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Ein Bild, das Text, Wolke, Himmel, Poster enthält.

Automatisch generierte Beschreibung

This is the first part in the Reality# series that adds to the conversation about David Chalmers’ book Reality+

Intro to Reality#

Reality# (spoken sharp) is a series of notes and essays that are a reaction to Chalmers 2022 Book “Reality+”. They were written during a period of 12 Months during multiple readings.

I chose the Hashtag (#) not due to Social-Network reasons. #Reality would be a self-contradictory term. Philosophy like Masturbation is a deeply anti-social project. To be able to think, one must be comfortable to be alone with oneself and even find pleasure in doing so. The symbol is taken from Music where the sharp sign (#) is used to indicate that a note should be raised by a half step.

Whereas Chalmers explores the whole steps of the subject by using the conventional philosophical scale of structured chapters and the platonic style of reasoning, Reality# is more interested in the halftones, the black keys. My hope is that the text is chromatically enriched, with frictions (Contradictions) and exploring interesting Overtones and modulating to nearby subjects.

Chalmers book is great even when some of his core arguments are either debatable or plain wrong. It is by far the most accessible writing on a subject that is considered at the core of the hard problem of consciousness. After Realism and Relativism, it is not unreasonable to expect that Chalmers spawned a new branch on the philosophical tree of Epistemology. Chalmers himself calls his interpretation Virtual Realism, but I myself find this term a little too boring. Chalmers is interested in technology, but his book is far more than a call to just invest in Meta stock. Chalmers is a VR enthusiast but no fanboy, he does not advocate for escapism. Whenever quoting Chalmers I provide a reference in parenthesis.

We will call this the Australian School of Techno-Epistemology or Realityplusism or shorter: Realplusism for now. Realplusism is summed up in the sentence:

Virtual reality is genuine reality. Virtual worlds need not be second class realities. (Chalmers, XVII)

Or even simpler:

The preferred way to deal with simulations while you are inside them is to treat them as reality.  (Aiuisensei)

We will later look at some historical figures and produce an estimation of where exactly they sit on the Aussiestic Spectrum. With one Extreme of the spectrum being populated by Chalmers himself: (Almost) Everything is real and Nihilism on the other end: (Almost) Nothing is real. (Sartre, Nietzsche, Buddha), our current scientific world view seems to sit right in the middle: we behave in such a way and are taught that reality behaves somewhat dependable even if fringe findings in chaos theory, cosmology and quantum mechanics suggest otherwise.

Reality#’s writing style is deeply indebted to the late Ludwig Wittgenstein. In his philosophical investigations he implies a fragmentary style, with his reflections tending to “jump all around the subject”. This fragmentary style forces the reader to piece together the philosophical puzzle he presents, adding to the depth and complexity of his thought. Wittgenstein once compared his philosophical observations to “raisins,” which may be the best part of a cake, but their addition does not ensure a perfect, complete form of expression. (Vermischte Bemerkungen 386)

It is very telling that I myself hate raisins. I am much more a peanuts guy. So, consider the following experiment to go nuts about reality and don’t be concerned too much about simulations and realities.

Or in the words of one of my other philosophical heroes:

Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia. (Charles M. Schulz, Peanuts)

Objective Reality and Language Use

Our minds are part of reality. But there’s a great deal of reality outside our minds. Reality contains our world, and it may contain many others. We can build new worlds and new parts of reality. We know a little about reality, and we can try to know more. There may be parts of it that we can never know. Most importantly, reality exists independently of us. The truth matters. There are truths about reality, and we can try to find them. Even in an age of multiple realities, I still believe in objective reality. (Chalmers XXIV)

Objective Reality is that kind of reality we believe that survives the vanishing and predates the emerging of singular subjective realities. Objective Reality is the set of all subjective Realities between their first realization (when their consciousness is formed) and their last (when their consciousness dissolves).

Objective Reality is that kind of reality we should agree on treating as if it matters.

Objective reality is that kind of reality that should not exist in plural.

Reality is that which can’t be stopped from within.

She was a real friend to him during those tough times, always there to listen and support.

Here real means something like “true” in a somewhat logical way. We could rewrite this sentence without the real part and don’t lose anything. She behaved like a friend….Adding the real part seems to emphasize the fact that she really meant it when she was friendly and not just pretending it.

