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Reality, in everyday usage, means "the state of things as they actually exist."[1] Literally, the term denotes what is real; in its widest sense, this includes everything that is, whether or not it is observable or comprehensible. Reality in this sense includes being and sometimes is considered to include nothingness, as well. By contrast, the term existence is often restricted solely to being (compare with nature).
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The term reality first appeared in the English language in 1550, originally a legal term in the sense of "fixed property."[2] It originated from the Modern Latin term realitatem, which was from Late Latin realis; the meaning of "real existence" is from 1647 onwards.[2]

Phenomenological reality Edit

On a much broader and more subjective level, private experiences, curiosity, inquiry, and the selectivity involved in personal interpretation of events shapes reality as seen by one and only one individual and hence is called phenomenological. While this form of reality might be common to others as well, it could at times also be so unique to oneself as to never be experienced or agreed upon by anyone else. Much of the kind of experience deemed spiritual occurs on this level of reality.

Phenomenology is a philosophical method developed in the early years of the twentieth century by Edmund Husserl and a circle of followers at the universities of Göttingen and Munich in Germany. Subsequently, phenomenological themes were taken up by philosophers in France, the United States, and elsewhere, often in contexts far removed from Husserl's work.

The word phenomenology comes from the Greek phainómenon, meaning "that which appears", and lógos, meaning "study". In Husserl's conception, phenomenology is primarily concerned with making the structures of consciousness, and the phenomena which appear in acts of consciousness, objects of systematic reflection and analysis. Such reflection was to take place from a highly modified "first person" viewpoint, studying phenomena not as they appear to "my" consciousness, but to any consciousness whatsoever. Husserl believed that phenomenology could thus provide a firm basis for all human knowledge, including scientific knowledge, and could establish philosophy as a "rigorous science".[3]

Husserl's conception of phenomenology has been criticised and developed not only by himself, but also by his student and assistant Martin Heidegger, by existentialists, such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, and by other philosophers, such as Paul Ricoeur, Emmanuel Levinas, and Dietrich von Hildebrand.[4]

Truth Edit

The term truth has no single definition about which a majority of professional philosophers and scholars agree, and various theories of truth continue to be debated. Metaphysical objectivism holds that truths are independent of our beliefs; except for propositions that are actually about our beliefs or sensations, what is true or false is independent of what we think is true or false. According to some trends in philosophy, such as postmodernism/post-structuralism, truth is subjective. When two or more individuals agree upon the interpretation and experience of a particular event, a consensus about an event and its experience begins to be formed. This being common to a few individuals or a larger group, then becomes the "truth" as seen and agreed upon by a certain set of people — the consensus reality. Thus one particular group may have a certain set of agreed-upon truths, while another group might have a different set. This allows different communities and societies to have very different notions of reality and truth about the external world. The religion and beliefs of people or communities are one example of this level of socially constructed reality. Truth cannot simply be considered truth if one speaks and another hears because individual bias and fallibility challenge the idea that certainty or objectivity are easily grasped. For anti-realists, the inaccessibility of any final, objective truth means that there is no truth beyond the socially-accepted consensus. (Although this means there are many truths, not a single truth.)

For realists, the world is a set of definite facts, which exist independently of human perceptions ("The world is all that is the case" — Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus), and these facts are the final arbiter of truth. Michael Dummett expresses this in terms of the principle of bivalence:[5] Lady Macbeth had three children or she did not; a tree falls or it does not. A statement will be true if it corresponds to these facts — even if the correspondence cannot be established. Thus the dispute between the realist and anti-realist conception of truth hinges on reactions to the epistemic accessibility (knowability, graspability) of facts.

Fact Edit

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A fact or factual entity is a phenomenon that is perceived as an elemental principle. It is rarely one that could be subject to personal interpretation. Instead, it is most often an observed phenomenon of the natural world. The proposition that "viewed from most places on Earth, the Sun rises in the east" is a fact. It is a fact for people belonging to any group or nationality, regardless of which language they speak or which part of the hemisphere they come from. The Galilean proposition in support of the Copernican theory, that the sun is the center of the solar system, is one that states the fact of the natural world. However, during his lifetime Galileo was ridiculed for that factual proposition, because far too few people had a consensus about it in order to accept it as a truth,[citation needed] and at the time the Ptolemaic model was just as accurate a predictor. Fewer propositions are factual in content in the world, as compared to the many truths shared by various communities, which are also fewer than the innumerable individual world views. Much of scientific exploration, experimentation, interpretation and analysis is done on this level.

This view of reality is expressed in Philip K. Dick's statement that "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."[6]

What reality might not be Edit