"You make up your own reality." - Dr. Timothy Leary
"What the thinker thinks, the prover proves." - Robert Anton Wilson

Science tells us that there is an objective reality out there and that this objective reality functions according to set laws of nature that are true at all times and in all places in the universe.

Domesticated Primates (humans) and other organism use their senses as a means of gathering information about this objective reality. The senses only detect a cross section of the whole objective reality.

         Sensation of reality:

          |     Objective reality
          | _________________________
          |/   Sensed                \
          |       reality            |
          |     Reality not sensed
Humans have created various instruments and methods designed to translate information from objective reality outside of our sensory awareness into a medium we can sense.
  Extrapolation from objective reality using instruments

          |     Objective reality
          | _________________________
          |/   Sensed                \
          |       reality            |
          |    ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^
          | Instruments take measurements
Once this cross section of objective reality has been sensed, it is subject to the process of perception. Perception is itself a cross section of sensation. Sensation and perception can be thought of as filters.
   Model of how filters create our experience

    <^-^-^-^-^-^- Objective reality -^-^-^-^-^>
     \                                       /     
      |- - - - - sensation filters - - - - -|
       \                                   /
        |- - - - perception filters - - - |
         \                               /
          |- - interpretation filters - |
            |                         |
            |   Subjective reality    |
            |    (Reality Bubble)     |

Interpretation filters are a cross section of perception. They refer to the meaning or identity we give to a particular perception. They are our beliefs, concepts and understandings about our perceptions.

Our reality bubble is constructed by a number of referents. A referent is a mental representation of something in the objective reality, and should not to be confused with the objective reality. Any referent is an opinion, a generalization made about the objective reality. In this sense, it is at least one step removed from the objective reality. It lies in a meta position to the objective reality.

   Model of referents relationship to objective reality:

           "cat"      =        referent
             |                    |
             |                    |
            \/                    \/
            ?         =         objective reality

As the above model illustrates, we can only know our referent to objective reality, not objective reality itself since objective reality is always defined in terms of our referents. Our referents are created and maintained through a process called thought looping. Thus, referents always rely on a certain degree of faith. As Aristotle believed, we must start somewhere or we will be stuck in an infinite regression of proof. The place we decide to start can be thought of as the end of our map of the world. Beyond this we can know and experience nothing, we have reached the boundaries of knowledge. Learning can either expand or limit this map of the world.

Levels of abstraction:

Referents must always refer to something in the objective reality at some level of abstraction. For example we have a category of things we call "buildings". At lower levels of abstraction we have houses, office buildings, apartments and so forth. At higher levels we have "things" and "places". At the same level as buildings we have animals or mountains.

    /\    higher levels of abstraction (bigger chunks)
     |                Things
     |               /      \
     |      buildings        animals
     |     /         \      /       \
     |  houses   museums   cats     dogs
    \/    lower levels of abstraction (smaller chunks)
Different fields of knowledge and methods of knowledge generation commonly get into arguments about the "true" nature of reality. The real issue here is not whether something is "real" or not, but at what level of abstraction a particular field chooses to look at something. Physics views the objective reality with a certain set of referents, biology has a different set of referents and religion has another set of referents. Here it is important to remember that all referents have some basis in sensory experience, whether external or internal, and are thus maps of the objective reality, and not the objective reality itself. The map is not the territory, if you will.

Things are further complicated by the fact that no referents can capture all of the levels of abstraction simultaneously: they merely approach the objective reality from a particular frame of reference. The frame of reference from which you choose to view something is not static and is subject to change. In other words, no referent or set of referents can view objective reality from all frames of reference at the same time. In this sense, then, what you believe to be objective reality is dependent upon your subjective experience of reality. If this is true, then the laws of physics are:

  1. based on subjective experience
  2. subject to the processes governing subjective experience
  3. maps of objective reality and not substitutes for objective reality
  4. unable to produce a unified "theory of everything" because no map can show all of the territory it represents
  5. therefore subject to the laws of consciousness

See also: nominalization, self-referential sentences, Reality tunnel, reification, simulacrum, subjectivism, Neurolinguistic Programming, Thought experiment

Further reading:
Hall, L. Michael Frame Games
Hall, L. Michael The Sourcebook of Magic
Wilson, Robert Anton Prometheus Rising
Wilson, Robert Anton Quantum Psychology
Hofstadter, Douglas Metamagical Themas
Rand, Ayn Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology
Korzybski, Alfred Introduction to General Semantics

© 2002 Martin Kretzmann

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