From her behavior we can come to the conclusion that the Truth-value of the sentence: She was his friend, is not false.

Are these diamonds real or synthetic?

Here real means something like it’s not a cheap copy, but the highly valued original. We seem to associate something like an inner value to stuff that is real (original) which a copy even if it is identical does not possess. This whole issue becomes very complicated if we go into the direction of cloning.

To become a real professional in any field, you need dedication and years of practice.

Here real means something like you can gain an attribute “real” by dedicating much time to the subject. In the beginning of starting something you can’t be real, but over time you will get more and more real. Reality here is like status or a bar you can pass by investing time in a field. To become the real deal in any profession you have to dedicate time to it. And our society has plenty of hurdles that you must cross to become something for real, for example you are only a real lawyer if you pass the bar exam.

We need to look at the real issues here, not get sidetracked by irrelevant topics.

Here real means: important. It’s a rhetorical device in a debate that degrades the value of my opponents arguments (because he is sidetracking) whereas I stay on topic.

He had been dreaming about visiting Japan for years and finally, the dreams became a reality.

It’s likely a figurative speech. He has probably not really been dreaming about visiting Japan. He simply wanted or planned to visit Japan sometime in the future and now has realized these plans.

The reality of the situation was far from what he had anticipated; it was both challenging and thrilling at the same time.

His inner simulation or Imagination of the reality of the Situation was quite far off. Whereas he imagined she would be glad to see him, she smacked him over the face.

In reality, succeeding in such a competitive market requires both innovation and resilience.

Here the word reality tries to convey some kind of trustworthiness. You can believe me I have plenty of experience….

He didn’t really want to go to the party, but he felt obliged to show up.

Adds almost nothing but seems to slightly intensify his unwillingness.

Do you really think it’s a good idea to invest in this startup at such an early stage?

Help me to overcome my doubts about the investment, by confirming me again.

Upon realizing he’d left his keys at home, he hurried back, hoping not to be late for his meeting.

Some thought entered the light cone of his consciousness.

Reality and Mistake

I have the feeling that the word reality could vanish from our language without leaving a hole in it.

Something can be scientifically and practically useless but philosophically very interesting (Verifcationism).

Epistemology is a guilty pleasure. We are feeling guilty when thinking about Thoughts…but it is real fun!

The sentences with real and reality in it remind me of the late Wittgenstein who struggled with sentences like: I know that I have a brain. (On Certainty p.120)

(…)what about a sentence like ‘I know that I have a brain’? Can I doubt it? (…) everything speaks for it and nothing against it. However, it can be imagined that during an operation my skull would turn out to be empty. (Wittgenstein, On Certainty)

It seems by saying, we can never prove that we are not in a virtual reality – a Simulation- Chalmers is saying, that it is a purely technical problem. Like: our minds might not notice the mistakes and errors in the simulation due to bandwidth limitation. I feel Wittgenstein is going deeper to the philosophical core of the question in this paragraph.

Transposed to our reality issues: I believe that I am living in base reality, but I at least entertain the possibility that this could be a simulation. We feel that the casting of doubt overshadows the whole sense of the sentence. Why even stating that I’m quite sure about this being authentic when doubting it in the same sentence? It’s kind of saying to somebody on the beach: come into the water it is really warm, not at first when you enter, but when your body has acclimatized.

Whoever wanted to doubt everything would not even get to the doubt. The act of doubting itself already presupposes certainty. (Wittgenstein, On Certainty 115)

This is the reason why there can be no universal Skepticism or Nihilism.

Usability Problems with Chalmers Reality Definition

I am not at all convinced that Chalmers’ Reality definition is useful. What does it mean to say: The Easter bunny is not real, but the idea and stories about the easter bunny are real? It’s kind of saying the letter ÿ does not exist in the English language, but since I can use it in an English sentence like this one, it is useful anyway. The Easter bunny is somehow useful to show (illustrate) what is not real? It’s like having two pictures of rabbits, one of them being the Easter bunny and pointing at the pictures and saying: this is a real bunny, and this is a bunny that is not real, but the pictures of both bunnies are real. We would not have the feeling that this would have taught us anything useful, except giving a very clever sounding sentence for an esoteric epistemology blog.

Does it give us a better perspective on the set of real things, when we can show that some things are not in the set? Is the Understanding of the set and the knowledge about the set enhanced?

