Re: Reality and other memes

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Sat, 10 Apr 1999 13:51:31 EDT

From: <>
Date: Sat, 10 Apr 1999 13:51:31 EDT
Subject: Re: Reality and other memes

In a message dated 4/10/99 5:19:10 AM Central Daylight Time, writes:

<< I don't "really" think reality is an illusion. Nor do I think the self
is an illusion. Both are concepts, memes (as is "illusion"). Both are
apparently intentional, in the philosophical sense of that word, i.e.
they refer to something beyond themselves. My view is that, though
these concepts are indubitably useful in many situations, neither will
stand rigorous analysis. >>

Yes, they are ABOUT something, or in other words they are representations.
As far as representations are concerned, there is always some degree of
analysis that they will not be able to withstand. This is true of all
representations - not because they refer to illusions or unreality, but
because no representation is perfect. The reason is because they are not and
never will be identical to the thing represented.

The representation is to exercise some control over or in relation to the
thing represented, not to represent the thing perfectly. No doubt greater
accuracy will improve finess of control, but for any purpose there is a point
of diminishing returns, and each purpose must compete with other purposes for
representational resources.

The real question is not whether they will withstand ulimited rational
criticism, but whether they withstand an amount of rational criticism that is
reflective of their utility to us as representations. Certainly it is in
theory possible to subject any representation to an amount of rational
criticism that will expose its imperfections. But to what purpose? And to
what utility? A representation serves some purpose and some utility, and to
treat it in isolation from that is fundamentally erroneous. It would be to
treat it as something other than a representation, or to demand perfection
out of representations without relation to any purpose.

>>What they refer to is, in neither case, a coherent entity.<<

Certainly they refer to a complex entity, but I don't suppose the
imperfection of the representation to indicate the unreality of the thing

>>The real/illusory dichotomy is far too crude to appear in any serious

I think it can be made uncrude for appropriate purposes. I could say for
instance that "illusion" indicates, though perhaps otherwise convincing in
*some* contextual consistency, an error of MISrepresentation or
NONrepresentation, as opposed to the unavoidable problem of "imperfect"
representation. Actually making these distinctions may be a little more
challenging than defining them, but I still think it is a meaningful and
useful distinction to be making. To me an illusion fails in its function in
significant ways, whereas an otherwise imperfect representation can function
very competantly.

>>By the way, you can easily get a handle on the reality vs. ultimate
reality thing (which I find quite useful in some situations, but not in
others) by thinking of it as theory versus practice. Reality is what we
bump up against in practice, whilst ultimate reality is what remains
after all our best theoretical efforts.<<

I guess I could see it, but I also cannot avoid noticing that a lot of what
is more of just plain reality as you describe it, was at one time more
theoretical or "ultimate" at a previous time. And some of our ideas of
"ultimate" reality now may either be false or just plain reality tomorrow,
which always causes one to wonder whether there isn't an "ultimater" reality,
which leaves "ultimate" in a not too meaningful role as qualifier. Perhaps
it is the penultimate reality, or the pen-penultimate reality? I just find
it more meaningful to stick to just plain "reality", to include that in
practice, and that in rational realistic theoretical conjectures. Perhaps
"in theory" and "in practice" are more useful distinctions that serve the
same purposes better.


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