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Inscrutable Reality

Inscrutable Reality

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Published by Kaushik Murali

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Published by: Kaushik Murali on Mar 31, 2012
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03/31/2012

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Reality
 –
The biggest mystery mankind is trying to unravel.There is a strange yet beautiful world surrounding us. To understand the mystery of why or whatconstitutes this world has been our greatest quest. Trying to
define
reality is a daunting task. Peoplespend their entire lifetime to unravel this mystery. It all starts with the simple question
 –
What is there?Or what is reality? Even I am engaged in that pursuit of defining reality. Being a layman, I only have mywits with me. And common sense and conventional wisdom are not guides. So how to begin this quest ?Not by trying to find the answers, but by trying to ask the right questions.
"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
“ 
-
 Albert Einstein
 Reality is more intriguing than it seems. It might be comforting, reliable and it
seems
as though it all
makes sense. But that’s conventional wisdom .
Analyzing the same conventional wisdom leads to apuzzling insight. If you are reading this article then you are actually zooming across space around the sunat 67000 miles/ hour .You are rotating around the same area at 1041 miles/ hour. 70 percent of yourbody is made of liquid yet you
appear 
to be solid. There might be a god watching over your actions. Atthis very moment a child is born. A person is dead. Around 7 billion human hearts are pumping blood.There are over 1,740,330 living species right now. All this comes under one single term called as reality.Yet there is no single definition for reality. So to define it, we have to depend on the tools that we haveat hand. The first tool that we have in our hand is our senses.
Senses
“What is there?“ . When someone first asks this question, the most common answer would be
“look around”. “ 
Whether can we trus
t what we observe?”. This is the question that I have. Can we trust our
senses
? Consider wax. Wax
appears
to be a solid but when it is subjected to heat it melts. Our sensoryperception of wax is clearly distorted as it changes its state. Consider the
metal 
Mercury. All metals areshiny solids except Mercury. Mercury resembles a liquid but has all the metallic properties. Are Oursenses wrong when we see, touch or sense Mercury ? Ancient man, when engaged in spear fishingrealized that the actual location of a fish in water is different from the one that he perceives. We havelearnt that refractions and reflections are also distortions. Consider the Honey bee. The visual sensitivityof the honey bee lies in the region of ultra violet. Then the ontology of honey bee is clearly differentfrom the ontology of humans. So what we see differs from what the honey bee sees. Consider my case. Iam colorblind. They way i see the world is completely different from the way a normal person sees theworld. Now the question we have is that whether our senses always deceive? How can we be sure thatwhat we perceive is reality? Has the process of perception changed reality into a distortion? What wemight be
sensing
might be manifestations of peculiar sort. So can this be branded as reality? Then whatare thoughts and ideas? What are cells, atoms, electron and quarks? They do not come under the worldthat we
see, hear, touch or feel.
Can we choose this observational method to define reality? The answersdepend on the mode of inquiry and the sensory apparatus that we have at the given time. This impliesthat there is far more to reality than that is accessible to any of our senses. We cannot depend on our
 
