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  • Writer's pictureJacob Hansen

Objective Truth? Subjective Truth? The Nature of Reality.

Updated: Jul 9, 2022

Many people never take the time to seriously ponder the nature of reality, yet our behavior and what we consider to be reasonable is based on implicit presuppositions about what we think is or is not real. Is our subjective experience real? Is reality objective or subjective? The word "Truth" is a word we use to convey when we think something accords with reality. And not only do we not agree about what is true, we disagree about what we mean when we say something is true.

A common conception of reality today is that we are merely matter in motion that any subjective experiences are emergent from and dependent on an underlying objective reality (like chemical relations in the brain). Truth ultimately is objective and subjective experiences are ultimately reducible to objective phenomena.

With reality thus defined the self is ultimately not part of reality and is just an illusion.

However this model runs face first into "The Hard Problem Of Consciousness" which is a significant challenge to deal with if we posit that THE EXPERIENCE of consciousness is to be accounted for as part of reality.

To complicate matters reality itself seems to be perceived through subjective agents. So is everything ultimately subjective? How do we know that what we think is an "objective reality" is not just a fantasy, or a dream or that we are not just a brain in a machine that is producing this experience that merely feels like it is real? Very few people would suggest that no objective reality exists, but should we not account for subjective experience itself as part of a broader conception of reality? Does the objective really matter if ultimately our subjective experience is what reality is made of for us?

Jordan Peterson recently has brought to public awareness some very interesting ideas in responses to these questions. Jordan sees the world as "not made of matter but as made of what matters". In other words everything in objective reality is experienced through a subjective consciousness and thus being itself is really the only thing that "matters" to us as it is the only means by which we even interface with the objective world. It is a view deeply rooted in the philosophy of phenomenology.

When seeing the world through this lens people who only are willing to grapple with objective truth are simply being myopic. They only are seeing part of the truth. They define truth as the objective (Truth 1.0). Thus for someone like Peterson, they are simply not taking seriously enough an account of the full picture of reality (Truth 2.0).

I personally find the phenomenological ideas compelling and accurate as the way to frame our existence. Failing to properly account for the world of subjective experience and how that interfaces with the objective seems like willful ignorance. Still, I do not feel that subjective experience is most fundamental. My current hypothesis is a sort of reconciliation of these two models. Its based on the possibility of panpsychism (or something like it). The idea is that subjective experience is baked into objective reality and that while objective reality is most fundamental there are complex interactions between the objective and subjective domains and the a full understanding of the truth (Truth 3.0) only comes when these complex interrelationships are understood and embodied.

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24 may 2022

Very interesting blog. Love the discussion topics on here. I came across this through your debate with Protestants on Sola Scriptura. I come from an LDS background but am now Orthdox Christian so can definitely relate with your worldview. I would say you are doing a great job of playing around with worldview philosophy. For instance, how do we account for immaterial realities like numbers, morals, logic, reason, self, meaning in language, causal relations, identity over time? This led me to the transcendental argument for God. The argument is that only in a Christian Worldview can these fundamental categories be justified. And on any other worldview, knowledge is impossible.

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