What is Reality and Who Are You?

Who are you really? Let me be clear. My goal in this article is to do nothing short of establishing the nature of reality as fundamentally ideal and revealing who you are by doing so. I do this by first examining the assumption of a material reality external to your mind and showing how this assumption is not justified. I then establish a justification for an ideal reality and what this implies about you.

External Objects and the Mind

Empiricists view the mind as passive when confronting the world and that it simply records the impressions provided by the senses. This view holds knowledge as conforming to objects outside the mind. Immanuel Kant had an insight about epistemology upon reflecting on the vast changes in society’s perception of the universe after the Newtonian and Copernican revolution overthrew the geocentric and Aristotelian physics of the Middle Ages. His insight was that objects conform to our knowledge and not the other way around. In order to make sense out of the innumerable fluctuating and fragmented assortment of data provided to our mind by our senses, the mind has to impose a rational structure on it which we experience as objects. The world that science studies is a world that has been actively filtered, digested, shaped, and organized according to the minds’ own structure. The objects of the world are therefore constructed by the mind out of the raw data provided by the senses.

Phenomena and Noumena

To Kant, the only world we can know is the world of our experience which is constructed and given meaning by the mind. This world consists of things as they appear to us which he referred to as phenomena. Kant held that we simply can’t get around phenomena, because our ways of knowing are dependent upon them. We cannot get a view of the world that is from nowhere, as every view is from somewhere and that “somewhere” determines how the world is seen. Outside of our experience are the things in themselves which he termed the noumena. Because we can’t jump outside our experience to see reality as it actually is, we cannot assign any positive content to the noumena.

Space and Time

Kant viewed space and time as part of the phenomena organized by our mind onto sense data. The only way you could know that objects in the external world are literally in space would be to jump outside your experience to experience reality in itself. Because of this it is meaningless to talk about space apart from the spatial perspective found within experience which is given meaning by mind. Time is also a construct of the mind. It is a framework within which objects are presented to us. If a bell sounds three times in a row but my mind did not store my sense experiences of them in temporal form in memory then I would not experience three strikes of a bell but a single bell unrelated to other sensory experiences. It is the mind that relates them together within a temporal sequence and synthesizes them as three successive experiences of the same thing. We cannot know the noumena of whether there is actual space or time.

Knowledge and Noumena

George Berkeley denied the existence of noumena as physically existing apart from the mind because only mental experiences are knowable and so reality is completely dependent on the minds of those perceiving it. There can be no such thing as matter without a mind because qualities associated with matter, such as shape, color, smell, texture, weight, temperature, and sound are all dependent on minds. Friedrich Nietzsche found fault in the noumenon’s lack of definite properties. Nietzsche and later philosophers argued that the noumenon is of an utterly indeterminate nature and that any discussion that does not treat it as such cannot, in fact, be a discussion of the noumenon. In demonstrating any definite properties, the noumenon would cease to be so. Jean-Paul Sartre argues that the appearance of a phenomenon is pure and absolute. The noumenon is not inaccessible—it simply isn’t there. Appearance is the only reality.

External Reality and Justification

So the question is can we justify the existence of a world outside of our perception? Can we justify that our perception of a world is a perception of something that is not dependent on mind for its existence? Can we justify that the innumerable fluctuating and fragmented assortment of data provided to our mind by our senses comes from something other than mind? Let’s use Rene Descartes’ example of sensory experience within a dream. Can we distinguish a fundamental difference between the sensory experience provided to our mind from our dreams and the sensory experience provided to our minds when we are not dreaming? Certainly the dream world is one that is not as stable concerning the laws of physics at times but we can account for that by recognizing that our dreams are produced by our own finite mind. We recognize the existence of minds other than our own that experience shared experiences when we’re not dreaming… but we also believe that we experience minds other than our own who share experiences with us when we’re dreaming. It is usually only when we wake that we realize that the other minds were no more real than the physical world we sensed in our dreams.

