Monster Manuals
Yablo on Fictionalism

Realism vs. Idealism

Should we afford primacy to reality or to mind? What a foolish question! How could we do one without the other in either case?

I try not to buy into the presumed dichotomy between “realism” and “idealism” in philosophy. “Realism” is supposed to express the idea that reality is mind-independent. “Idealism” is supposed to express the concept that for us, ideas are all that can be. Either of these perspectives, swallowed naïvely, will lead us astray. In this respect, I always found Robert Anton Wilson’s use of “zetetic”, which express the idea that there is an objective reality but our only access to it is via our mind, to be apposite. But really he was just paraphrasing Kant without realising it.

I do not see myself as a “realist” nor an “idealist”, although if I was significant enough to incorporate into the records of this philosophical sporting  match it’s a safe bet I’d be assigned to team “idealist”. But ever since encountering Heidegger’s account of “thrownness” – the fact that we are thrown into this world and it makes no sense whatsoever to doubt its reality – I’ve wanted to retire gracefully from the ring on this particular battle.


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I was listening to In Our Time this morning, which was on the Cogito, which got me thinking (something I try not to do often, as it raises all manner of paradoxes).

However, it seems paradoxical that the only thing one can't doubt is, to all intents and purposes, incorporeal - or at least an epiphenomenon of matter. This ephemeral mind is then used to judge the validity of material reality.

Chairman: recent critiques of Descartes "I think therefore I am" point out that there is a redundancy in this statement: to be able to say that "I think" presupposes that "I am"; to say that "I am" presupposes that "I think". The two entail one another, rather than one being a consequence of the other. Descartes himself says:

"Thus, after everything has been most carefully weighed, it must finally be established that this pronouncement 'I am, I exist' is necessarily true every time I utter it or conceive it in my mind."

So is the fact that "you are" incorporeal? Or just your ability to recognize it? :)

Best wishes!

Dunno - I think I'm trapped inside a computer. Specifically an Acer Aspire.

*grins* You ought to get that seen to. ;)

If I ascribe a position on your scale to myself:
I´m definitely a realist, but not a materialist (positivist?)
I believe that reality exists independent of the mind, although of course we do need the mind to understand reality.
And for me truth is absolute not relative, both the spiritual and the physical truth.
However, since the true nature of God is by definition beyond human understanding, spiritual truth can only be determined through the instrument of faith. And there the metaphor of the elephant in the dark room (everyone feels a different part and describes the animal as something different) might work pretty well.
Although different religions seem to contradict each other in human understanding, for God, who is beyond physical space and time, the different religious metaphors might not be contradictions at all, but describing different aspects of a divine reality, which is as a whole far beyond human comprehension.

When it comes down to physical truth however, this can be determined by human reasoning, physical facts and the laws of physics. The more physical data we have the closer we can come to describing reality correctly and knowing the truth about some event, past or present.

And I believe, that getting to know reality and accepting it as it really is, is the first step of true freedom.
You are now free to become your own actor within reality, even change some things.

If you are lost in a manipulated false perception of reality however, you will become a helpless pawn in other people´s game.

You are an intellectual Chris, a writer, a philosopher and a fantasy game designer.
I´m just a lowly working-class girl. My reality is physical and touchable and sometimes scary, real scary, not horror movie scary.
Life is no game in my mind, and there is no reset bottom in my reality.

part 2 of my comment:

What has brought me to redefine my reality (which exists inside myself), my understanding of the world around me (which exists outside myself), was the realization of 9/11 being an inside job.

About 10 minutes after I turned on the TV that fatal day, I watched the second tower fall "live", after having watched the first tower fall several times in a rerun.
For the rest of the day I was in a kind of daze, sitting without talking and without being able to move, staring at the TV screen(and scaring my poor kids terribly).
Only one thought was in my mind at the time: "This is the beginning of WW III, the end of the world."

Years later I realized, that this one-thought-daze of mine was the effect of a stage-set show, combining the constant rerun of the falling towers, with the headlines:
"America under attack"

About two years later I had finally come to the conclusion that the official story was absolutely false, since it contradicted the very laws of nature
(nothing can go down in free fall speed, if it meets any form of resistance
- this is a reality, which exists beyond the mind).

I didn´t get to this point in one leap. It took me several smaller, intermediary steps to come to the acceptance of this reality. And the realization of it was extremely painful, more painful even than the initial shock of 9/11. My mind resisted for quite a while, because deep down I felt the consequences already before I accepted the facts.

This is the consequent conclusion, which must follow automatically from the above realization:
We do not live in a true democracy.
A free media is the necessary watchdog of any democracy - without it there is none.

In a democracy a free media would be free to tell the population the truth. They would also be free to lie, of course. But when everybody is free to tell the truth, many will do so.

