reality answered

Apologies if what follows is somewhat muddled.

I’m in the middle of a tempestuous discussion with a density of physics graduates… all of whom insist on the literal accuracy of the following statement:

Reality is predictable, coherent, not chaos. The evidence is everywhere. We do not understand the rules / laws perfectly but that does not change the FACT that ‘they’ (rules / relationships) exist. Our cognitive activity (represented through laws etc.) simply observed and comprehended what has always been true. The relationships (between, for example, energy and mass) existed long before Einstein.

Now I’m not going to dispute the conclusion that the epistemology of science does a whiz-bang job of describing and predicting stuff. But…is it not a category error to, well, categorically and unconditionally claim that the phenomenology of reality actually can be represented by the words ‘rules’ and / or ‘relationships’? Do not these words merely describe our perception of how what is…is.

‘Rules’ / ‘relationships’ are conceptual metaphysical (Aristotle) concepts are they not? It’s not so much that they don’t exist as a part of the natural world so much as that no one has a clue what manner of phenomenological existence they actually have. Therefore the error is twofold. First my physics protagonists are claiming an equivalence by mere correlation (reality follows rules and is relationships because our epistemology describes it thus)…and second they are claiming an equivalence between two phenomena…one of which (reality) nothing is actually definitively known about…and the other of which (conceptual reality) all-but-nothing is actually definitively known about (what is consciousness…???).

Would an accurate statement not be more like:

By deduction and inference, reality looks like it can be described by the words ‘rules’ and / or ‘relationships’. This is nothing more than a description though. We have no idea whether or not anything like our understanding of ‘rules’ and / or ‘relationships’ does actually exist, primarily because we have no definitive idea of the phenomenology of ‘understanding’ / ‘knowledge’ nor do we have any definitive idea of the phenomenology of reality itself.

Any assistance on clarifying / resolving these questions (including clarifying my expression of them) would be greatly appreciated.

What’s “accurate” depends on whether you’re a realist, an instrumentalist, or any other flavour of -ism on the subject. It’s not a settled matter.

There are certainly some things that we can’t predict at the moment, and there are things that as far as we know it is physically impossible to predict. On the other hand, some things we can predict every time with incredible accuracy, and it’s hard to think that that’s some weird coincidence. There are reliable relationships, and we’ve found some rules that describe them, at some scales.

I tend towards (what I understand to be) your view of things - that the rules we discover are our approximations, constructions that do better or worse jobs at describing what we experience. But to pose a question on the back of your final paragraph - how would it be if you were wrong? That is to say, what would have to be different or proven for you to concede that they are right?

Incredible accuracy. No doubt about it.

…which begs at least one question…what is the actual relationship between these ideas that we (somehow) create to describe / predict / explain…. and that which is described, predicted, explained? Correlation is not causation (however convincing…and it’s very convincing) but ‘coincidence’ not only seems absurd but is utterly lacking as an explanation in itself.

For me to concede that they are right (which, by the way, is a very useful perspective to attempt) they would have to establish that the fundamental ontology of reality is equivalent to conceptual reality (panpsychism ?). Meaning…what we ‘know’ to be a ‘rule’ / ‘relationship’ is the same thing as what the ‘universe’ actually is. Would that implicate dualism, or perhaps some variety of informational monism? Everything is meaning…and the idea of rules / relationships works so well because everything actually is rules / relationships.

Of course, there doesn’t even begin to be any way to ‘prove’ such a thing.

…but…there does exist one place where there would seem to be a direct causal relationship between applied mathematics and conceptual mathematics. Neural activity. Specific applied mathematics (hypothetically) can ultimately describe the specific neural activity that generates specific conceptual mathematics.

IOW…mathematical algorithm ‘X’ (neural activity) generates mathematical algorithm ‘X’ (conceptual activity). I wonder what manner of paradox that might entail?

He is most certainly correct within the realm of precise practicality. But to understand the extreme details of accuracy involved, one must get into the arena of ontology (the language map of physical reality) more than epistemology (the issue of how we correlate our ontology to physical reality such as to say that we “know”). Ontology is the truth model intended to be used to accurately describe the physical reality. All “truth statements” pertain to a specific ontology, not directly to physical reality.

