Thursday, January 02, 2020

On the Nature of Subjective Reality

It is easy to convince ourselves that the reality we perceive exists outside of ourselves. This, however, is only partially true. The Scientific progress that has been made over the course of human civilization is a reflection of our growing understanding of the nature of the physical and biological universe that we inhabit. The sum total of the inescapable properties that have been discovered and those that are being studied, is representative of what I refer to as the “reality principle.” This reality principle exists as a fundamental aspect of the cosmos and, as such, is ever-present and is not dependent upon human existence for its sustenance.

However, with the dawning of self-consciousness that appeared during human evolution and that was a natural product of the growth of the complexity of the human brain, came the capability of the individual not only to assess his or her natural environment but also to interpret its significance and come to some conclusions regarding its value. Together with this quality of being, came another capacity that was an absolute requirement for a sentient being to co-exist within a chaotic universe. That corollary function was the ability to organize the incoming information (data) into an intelligible and comprehensible universe by imposing an apparent order to the chaos. This inner world represents a subjective reality unique to each individual human being. This subjective reality is shaped by many forces including genetic inheritance, cultural identity, external values transmitted by the greater society, individual life experiences and natural proclivities.

This need for order transcends the individual life and also embraces communal life; for it is the commonly held values and beliefs among individuals in the larger society that serves as the medium through which order is preserved and human civilization is possible. These communally-accepted norms are often collectively referred to as intersubjective reality – without it, social order would quickly devolve into chaos. It is for this reason that human civilization is a fragile state of existence. As an example, the American political emphasis on the supremacy of the individual even to the extent of the apparent absolute right to the individual ownership and use of deadly weapons, threatens the cohesiveness of the social contract as evidenced by periodic episodes of mass shootings.

For humanity, the evolution of self-consciousness has been a mixed blessing. It has on the one hand resulted in great strides being made in regard to our understanding of the universe in which we reside. Concomitant with these gains, however, history has documented the rise and precipitous fall of many human civilizations. In my mind, the ultimate test for the human kind will be in its ability to effectively embrace a global solution to the current climate crisis; for, in order to do this, the severity of the problem and the need for a solution would need to be incorporated as a fundamental aspect of the intersubjective reality of the entire species.

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