The reality is not as obvious and simple as we like to think.
Some of the things that we accept as true and take at face value are notoriously wrong.
Scientists and philosophers have made every effort to change our common perceptions of it. The 10 examples below will show you what I mean.
1. Big Freeze.
Big Freeze is the theory of the final state that our universe is heading toward. The universe has a limited supply of energy. According to this theory, when that energy finally runs out, the universe will devolve into a frozen state. The thermal energy produced by the motion of the particles will gradually wear out, which means that eventually, this particle motion will slow down and, presumably, one day, everything will stop.
Solipsism is a philosophical theory, which asserts that nothing exists but the individual’s consciousness. At first, it seems silly, but if you think about it, it really is impossible to verify anything but your own consciousness.
To check this out, take a moment to recall all the dreams that you have experienced in your life. Is it not possible that everything around you is nothing but an incredibly intricate dream? But, you may say, there are people and things around us that we cannot doubt because we can hear, see, smell, taste and feel them, right? Yes, and no. People who take LSD, for example, say that they can touch the most convincing hallucinations, but we do not claim that their visions are a “reality”. Your dreams can simulate sensations as well. After all, what you perceive is just a product of the information processing that takes place in different sections of your brain.
As a result, which parts of existence can we not doubt? Probably none. Each of us can only be sure of their own thoughts.
George Berkeley, the father of Idealism, argued that everything exists as an idea in someone’s mind. Berkley discovered that some of his peers considered his theory to be stupid. The story goes that one of his opponents kicked a stone with his eyes closed and said, “I disprove it thus!”
The idea was that if the stone really only existed in his imagination, he could not have kicked it with his eyes closed. The way Berkeley refuted this is hard to understand, especially in these days. He argued that there was an omnipotent and omnipresent God who was able to see everything simultaneously.
4. Plato and the Logos.
Everybody has heard of Plato. He is one of the world’s most famous philosophers. Like all philosophers, he had a few things to say about the nature of reality. He argued that beyond our perceived reality, there lies a world of “perfect” forms. Everything that we see is just a shade, an imitation of how things truly are. To learn more about these ideas, read about the Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which is a sort of the ‘Matrix‘ in its ancient version.
Plato argued that by studying philosophy, we have a chance of catching a glimpse of how things truly are and discovering the perfect forms of everything we perceive.
In addition to this stunning statement, Plato, being a monist, said that everything is made of a single substance. This means (according to him) that everything – from stars in the sky to the dust under your bed – consists of the same basic material, but in a different form. With the discovery of atoms and molecules, it has been proven true to an extent.
Time is something that we perceive as a reality. Of course, we usually divide it into the past, present and future. Presentism argues that the past and the future are imagined concepts while only the present is real.
In other words, today’s breakfast and every word of this article will cease to exist after you finish reading it, until you open it to read it again. The future is just as imaginary because the time cannot exist before and after it happened, as claimed by St. Augustine.
Eternalism is the exact opposite of presentism. This is a philosophical theory that says that time is multi-layered. All layers of the time exist simultaneously, but the measurement is determined by the observer. What they see depends on which point they are looking at.
Thus, dinosaurs, Queen Victoria and Justin Bieber all exist simultaneously but can only be observed from a specific location. If one takes this view of reality, then the future is hopeless and the deterministic free will is illusory.
7. The Brain in a Jar
The “brain in a jar” thought experiment is a question discussed by thinkers and scientists who, like most people, believe that one’s understanding of reality depends solely on their subjective feelings.
So, what is the essence of this thought experiment? Imagine that you are just a brain in a jar that is run by aliens or mad scientists. How would you know? And can you truly deny the possibility that this is your reality?
This is a modern interpretation of Descartes’ evil demon problem. This thought experiment leads to the same conclusion: we cannot confirm the actual existence of anything except our consciousness. If this seems to sound reminiscent of the movie “The Matrix“, it is only because this idea was part of the very basis of the story. Unfortunately, in reality, we have no red pills…
8. The Multiverse Theory
art by Sam del Russi –
What’s the point? In a parallel reality, you may be living in the opposite corner of the world or may have already died in a car crash. In another one, you might have never even been born because your parents never met. The probabilities are endless.
9. Fictional realism.
This is probably the most fascinating branch of the multiverse theory. Superman is real. Yes, some of you would probably choose a different story, for argument’s sake, Harry Potter might be real too. This branch of the theory argues that given an infinite number of universes, everything must exist somewhere. So, all of our favorite fiction and fantasy may be descriptive of an alternate universe, one where all the right pieces came into place to make it happen.
Everyone is interested in what happens to things when we aren’t looking at them. Scientists have carefully studied this problem and some of them came to a simple conclusion – they disappear. Well, not quite like this. Phenomenalist philosophers believe that objects only exist as a phenomenon of consciousness. So, your laptop is only here while you are aware of it and believe in its existence, but when you turn away from it, it ceases to exist until you or someone else interacts with it. There is no existence without perception. This is the root of phenomenalism.
Which of these mind-blowing theories about the nature of reality appeal to you most of all? Share your thoughts in the comments below.