On the topic of 9/11 all mainline media outlets (print, radio and TV-media) supported the obviously false account of the American government, and that world-wide (the "corporate" media, the small private media outlets, the public media connected to governments of their countries, like the British BBC,the German ARD and ZDF, or the Icelandic RUV)

Only independent media, mainly on the internet, did the research exposing the lies.
The mainline media in an united front, first ignored, then ridiculed the researchers as crazies and psychologically deficient or attacked them as dangerous radicals.

I had always trusted the media to explain the world for me in an objective and truthful manner.
I had also trusted science and academia to be objective investigators of physical facts.

I felt painfully betrayed by all of them.
It also meant, whatever I have been told in the past is now open to questioning, including everything told to me about history, past and present events.

And question I did, using mainly what I know about the laws of physics and physical logic.

What I found is:
that practically all major news outlets and most of academia are instruments of political manipulation using deliberate lies, distractions and misrepresentation of reality for the purpose of controlling public opinion for the benefit of a non-benign global power elite.

This elite is fascistic minded, believes in a centralization of power in their hands and a totalitarian rule via military and police measures, economic oppression and blackmail, and monopolization and manipulation of information.

But even worse, this elite is fanatically Malthusian, intend on reducing human population by all means (including wars, induced famine, diseases, artificially created resource shortages and forced birth control and abortions.)

And that brings me back to the Church. I know for certain, that Catholic Church isn´t "in it" (not in bed with these fascistoid elites) since she is the only large organization in the world, that´s consequently non-Malthusian.
In other words, I can be absolutely sure, that the Church doesn´t want me or my children (or anybody else´s children in whatever country they happen to live) to be erased from the face of this earth.

(Oh, and I´m perfectly ready to discuss the evidence for the falsity of the Malthusian paradigm with anyone who might be interested)

Thanks for reading

Notsylvia: I'm fond of the elephant in the dark room metaphor - it originates in Hindu philosophy (one of my five religions) and transferred into the Abrahamic faiths via Sufi Islam (Sufi is another one of my religions).

"You are an intellectual Chris, a writer, a philosopher and a fantasy game designer.
I´m just a lowly working-class girl. My reality is physical and touchable and sometimes scary, real scary, not horror movie scary.
Life is no game in my mind, and there is no reset button in my reality."

I assure you, I have no reset button for my reality either! Changes to my reality are hard fought, and I had to push through some dark places to get to where I am today.

As for "lowly working-class", I have more respect for people working "real" jobs than for my own professions and vocations - I consider it a blessing that I have been able to work fields that I love, but I have far more respect for my father building hospitals in Ghana than for any game I've made.

I'll not comment extensively on your rant regarding a fascistic elite, except to say that looking at the communiques within the White House makes it clear to me that the events you allude to were not an "inside job", although this is not to say that media reports in connection with these and subsequent events weren't subject to considerable spin and bias, nor indeed that some things were falsely represented.

I believe most conspiracy theorists take a "leap of paranoid faith" that rest on a degree of organisation among the powerful that on closer examination is rather shaky. That there is some sort of loose coalition between wealthy elites is probably beyond dispute, but the details will rarely fall out into neat stories without considerable manipulation, and most conspiracies that do the rounds afford superhuman capacities to organisations that I find it hard to believe are anything near that efficient or effective!

A movement behind the curtain is proof only that something is going on behind the curtain; the stories we construct therein should be subject to especial scrutiny.

You're entitled to your beliefs on this issue as with any other, but I personally find conspiracy theories to be rather less interesting than other beliefs. I'd rather discuss people's metaphysics and ethics, to be honest.

Best wishes!

Sorry, I sounded like someone with a chip on her shoulder.
I don´t think intellectual work or creative imagination are useless.
(I always was fascinated by my children´s imagination and creativity. Nowadays after they´ve grown up, my older son still draws manga cartoons as a hobby, but he still dreams of publishing some of them one day;
my daughter studies literature and wants to become a childrens´books author (who can live from writing);
my other son is a young programmer, last year he wrote an interface program for medical device, but this year he writes the program for a game to be played on i-phones)

Being creative with one´s mind and sharing this with other people is an important part of being human.
And so is creating something with your hands, like the job of your father, building hospitals where they are dearly needed, a very good and very human thing.

What maddens me sometimes, however, is intellectual arrogance which values individual human life only according to the number of a person´s IQ points or still worse, not at all.

And here comes another of my "anecdotes":

When I first started to read and communicate on the internet, I met people (online) who were quoting philosophers and their teachings. Although I might have heard some name or other, I still had no idea what these online folks were talking about.

So I decided I needed a bit of a short-cut education. Google came up with a German site called:Philo-lex
On that site most of the world´s philosophies and philosophers were afforded about half a printed page or so each, which was quite enough for me.
I was truly grateful for such a nice and compact resource. And then I got curious about the man who had compiled all this information. I clicked on a link to his personal page.
What I found there turned me off philosophy for the next few years.

