What is reality?

Albert Einstein once said that “Reality is an merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one”, and after all my investigations into possibilities and the human potential, the words of MC Escher are for me truer than ever:”Are you really sure that floor can’t also be ceiling?” Although this question might sounds strange, how can we know, and how do we know what is real and what is not? Is there actually such a thing as reality?

We perceive the world through our senses. We see, hear, touch, taste and smell things. Next this sensory information is sent to the brain, where it is subjected to a whole battery of computations, which lead each through the entire brain. So, although we see something, which means we expect the visual cortex to be active, several other areas of the brain are also active in the seeing process. So although the brain does have specialized regions to deal with sensory input, the entire brain is active in constructing the picture of what we see, hear, etc.

There have been several interesting experiments to determine what happens in the brain. One of them was as follows: A bird passes overhead, and due to movement, the subject looks and notes the color (black). Next, the bird passes again, and due to having seen it already, the brain assumes that is had the same color, when in reality it is red. However, in the mind of the subject, the bird is black. This is only a small example, of what police officers have known for a long while: Eye witness reports are unreliable due to the simple fact that everyone sees everything differently!

The area of vision known as fovic vision (the part that allows us to see in color and sharp) is, when looking at the night sky, the size of the moon. However, we still see a full view of color all around us. This is due to the fact that the brain constructs the rest of the picture, based on the memories we have of it, based on what we have seen before, and what we assume to the there. When we cross the street, we don’t actually see the moving car, we merely see where it was, and the brain assumes through computations where it is going to be right now.

What does all this means? It means that we are constructing reality around us, based on beliefs and our own assumptions. It also means that everyone of us will see and experience things differently. Hence, we all have our different maps of reality, which we assume to be true, when they are really just our own maps. So, as Nietzsche said, “There are no facts, only interpretations!”


2 thoughts on “What is reality?

  1. Tony says:

    “Nothing real can be threatened.
    Nothing unreal exists.
    Herein lies the peace of God.” ACIM

  2. Alvin says:

    It’s quite scary yet fascinating when the idea of “Matrix” or a world within another world comes across my mind.

    I believe nobody can be sure whether what we see, is based on our assumptions on things….or brain’s illusion/work………or its the real thing.

    Most importantly, nobody can actually be sure of what our brain is capable of.

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