Existence and Attributes

So what can we be sure of if we can’t be sure of the data provided to our minds by our senses? Any type of assertion always assumes existence. What can we know about the assumption of existence? We know that the assumption of existence assumes the attribute or essence of existence. When we state that the world is real we’re stating that the world has the attribute of existence. When we experience the attribute of the world’s existence we experience the phenomena of that attribute or essence. The assumption of the attribute of existence therefore also assumes the existence of attributes as well. As all things that exist must have the attribute of existence then all existent things are attributes and possess different attributes to distinguish them from each other.

Attributes and Logos

I like to term the assumption of attributes as the assumption of Logos because not everyone likes using the term attribute itself and prefer using the term essence or quality or appearance or phenomena. Logos makes sense because the ancient Greeks used the term to mean the implicit reason ordering form and meaning of all essences in the cosmos; a universal principle through which all things are interrelated. While the Greeks viewed the Logos as existing in the world independent of mind, Kant recognized this reason ordering the world and interrelating all things as a function of the mind itself. The Greeks also used the word Logos for logic, word, and language. Generally, when we assert anything and we assume existence we also assume the attribute of language so by Logos I mean the source of all attributes, essences, qualities, principles, logic, reason, rationality, communication, language, and temporal mind. By assuming Logos we in turn assume the existence of Mind because as we said earlier, Logos comes from mind and not outside it.

Logos and Mind

Mind applies Logos to existent reality. What I mean by Mind is actually the assumption of an attributeless source of Logos. This Mind is not our finite temporal mind. Our limited minds are the products of attributes themselves. The attributes of finite and temporal come from the Logos which comes from Mind and not outside it. By Mind then I mean the existence that precedes the attribute of existence. This is existence which makes possible all existence. So the assertion of anything assumes the existence of the attribute existence, the existence of attributes (or Logos), and the existence of Mind preceding Logos and the attribute existence. As Sartre said, “existence precedes essence.”

Mind and Word

Calling this predicate of existence “Mind” stretches the ability of language. Language is a descriptive tool we use to communicate the attributes our mind gives to objects. What can you attribute to an attributeless source of attributes? To name this source “Mind” or even “source” is to assume an attribute to that which attributes “proceed” “from”. If Mind is not an attribute, what is it? In a word, it is a word. What exactly is a word? To define word I am forced to use other words and so language at this level becomes axiomatic. If we must assume words to understand words we beg the question of which came first, the language or the object? Justifiably, objects are words.

Existence and Knowledge

The question then becomes, “what can we know about this existence?” If we only give existential consent to that which we can justify then this Mind that precedes the essence of existence is boundless. The boundaries of space, time, and matter all rely on the assumptions of uniformity of nature, cause and effect, and induction which are all unjustifiably circular in reasoning. How do we know nature is uniform? Because my experiences have consistently been that nature is uniform and so because I believe that the future will be uniform with the past nature must be uniform. The assumption of the uniformity of nature in the past and future cannot be used to justify the assumption of the uniformity of nature. The same goes for cause and effect. I believe the assumption of cause and effect is justified because I’ve always experienced effects having causes and because I assume a causal connection between the past, present, and future. This is reasoning in a circle. This type of reasoning is called inductive reasoning because it takes past experiences to conclude future results. How is induction justified? By experience. Experience of course assumes induction and so to avoid a viscous circle one must assume an inductive principle of a higher order and to justify this higher order inductive principle there must be an assumption of an inductive principle of an even higher order leading to an infinite regress. This existence of mind, then, is not justifiably bounded by space, time, or matter.

Existence and You

Mind, therefore, is self-existent, boundless, immaterial, and personal. Our senses show this to be true. The attributes of your mind and your being are a direct product of this Mind. This is THE Mind that underlies your mind. You are connected to it. You proceed from it. Fundamentally, it IS you. Interestingly enough, I proceed from that same Mind and in this way I am connected to you as well. You are in the Mind and the Mind is in you and the Mind is you and the Mind is me and I AM you. The Mind and I are One. BE One even as we all are One. What’s more, what we perceive as external reality proceeds from the Mind as well. This is an important concept to grasp as you seek to achieve your calling in life. This is your ally as you endeavor to shape that reality. This is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge.

Charley Sanders