The philo-lex compiler by the name Peter Meyer declared, that after his intensive philosophical studies he had come to the conclusion that human kind was too stupid to solve today´s pressing problems, and therefor what would be needed, would be a process of self-evolution via genetic engineering, which would result in a new and smarter humanoid species.

This new humanoid race would then take over the planet. But no worry, they´d really be nice and take good care of us. They would keep us "like animals in a zoo" (O-Tone Peter Meyer).

My conclusion at the time (about 2003) was, that reading too much philosophy must be dangerous to your mental health. It can drive you bananas. You might loose all connection with reality. It might turn you into the ultimate misanthrope, a nihilist, a human self-hater.

I later found out that Mr Meyer, who once used to be a Christian, wasn´t alone in his strange nihilistic philosophy. There are groups of intellectuals who call themselves "futurologist" who dream about the very same thing.
And there are scientists who actually work on the task of creating a new humanoid species by trying to add one extra pair of chromosomes to the human genome.
At the moment they only have a few mice-oids running around with extra chromosome pairs. But in five or ten years, bio-ethicist Richard Hayes says ( ), those scientists hope to be ready to do the same to human(anoid) babies.

Intellectual arrogance can lead to what I see as a form of truly dangerous nihilism and megalomania.

As for 9/11:
You have every right in the world, to avoid what you call "conspiracy theories", since accepting them is extremely painful, I know that.
You can call accepting the facts about 9/11 "a paranoid leap of faith", if you like, in order to distance yourself from those people who do.
But "paranoid" is just a word or according to your theory a fictional device. The word can be used to denigrate those who one disagrees with. You can also call us "tin-foil-hatters", if you like.
I´ve seen the name-calling method on the side of the "truthers" as well. They call the "official conspiracy theory believers" sheep or sheeplets. I don´t think the name-calling game is very helpful. (Oh, and b.t.w. the official story is indeed a conspiracy theory. Just that in this case the conspirators are the now 9times dead binLaden from the cave and his gang of not all dead 19 robbers - some are indeed alive and well)

Physical reality is based on more than fictional words. The laws of physics will always trump the question "how could they get away with it?" or "is such a coordination of power in any way possible?". Since the laws of physics tell us that it did happen,that explosives must have been used and any other explanation is physically impossible, then the organizational part becomes secondary.

And once the physical questions have been clarified (and this wasn´t too difficult at all),then the other questions can be asked. And there it becomes far more difficult to find satisfying answers, since the matter is extremely complex.

The answers to those questions have to be sought
- in the philosophies of the perpetrators, - in the psychology of the onlookers of the event,
- in sociological factors
- in how information is compartmentalized in authoritarian structures like the military or corporations
- in how intelligence agencies operate and their connection to mass-media outlets
- in the way how information is "framed" when presented to the general public
- and in the history of our current political system (I like to call it a "propagandocracy", a system which has slowly developed over the last 200 years or so.)

Notsylvia: It is true that just because someone is paranoid it doesn't mean that they are right. I do not intend to denigrate a particular viewpoint by saying that the route to it lead through a paranoid leap of faith, but I do mean to draw attention to the fact that there is a particular kind of leap of faith that leads to an interpretation of events quite distinct to the "authorised" game played with those events.

For me, what characterises the difference between the authorised game in this case and the alternative is that the alternative is at least a little paranoid i.e. influenced by anxiety or fear of some circumstance or outcome. But such a belief may *still* be true - some paranoia is warranted (terrorists do intend people harm, governments do not always/often have the best interests of the populace in mind). But for me, I find it useful to recognise this distinction.

To clarify, I do not mean 'paranoid' to mean 'delusional'; sometimes paranoid thinking is justified. It was certainly justified amongst minority groups living in Berlin as the Nazi's came to power, for instance. But minority beliefs about historical events that conclude with a conspiracy are paranoid in a very straight forward sense of this word and I don't have a better word to substitute. Saying that a particular viewpoint is paranoid does not mean that is necessarily in error - this, frankly, is much harder to ascertain.

My apologise for any offence I may have caused by using this term without caveat.

"What maddens me sometimes, however, is intellectual arrogance which values individual human life only according to the number of a person´s IQ points or still worse, not at all."

I do not appreciate this either. We all have to live together, and someone's value should not be a function of what books they have read, or even if they can read at all.

"...too much philosophy must be dangerous to your mental health."

This is certainly true! But then, "too much" of anything, by definition, cannot be good for you. :) Personally, however, the kind of people you talk about here were probably not driven to their wild beliefs by philosophy - I suspect they began with wild beliefs in the first place, and their interest in philosophy is not causally related.

These kind of connections are very difficult to unravel.

All the best!

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