Ascertaining Reality Pt. 1
July 19, 2020
The following is a metaphysical belief of mine, which I can hopefully deconstruct and then build back up in a logical way.
Transcendental reality is a subset of the aggregate of humanity’s intelligible knowledge.
We’ve all heard “perception is reality,” meaning your perception is your reality. Well, it’s true. Your experience shapes your perception, and your perception shapes your experience. We all have the same five senses with which we interpret the physical world, but our interpretations are wildly different. This variety of interpretations indicates that our perceptions are subjective. People consider their perception as reality because they literally can’t see it any other way. But what lies beyond my perception, your perception? What could I learn from seeing what you see?
All painters use a brush, yet each painting is unique. Your interpretation of a painting will be different than the artist’s, but neither is the entire, objective truth.
Many philosophies echo the common idea that our perceived reality is illusory — that everything empirical, sensory, or physical is incomplete and removed from absolute truth. A Buddhist’s journey to Nirvana is about accessing that which is immaterial and permanent. Plato spoke of his theory of forms, where everything we see is only an imperfect iteration of its form — the eternal and unchanging concept. The illusory nature of our perceptions is even supported by psychology, which identifies an individual’s subconscious as a great source of truth and personal insight, primarily manifesting in dreams. Even the fact that we can only see part of the light spectrum is evidence of the illusions of our senses. It’s called visible light, not because it is the only visible part of the light spectrum, but because it is the only part that we can see. Our experience of reality would be fundamentally different if the interval of wavelengths that we can see was shifted up or down on the light spectrum.
The illusory nature of our senses doesn’t mean that we are living in a world that is completely different than the one we perceive. It just means that what each individual perceives is only a part of reality, and it suggests that there is some part of reality other than the physical or empirical.
Our senses and science give us a good understanding of the objective nature of our physical universe, but the inconsistency of our sensuous perceptions suggests that there is a part of reality that we cannot perceive or ascertain empirically. That is the part of reality that I’m focusing on today, which I am calling transcendental reality — that which escapes our senses yet impacts our experience.
Here, I am taking absolute, objective reality to have two parts: that which is empirical and that which is transcendental. Intelligible knowledge is not strictly made up of transcendental ideas, but all transcendental ideas are, by definition, intelligible and not empirical.
Let’s revisit my convoluted belief from the beginning by considering the necessary, prerequisite assumptions. Do you agree with the following four statements?
- Humans possess some knowledge that is purely intelligible and independent of experience.
- Within each person’s intelligible knowledge is a part of transcendental reality — something that is true but not empirically verifiable.
- Not all people understand the same part of transcendental reality.
- No part of transcendental reality is unintelligible.
.˙. Transcendental reality is a subset of the aggregate of humanity’s intelligible knowledge.
I recognize that one of the bigger leaps in the above assumptions is number 2, suggesting that everyone has a piece of transcendental reality as a part of their intelligible knowledge. Please consider it as a possibility. Maybe a Christian’s belief about our sinful nature is spot-on, but it’s an atheist whose beliefs on the afterlife map to reality.
Similar to how we interpret our physical world with our senses, our minds posit theories and beliefs, interpreting the immaterial parts of our world — the afterlife, morality, and freedom, to name a few. Is it unreasonable to think that some part of those beliefs is accurate? It could be the smallest bit, and we may never know which piece is the one that resonates with transcendental reality. But it would still be there.
The reason that I cling to this idea is that I believe the piece of transcendental reality in each person is what informs their purpose and passions in life. Finding your purpose in life would be to share your piece of reality with the world — in whatever form it takes — allowing us to collectively arrive at a fuller understanding of the world and ourselves.
This perspective also encourages me to value and prioritize the pursuit of knowledge. If all of transcendental knowledge is intelligible and you can gain intelligible knowledge through introspection, conversation, and exploration, then I could constantly update my perception to become closer to reality.
And that’s what I’ll talk about in part two…