sensory perceptions alone as they have proved to be deceptive. Are there any other tools that can helpus comprehending this abstruse reality? This leads to the tool called mathematical rationality.
Rationality
We are pattern seeking creatures. We have so much desire to impose pattern on chaos. The bestexample of this pattern seeking behavior is constellations. Up above the sky, there is a huge labyrinthfully filled with shiny dots
resembling
chaos. Yet we choose a few dots and connect them to form apattern. Is the pattern already there? Or have we defined them? Another example is the golden ratio.After establishing or stumbling across this weird mathematical irrational number, we associate it withmany other aspects of reality. The arrangement of branches, the arrangement of human veins andnerves, the proportions of chemical compounds in crystals all tend to form in some way or the other,the golden ratio. It was also touted as the universal law. But this is still disputed and nothing is
substantially 
proven to be a fact. Also the golden ratio is represented as a mathematical number. Then ismathematics real?Pythagoras was the first person to fuse mathematics and nature. Till then mathematics was a mere tool.It was used to represent patterns. It was used as a frame of reference. He suggested that ultimate realityconstituted of numbers. It is
arguably 
true from his stand point. But is it actual? It is highly logical butoffers only a
conception
of reality but it does not support a perceptual view of reality. So what we needis a tool that will help us to comprehend the world at both conceptual and perceptual level. This tool iscalled knowledge.
Knowledge
Knowledge arms us with a collection of facts. Facts which are supported by both conception andperception. Facts that are acquired through many cognitive processes such as learning, understanding,reasoning etc. Do these facts help us in our quest ? Well lets consider the laws of physics. We
know 
thatthe laws of physics are almost universal. These laws are formulated through rigorous analysis andreasoning. We understand the concept of time only through this reasoning . You may say that the lawsof physics will hold good throughout the universe. But how do you
know 
for sure? The best answer islook back in time and analyze. It has been true so far so it will be true in the future. But this is a belief than actuality. Most significant claims are based on this systematic knowledge . So the laws of physicsbecome a prediction. We
believe
that the laws of physics can be applied but we cannot
actually 
 
“know”.
 Even the tool of knowledge can be questionable. We are questioning these tools and none of them canbe
chosen.
Also trying to choose leads to infinite regress. So we need more than tools. We needmethods of understanding . So we need something different. Something transcendental!!!
 
 
Religion
"The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunkenman is happier than a sober one" -
George Bernard Shaw 
 
Religion has always claimed that there is a universal being (god) that governs our actions. Also manypeople claim that enlightenment or the unique sense of awakening gives a meaning or helps themcomprehend the entirety. But are these claims real?The claims of existence of a supreme being have always fascinated me. I have always asked the
question, “ if god created us , then who created god ?
Why is it not visible? Who gave it all the powers?
“.
(
Us.)
These are the basic questions which challenge the faith in religion. How does this faith comeabout? Faith stems from two basic characteristics
 –
Trust and loyalty. These two characteristics areimbibed into us by the society. Why is everyone so scared or apprehensive to question faith?
It’s
because of systematic knowledge
without 
any basis or reasoning. Belief in god or a supreme being offersan easy way out of this quest to comprehend reality. It is also the epitome of 
intellectual laziness
. I donot wish to follow that path . The existence of god, is merely an imagination of human mind, an ideathat has taken over the world, but it is definitely not real as there is no conceptual, perceptual, logical,rational evidence for its own existence.So is there a transcendental or ethereal or spiritual realm of reality? Every mode of inquiry shows thatthere isn
’t
any. Logically, if there is a realm of such kind, then we should not even be talking about it aswe should not know that it exists because we cannot adopt a stance that is not human. This logicallyresults in materialism.
Materialism
Democritus stated that ultimate reality unimaginably large number of atoms and space . ( atomos
 –
 Meaning :- cannot be split further ). This is actually proved by science. We have identified almost everysingle element and we have associated the corresponding atoms with those elements. Nothing leaves
the materiality. Everything is made of voids and “stuff”. This definition of reality can be explained
through every mode of inquiry we have established so far. But this is counterintuitive. Then what aboutthoughts, desires, emotions, consciousness? Are these atomic? What about the good, evil, beauty, fate,chance? Are they real? Do they exist? These are unanswered by materiality.
“Man is the measure of all things “ 
-
Protagoras
 
This is where the quest becomes a melancholy prospect. This is a dialectic predicament. Nothing
really 
 can be
chosen
as the above discussed methods can be questioned. What is needed is a stance that willgive us a holistic definition of reality. For this we need a standard , independent of human nature. But astandard independent of human nature will be ineffable. So we have to make choice. A
humble
choicethat can at least define pseudo-reality which conceptually, perceptually, rationally
tries
to define reality

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