FOM: reality

Soren Moller Riis smriis at
Tue May 9 09:48:29 EDT 2000

I have taken the time to try to answer your questions, because
your questions reflect certain anti-science views which unfortunately
are quite widespread these years.

> I have some important old questions. Would you please like to answer them 
> as a mathematician. Thanks a lot in advance.
> (A1). Is there anything (so called "reality" as an unseen world) beyond 
> human experiences (so called "appearances" or "phenomenon" as a sensible 
> universe)? 

I am not a solipsist so I acknowledge that there is a reality outside my
personal experiences. Nor am I a solipsist with regards to humans so
I acknowledge that there is a reality outside the totality of the
experience of all humans. No human know the qualia of a dolphin (or 
whether it has any qualia). To suggest that these qualia do
not exists just because a dolphin does not count as human is ridiculous.
There are quite a number of known stars which belong to the same 
spectral class as the sun.  Even if we restrict ourselves to such stars
which are closer than 80 light years away it is conceivable that some
of these stars have planets where there have developed some kind of
animal life. This fact might for always remain outside human 

(A2). Is there any distinction or separation between "phenomenon" and 
"reality"? why?

Yes. Only a solipsistic cannot make this distinction. A view more
absurd than solipsism is a version of solipsism where only friends,
(and perhaps other humans) are included as legitimate observers.
Facts of mathematics do not need anyone to observe them in order to
be true. It is a fallacy to believe that a fact need to be observed
in order to be true.

> (A3). Why should we assume that there is "reality"? Isn't it superfluous?

You could as well have asked why I should assume other peoples exists
(and not just their appearance for me). 

The assumption that there is a reality is far from superfluous. All of
Science is working under this assumption. It is actually immoral not
to make this assumption. If I assume that all that exists is what
exists for me (and perhaps my best friends, or other humans) I will have to
give up fundamental notions (like mathematical truths, moral
behaviour, etc..) because these concepts then have no reference to
any reality. This leads to relativism and anti-science. 

It is also anti-rational. In you believe in rational 
argument (founded in some transcendental absolute
reality) the  of Science and mathematics becomes important.
It also motivate us to try to elect leaders with rightful ideas.

If we cannot settle disagreement by rational debate (because there is
no reality we can try to grasp) the world is by definition ruled
by the most powerful. To be powerful it helps if to produce a lot of 
arms etc. To believe there is a reality transcending what I (and
my friends) experience is to be humble. If I do not dare to express
my views it might be of fear of being wrong and mistaken. If you give
up reference to reality these concepts are meaningless and all that 
matters is who has the power over whom.

> PART (B)
> What is "reality"? What is a "phenomenon" (or an "appearance")?

One might ask if it is possible that reality in reality does not
exist. Some social constructivists seems to suggest that the answer 
is yes which is absolute utter nonsense because they clearly just
try to replace one reality by another. 
Until social constructivists invent something useful for society I suggest
we ignore them. In Science we try to make order out of chaos, not
like in certain areas of humanities where they are proud whenever they
succeed to make chaos out of order.

Let me give an example which illustrates the difference between
appearance and reality.: If a magician makes a signed card disappear
and then let it reappear in his sock, it appears to the audience
that the signed card jumped from the table to inside the magicians
shoe. In reality this is not what happened. 

For the person/philosopher who just want to enjoy the show the
distinction between appearance and reality might not matter. The
Scientist cannot afford being fooled.

> PART (C)
> Suppose that there is "reality".
> Is "reality" essentially of mathematical form, in other words, is it 
> necessary to use the mathematics for perceiving, explaining, justifying or 
> describing "reality"?
> (i) If the answer is No, why do we study the mathematics?

If for no other reason so we learn to negate propositions
properly. The correct negation of "reality" essentially of mathematical form,
is "not all of "reality" is essentially of mathematical form". 
The negation of the statement "the bottle is full" is not (like many
post-modernist undoubtly would suggest) the bottle is empty, but the
bottle is not-full including the possibility of a half full bottle.

One reason we study mathematics is that a part of reality is essentially of
mathematical form.

> (ii) If the answer is Yes, how does the mathematics help us to improve our 
> understanding of "reality"?

Try to understand relativity theory without understanding the
Lorenz transformations. If you succeed I might elaborate on my answer,
but until then I hope this answers your question.

Søren Riis

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