with their specific spatial co-ordinates.

Determinism vs. Predictability

"Determining the motion and position of every particle within the universe would allow you to predict the future of the Universe and everything inside of it" - I don't think omniscience will ever be possible. The physical world is not self-aware so the particles themselves don't know what they're doing and are just passively responding to the various forces. "power of a computer" - But such a massive supercomputer would itself exist inside the universe and so in order to make predictions it would have to be simultaneously aware of every particle that constitutes this computer and every other particle in the universe. I don't think this would be possible at the same time. 1y

The mind of a plant blowing in the wind:



I don't think there's free will

Is there a degree of spontaneity in our interactions with other people? Even if my thoughts occurred deterministically, I obviously don't know what is happening in the mind's eye of other people. So even if my actions and your actions are physically deterministic, isn't there still an unpredictability in our social interactions? And the sheer number of people in the world makes it impossible to predict how the future will play out. There is just so much chance and randomness involved in our mutual communication. 1y


If you ever failed gym class you can always cite Zeno’s Paradox to make yourself look even more nerdy! I don’t know; maybe are the colours of the moving objects replacing the colours of the the background rather than existing independently?


I don't think there's free will

Free will perhaps exists on a spectrum as we stress over some decisions more than others. So doing something trivial like choosing between different options on a dinner menu may be more of a subconsciously automated choice based on your taste buds. But then a more significant decision such as what subject to study in college requires more deliberation and stress to freely weigh up the pros and cons. Sometimes we are forced to randomly choose the least worst option. On other occasions when we are rushed we might take risks to avoid analysis paralysis. So how free a decision is may vary. 1y


It looks complicated but how do we know what these generic blackboards in the background actually mean? For all we know it could just be a menu in chinese where equation 5 translates to sweet and sour chicken! (That was actually a Turing test where anyone who didn’t laugh is a cyborg. I’ll catch you out eventually!)



The basics of free will

If consciousness has no causal role and is merely epiphenomenal, what is the point of the experience of pain? Why would our brains be "programmed" to feel pain if it has no causal function and everything is simply deterministic? 1y

(We tend to view animal minds as wholly deterministic and besides rationality one difference between them and us is our increased sensitivity to stress and pain.)

An interesting elaboration on pain and free will:

(Don’t worry. It was written at a later date than my post! So of course he’d need other reasons as well.)


A world where our sense of light is unaffected by tactile gravity. How diagonal the ground is would depend on our proximity to the equator. Or else the level ground in front of you would appear to run from directly above to vertically below you when you go to turn around and look behind you. You’d be committing both anti-realism and anti-gravity! It’d resemble the ground having moved backwards as you were to walk forwards. Gravity would act horizontally against you while the ground behind you was vertical relative to the earth’s rotation. That’s the mathematical equivalent of a hallucinogenic!



Would an uneven rotating asteroid finally kill Bruce Willis when he tries to jump upwards? Gravity has been a mystery for so long that maybe we'll have to cheat and try Googling the answer.



Maybe in the far future it won’t be impossible to have open-minded discussions on how precisely some unspecified spiritual entities could actually possess the information to create and design these materialistic phenomena. Humans know far more about the world today than we did a 1000 years ago. What if we extrapolated that trend to a 100,000 years in the future? Would they have a “science of God” so to speak?! It wouldn’t be enough for them to say that it’s too complex so a spirt created it but to actually try to scientifically and mathematically understand how such an agent would have went about implementing it. Information doesn’t come from nowhere and that same principle of experimentation and investigative effort would apply to any project by infinite being.

The dinosaurs were far more complex and diverse than modern species so information-wise the historical trend isn’t always to keep getting increasingly efficient or adaptable. Perhaps might an analogy be where modern animals are simpler and have been reduced down from the complexity of the exotic giants of the ice age and Jurassic era? It’s harder to design a tyrannosaurus rex than a polar bear! I don’t have a clue about dinosaurs and genetics. I’m not trying to sound megalomaniacal! Although at this stage I’ve probably already failed that one! But I’ll give a hypothetical example of what a simple spiritual line of reasoning might resemble: they were a biological experiment where the sheer scale of these species and their exaggerated larger-sized organs meant that whatever designed them would then have had more knowledge on how to build smaller modern species.


Feedback on that idea: https://www.scienceforums.net/topic/125095-speculation-on-junk-dna/


Don’t mind me; I’m just out practicing my running and breathing technique!





I watched this movie when I was very young. You’re not fully self-aware so it seems like harmless fun. When you’re a teenager you’ve more insight and it just looks silly and childish so you’d never watch these types of movies. When you come across it again as an adult you’ve more analytical skills so the whole situation seems so drugged up it’s scary and you think it should have an over 18’s cert.


How exactly does music affect our consciousness to evoke emotions and memories? It’s not as powerful as a drug and we can ignore music we don’t like. Although the music that appeals to us can effortlessly induce a more immediate effect on our mental awareness than ordinary forms of communication like reading. Music appreciation can increase with age whereas drugs like alcohol are most potent during the first session. It’s as if we can recognise the music as a deliberate pattern and not just random noise in that it shows work and intentionality in its creation. This arouses our curiosity. It’s both conscious and mysterious. The trouble is it’s open-ended and ambiguous where we can’t fully understand what it means. The vocal lyrics can help us to narrow down the possibilities of what the musical instruments are trying to convey to us. The singer is like a person speaking with a really strange or foreign accent and we’re trying to suss out what their emotional tone is and what their background might be. With some pop music I might actively dislike the meaning of the lyrics despite really enjoying the overall beat. Other times the music creates vague sensations in me that are very different from the intended meaning.


The daring and mischievous beat almost made me think of a nihilistic or amoral aristocratic society in a surreal landscape despite it having nothing at all to do with the literal meaning of the hedonistic or promiscuous lyrics that it’s based on. I’d never openly admit to liking Nicki Minaj songs but suffice it to say a few of the sounds can have a trance-like effect. The question is how artificial sound can have an emotional effect rather than another sense like patterns of touch. Perhaps it’s because our own voice in our head is a type of sound. I remember going for a walk with the lads and they were asking me what I was listening to on the headphones. I told them Rihanna to much bemusement. That’s the last time I’ll be saying that!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZwR8XoV5wg&list=RDlZwR8XoV5wg&start_radio=1

212 (Studio Instrumental)

When you remove the distracting vocals you can have a clearer sound of the disorienting beats. We use sound not only for communication but also to identify the location of noisy objects relative to ourselves. Music might affect this "echolocation" such that our own conscious position in space is diffuse. Maybe that way music could have an emotional effect.




I got that for €40 in a market stall at St. Malo in Brittany, France. It reminded me of the industrial vibe of the harbour. In a likewise fashion we appreciate a painted picture rather than a photo of that same scene simply because we can recognise that every stroke of the painting had an actual purpose to it. The drawing elucidates the hidden mindset of the painter. The painting is like a conversation between yourself and the mood that the artist was in when they painted it.




This one was only up in a hotel room. But as I sat on the sofa and glanced at it I was surprised by the beautiful painting. The colours are unnaturally deep and striking. The yellow refraction through the wave is seamless. The multicoloured sand holistically evens out at a light brown hue. The blue sea is darker than you’d expect relative to the amount of sunlight. Up in the sky we see clouds yet they don’t impinge on our crystal clear view of the horizon. When we see the closest bird we then notice the other vague birds in the distance aren’t in exact correspondence with perspective size which makes it seem like that first bird is even larger. An appreciation of unreal colour combinations implies the painter wasn’t a photographic robot.



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