Current physics cannot claim that their ontologies precisely match physical reality. In fact they are aware that they do not. But when they make truth claims concerning physics, they are actually claiming consistency within their own ontology. That is all that truth actually is, a consistency within the proposed ontology (language used to describe physical reality).

If in, for example, Quantum Mechanics, they claim that a certain event is always completely random (which they do at times), that statement is not a statement concerning physical reality but rather a fundamental principle to their ontology. Thus that statement is necessarily always true (to their ontology). Quantum Mechanics is entirely about mathematics (specifically statistics) with only skimpy relationships to physical reality. In QM objects are mathematical objects, not necessarily physical objects. Thus his statement (red) is not always “true” because in QM a variety of events are declared to be unpredictable, randomness.

But on the other hand their laws/rules are always “true” because that is merely a matter of logically ensuring that they remain consistent within their chosen ontology. What they say is “random” must be consistency said to be random, never deviating even once. So in that way stated events are always “predictable” because if anything behaves differently than what is described, it is not what was being described.

That might sound like merely a word game, and to a degree it is treated as one, but the fact is that the mind has no option but to use that kind of game to track the situation of the universe surrounding it. The only way they can be found wrong is to find an event which the words of their ontologies cannot describe. The proposed Big Bang would be one of those. All of modern science has to negate all of their laws in order to accept the notion of a real singularity that sprang from nothing, “something from nothing”. Oddly the BB theory is taught as “Science”. It is in fact, pure myth.

Well … that is not true of at very least me. I well understand how it fits.

Again, that is a presumption on your part. How the mind works to categorize and predict its surroundings is well known by certain people, not the general populous, nor the greater number of scientists. It is an issue of precise philosophy (a very uncommon field), not science (the art of verifying philosophical concepts).

And as stated above, their ontologies are necessarily “true” but not proven to be absolutely accurate in matching physical reality. And as you stated, they have an excellent record, thus they have serious “knowledge” of that physical reality. Their ontological map IS their “knowledge”. And their map matches very, very often. So it is not valid to say that “nothing is actually definitively known about” the physical reality (most especially not around me).

Interestingly, the things that they do not currently know require that they redefine and dismiss much of what they thought that they did know. Thus they are slow about it all (dogmatic).

Now that would be accurate.

What you call “knowledge” IS THE ONTOLOGICAL MAP, nothing more. For as far as their map works to predict, they are knowledgeable.

Now that all of that is said, I know without question that both Relativity theory and Quantum Mechanics are not precisely accurate descriptions of physical reality. But how can I know that unless I have a more accurate description myself? How can you?

That is only true for poor philosophers.

*Quantum entanglement is a physical phenomenon that occurs when pairs or groups of particles are generated or interact in ways such that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently

  • indeterminism/Improbability
  • paradox of first cause.

Ask them if they believe in magic; that the universe just popped into existence! Then ask them about the infinite universe inferred by the straight tangents in the early background radiation, or an infinite universe defined by the absolute lack of first cause as a possible basis for causality. No first cause = no causality ~ as the fundament of existence/reality. Now ask them something even simpler; what is the greatest thing?

No. The words pertain to the maths and have nothing to do with our perceptions. This is a fault in post-realist philosophy and not science.


Well, the map is not the landscape, and words are not their referents. I don’t think any scientist would claim that there was anything physically connecting a dog with the word “dog” (or “chien”, “Hund”, etc) or the concept of dogginess, nor that the concept “dog” is a dog. But “dog” remains a useful concept that defines some doggy assemblies of molecules from the many many assemblies that are not-doggy. Abstractions aren’t inherently removed from reality; Mont Blanc was the highest mountain in Europe before anyone measured it, and if it wasn’t, there was a highest mountain in Europe, and has been since Europe existed. Abstractions are simply how we talk about reality (or not).

However, the map remains different from the landscape. We abstract different sorts of information for different purposes, requiring different tolerances, and we use those abstractions that are useful.