Monday, August 13, 2007

Absolute Reality - Is there any such thing?

Most of the children have imaginary characters for their friends. They play with them, enjoy with them and even talk to them. If you ask them anything about those characters, they will reply in a way, which will convince any body that those characters actually exist or they are “real”. But for us those characters are just figments of the children’s imagination. They are not “real”. Just because we cannot see hear or even sense those characters how can we deny their existence? We experience thoughts, dreams, emotions and feelings. Are these not real?

We may feel that anything we perceive using our five senses is real. So we believe and understand that all the objects that we can touch, see, feel, hear, taste are real. Well, in that case think of those myriad stars twinkling in the night sky. What we are seeing could be what was the state of the stars many years ago because as everyone knows light takes several years to reach us from the distant stars. It could be possible that some of the stars do not exist any more. We believe that they exist because we see them twinkling. The assumption here is that “Time” is absolute that is one is simultaneously able to see the stars as they are now and as they are seen from the Earth. Does that mean reality is something beyond our fives senses of perception? Probably. Any thing “real” can or should probably be defined relative to the space in which we live.

Consider the example of a seed that has grown into a tree. From our knowledge of science we know that this tree has grown from a seed. But just try to view the tree in the absolute sense. We do not call it a seed anymore. The “reality” of the tree being a seed was the past. The “reality” now is that the seed is a tree. What was “real” in the past is not “real” any more as we cannot perceive the “seed” using our five sense organs. Here the assumption is that space is absolute i.e. it is the same space where the seed was planted and now the tree is standing. This implies that “Time” needs to be incorporated in our understanding of reality.

Consider this. I understand that if I am shown the color red, it is red because I have been taught that the color is red and now I understand and believe that the color shown to me is red. But if some one is taught that the color red is green, that person will understand and believe that the color is green and not red. Here what is “real” depends on what we have defined the terms “red” and “green” to mean. Humans have written a language and created words and associated meanings with it and have laid down a universal understanding that a specific reality is associated with each word that represents anything that is tangible. So reality includes those things, which we have been taught to believe and understand as representative of a specific thing.

If you noticed, whatever we defined to be “real” was relative to some element – either time or space or a person’s understanding of what is real. If “real” is defined relative to something how can it remain “real”? We associate “truth” with “reality”. When we think of “truth” we think of it in the absolute sense. If reality is relative, then so is truth.. We have based all our knowledge of science, scientific discoveries and inventions on assumptions- assumptions some of which we believe are true and others we just intuitively know are true (the ones we call axioms). So if this fundamental understanding of truth changes can we then say that our knowledge of science if fallacious? Is it right to base our understanding of anything based on truth which by its very innate nature is relative because of its dependency on factors like time, space, beliefs? This brings me to my question – Is there something which we can call “the absolute truth” or “the absolute reality”?


Malini s said...

Very true...Again we have some kids who know that they have imaginary friend...But some do not know... I think this article suits the latter part

Rahul Prasad B said...

The first thing that came to my mind while reading the first part of the article was the movie 'Beautiful Mind'. Your second part leans on the philosophy of the 'Matrix' series.