Objective reality; prove it to me! What seems obvious is strange; proving objective reality can only be accomplished subjectively. It’s like the old saw about whether a tree falls in the forest if nobody’s there to hear it; without a subjective observer, objective reality may not exist.
Objective reality seems to exist, however. My wife and I share the 100-year-old Black Walnut tree in our garden with a dray of squirrels – dray is the subjective term invented to objectively describe a group of squirrels – and I assume the Black Walnut and squirrels will continue to exist after I don’t. I can’t prove that, of course. The objective world appears to continue after the death of friends and family, but that’s just my subjective experience based upon my observations. The dead are stubbornly silent on the subject.
Objective reality is materialist, which is to say, comprised of observable things. Scientific materialism relies on observation to describe and predict the behavior of objective reality. So accurate has it been, as has its mathematics, it has inevitably led to intellectual speculation about subjective reality, and whether it is subject to discernible characteristics or laws of its own. Alas, the basis of self-consciousness still eludes objective criteria.
Whether or not objective reality gives rise to subjective reality, or conversely, that subjective reality – what we call consciousness – gives rise to objective reality, continues to spawn conjecture, opinion and research. The latter premise, that underlying objective, materialist reality is a generative, non-material force, leads to spiritual belief and traditions ranging from animist to vitalist to deist in nature. Notably, observable scientific results of experiments in quantum physics support the latter premise as well; intention to observe alone alters measurable outcomes.
Subjective awareness of objective reality is a blunt weapon, often used to bludgeon the world into surrender. To materialists, the evolution of the universe appears to have culminated in the rise of self-consciousness and intellect, and both are seen as fulfilling the purpose of the universe. In this way, humankind elevates its role to align with the highest purpose of being. This view is widely reflected in religious beliefs and institutions, but the power of objective materialism also thrusts it into socio-political theory and practice as well. Marx and Engels, riding the wake of the surging 18th century industrial/scientific age, famously applied intellectually dialectic formalism in developing conclusions about the inevitable evolution of society. In much the same vein, declaring that the success of capitalism marks “the end of history” as the ultimately fittest form of economic society is equally grandiose.
As a fraction of the objectively materialist universe, I am so infinitesimally small as to defy both calculation and determination; there are not enough zeros nor time enough to express it. Science calculates that 100-trillion neutrinos pass through our bodies every second; to them, we are mere cloudy smudges of space as they travel at the speed of light. Ironically, our tightest observations, observations at the quantum level, indicate objective reality is actually non-material, that there is nothing objectively that can be measured or observed, just jittery space, sort of a “move on folks, nothin’ to see here” situation. Exploring subjective reality brings us to the same conclusion: our thoughts are non-material, and if reality is nothing but thought, well…you get the point.
And yet, and yet, here we seem to be. For one, I’m grateful for the ride.