It’s interesting that the terms real and reality have no commonly used antonym in the English language. We only use the term unrealistic as an antinomy to realistic.

Be realistic! Means something like. Match your expectations with your possibilities.

She had an unrealistic Look on Life. Life ain’t no Barbie world.

The set of all things that are not real…

What does it mean to say: There are things, that are both real and imaginary?

I believe something, often means, I feel comfortable with this thought. It is a blanket that warms the body of my mind against the harshness of reality.

Chalmers starts his book by confessing his lifelong fascination with computer games. That makes this book very personal and sympathetic (I myself enjoy video games) but I think this love for the subject biases his final verdict. In the end most of his argument that Simulations need not be second class realities seems to be a little desperate. It seems he desperately needs Simulations to be real.

This self-delusion about the state of affairs should be obvious in the passage where Chalmers describes the possibility that if we are in a simulation it could very well be that he is not really the famous philosopher that writes a book on Simulations and if it that were the case, he should not feel bad about it, since due to the fact this simulation was his reality the books (he never wrote) count as-if-he-had-written them anyway.

I should really love this girl, she is kind and beautiful, therefore it is reasonable to feel love.

It sounds like he tries to convince himself not to feel betrayed or tricked if he finds out he inhabits a Chalmers show that was broadcast to million real Philosophy Students all over Base reality.

Map and Territory

During my childhood I fell in Love with a toy-globe that could be illuminated from within. You had to power it with a brown cable and then switch it on with a bulky ebony white button. It is maybe 45 years since I pressed this button, but I can clearly see it with my inner eyes and reproduce the imaginary sound that it made when switched on. I remember clearly that the equatorial line was somehow defective and a little loose. Globes are Models of our Planet. They are static simulations that are frozen in time. The quality of such a model is decaying over time, and that does not mean, that the materials it is made from, the colors that it is decorated with, fades. No, the Amount of Reality (“Realitätsgehalt” in German) of the model decreases. This globe surely would have now countries on its map, that do not exist anymore or have different borders. Reality has moved on, while the globe has mainly stayed the same.

Now let’s believe we had the technology to shrink our real earth down to the size of the globe (an intergalactic collector of rare planets might do so to have more space in his museum). At what size does my old globe stop being a model of the real thing? What does it mean to create a perfect model? What does it mean to look at the picture of Michelangelo’s David and say: This is not the real David. The real David is in Florence. Is a Sculpture of a human a real sculpture, while it is at the same time a model of a human who explicitly modeled for the sculpture?

Reality and Identity

In his Book Chalmers tells the story of how he was approached in 1999 by the Wachowski sisters to write something about simulations for the website of the movie Matrix. But was this really the case?

Given that we believe that this was the case and Chalmers tells the truth, does he tell the whole truth? For everyone that is not familiar with the case: In 1999 the movie Matrix was directed by the Wachowski Brothers, both directors later in life switched their gender identity and transitioned. You should believe that a philosopher that writes about simulation and reality does see the irony when he meditates about how he transports this information to his readers.

He could have thought something like: “I don’t want to distract from my main topic by bringing this gender identity thing up. It’s just convenient to bend the facts and to report how I believe it is most widely accepted to report about this thing without starting a controverse. It does not matter in the overall context but rather sidetracks my main argument.”

Or he could have thought something like: “It is perfectly normal to report facts that have changed over time without reporting that they have changed. As a cis man I accept the reality of transgender Persons, that their real identity was always female, even when they inhabited a male body. Since I have no information about what it means to change gender, I cannot possibly have a sound opinion about how this kind of reality is perceived by someone from within.”

Chalmers really missed an opportunity here to explore the term pseudo reality.

I remember a story where a 30+ old female teacher had an affair with her 14 old Student and got arrested and detained for sexual abuse of a minor. Years later after she left prison, the student and teacher married. Now could the student have made the argument, that when he was fourteen, he identified as an adult and thus the sex with his teacher was not illegal but his own genuine, adult consent? Does not the fact that when he was legally allowed to do so and married his teacher later, prove that it was really his own will to have sex, because this was real love? And should I have written about these events, without even mentioning that he was a minor. Would that have been the real story?

Reality is that which is moving on without getting pushed from the outside.

Reality is that which has only Presence (No Past or Future)

Reality is that which can’t be rewritten or erased.

to be continued

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