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What is Real ? October 23, 2014

Posted by anagasto in philosophy.
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Plato said that the visible world was not the only real thing.

He taught that  there was another reality accessible to the soul, though not to the senses.

In modern physics they would say something very similar.
They understand reality in terms of fields and particles; there are vectors, scalars, and tensors, but those cannot be seen.
So a physicist would also say that we can reach the ultimate reality only with our minds, not with our senses.

http://groups.google.com/group/humanities.philosophy.objectivism/browse_thread/

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Plato tries to figure out the nature of his soul and speaks like this :

plato on soujl and body

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Einstein tries to figure out the nature of matter and speaks like this :

einstein-space-time

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So, whereas Plato can explain his ideas, but cannot prove them, Einstein can prove his speculations…..,

what-is-the-real-time-by-madden

.. .. but can’t explain them very well.

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The drawing of those astro-physicists is  by Ch. Madden at http://www.chrismadden.co.uk/cartoons/science-cartoons/science-cartoons-select.html

I couldn’t find the author of  that first drawing, the “View from my Window”, though the signature could also be Madden’s.

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Comments»

1. David - February 4, 2010

IN THE two thousand years that followed the culmination of
Greek science and culture in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.
the human mind was to a large extent occupied with problems
of a different kind from those of the early period. In the first
centuries of Greek culture the strongest impulse had come from
the immediate reality of the world in which we live and which
we perceive by our senses. This reality was full of life and there
was no good reason to stress the distinction between matter and
mind or between body and soul. But in the philosophy of Plato
one already sees that another reality begins to become stronger.
In the famous simile of the cave Plato compares men to prisoners
in a cave who are bound and can look in only one direction.
They have a fire behind them and see on a wall the shadows of
themselves and of objects behind them. Since they see nothing
but the shadows, they regard those shadows as real and are not
aware of the objects. Finally one of the prisoners escapes and
comes from the cave into the light of the sun. For the first time
he sees real things and realizes that he had been deceived
hitherto by the shadows. For the first time he knows the truth
and thinks only with sorrow of his long life in the darkness. The
real philosopher is the prisoner who has escaped from the cave
into the light of truth, he is the one who possesses real knowledge.
This immediate connection with truth or, we may in the
Christian sense say, with God is the new reality that has begun
to become stronger than the reality of the world as perceived by
our senses. The immediate connection with God happens within
the human soul, not in the world, and this was the problem that
occupied human thought more than anything else in the two
thousand years following Plato. In this period the eyes of the
philosophers were directed toward the human soul and its relation
to God, to the problems of ethics, and to the interpretation
of the revelation but not to the outer world. It was only in the
time of the Italian Renaissance that again a gradual change of
the human mind could be seen, which resulted finally in a revival
of the interest in nature.

Werner Heisenberg
PHYSICS AND PHILOSOPHY
Copyright 1958

2. cantueso - February 4, 2010

To David

Yes, this is also the line taken by Nietzsche, except that Nietzsche formulated it as a mistaken or absurd priority given to the dream world over its physical origin.

I am sorry to see that Heisenberg (or his translator) says “the human soul” and “the human mind”.

(And I can’t quite believe that ethics were as problematic in the Middle Ages as they were later. Jeeeez. No. Looks like Heisenberg got carried away by the dynamics of his enumeration.)
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Postscript:
(Please don’t throw me in the briar patch, please don’t throw me in the briar patch!)
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Postscript 2:
He even says “human thought”…and I have just seen his text in German at http://www.quantum-cognition.de/texts/heis4.html. It is a little fuzzy.
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3. David - February 6, 2010

Briar patch?

Getting carried away with enumeration … that’s what scientists do.

Nothing special about the human then? Just another organism with a brain. And a mirror.

4. cantueso - February 6, 2010

I think the briar patch story is of US origin :

http://everything2.com/title/Please+don%2527t+throw+me+in+the+briar+patch%2521

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As to “human thought” and “the human mind” …. well…. it is bloated figurative language.

The terms “thought”, “mind”, “soul” are mental constructs, abstracts, conceptual instruments of Western history. In nature there ain’t no “thoughts”, no “mind”, no “soul”, but just movement of something not defined.

So, depending on what definitions you use, you would maybe say that a cat can “think”, but no matter what your definitions are, you can’t produce a cat’s thought. It does not exist.

Saludos from the briar patch.

5. server42 - February 6, 2010

Quite right. Who was it that said that philosophy was only a bid to debunk the illusions created by careless everyday language?

6. cantueso - February 6, 2010

To server:

Yes, who said that?

It is a good definition, but would be good only for a part of philosophy, the groundwork part, not ethics, law, psychology.

7. David - February 7, 2010

OK folks. So why then do you bother writing these things? Is there careful everyday language that us idiots should be striving to listen for? Or is it hopeless sound and fury?

8. cantueso - February 7, 2010

!!!!

No. The everyday language simply can’t be used in philosophy. In that philosophy is similar to maths. The other day the NYT quoted a mathematician as saying that “philosophy is the misuse of a terminology created for that purpose.”

But I know that most people, and especially in English, think that philosophy is a concoction of moralizing and useful generalities. That is wrong but does not matter. Not surprisingly, in US English, philosophy also means “practical approach” or “rule” as in “It is our philosophy to examine all the accounts according to … ”
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The “illusion” mentioned in Server42’s comment is the Platonic idea that “justice” or “beauty” exist and are not just empty word bags where anybody can put in his own ideas.

Now, I and probably most people living now in the West can’t even imagine what Plato could have meant, whether he meant that “justice” would “exist” as some sort of an angel in the sky or how else?
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Haven”t you heard people arguing that some country is “not a real democracy”? That is Platonic, the belief that a model exists and is binding and somehow generally known or available as an idea.

9. server42 - February 7, 2010

“The everyday language simply can’t be used in philosophy. In that philosophy is similar to maths. ”

That was so in the past. Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Kirkegaard, Sartre are all everyday language. They didn’t develop any specialized terminology.

One thing is everyday language; another thing is hackneyed phrases such as Heisenberg’s text is made of.

10. cantueso - February 8, 2010

To server:

Yes. I know. But Heisenberg’s language is a diluted kind of journalese and that is precisely what has become everyday all over.

By the way, the text quoted seems to be part of a lecture. So maybe he did not write it down, though I am not sure he would have been able to streamline it. I think he did not see the snare.

11. server42 - February 8, 2010

There you’re wrong. Heisenberg was aware of the difficulty, though not of its scope. Quote:

” The problems of language here are really serious. We wish to speak in some way about the structure of the atoms. But we cannot speak about atoms in ordinary language.”

He saw they were “really serious” but thought it was because “ordinary language” could not easily be applied to advanced physics.

12. bellcurve - February 8, 2010

That cave metaphor is much too long and complicated. My teacher told us it was probably not by Plato.

13. cantueso - February 9, 2010

To Bellcurve

It is so clumsy that most readers would need to google for an explanatory drawing, and the drawings, too, are a mess, but nobody has ever said that the cave analogy or metaphor or whatever is not by Plato. What are your teacher’s sources?

Plato's cave


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