The word reality indicate several things. The effective elements which constitute the world, the world as a whole, or what is given, which is current in . The problems raised by this concept are fundamental problems for science and philosophy, but the determination of its direction seems to be a task well beyond our faculties. The most general question is to know what we can hold for reality, if such a thing exists.
Nevertheless, certain distinctions make it possible to better determine the directions of this concept; thus, one classically distinguishes (but according to the points of view) reality:
- appearance and illusion
- the possible one
- the understandable one
- the relative one and phenomenal
The etymology returns to Latin LMBO, the thing. A possible line of discussion rests on the dichotomy thing - object (for example, Bruno Latour). Another can be interested in that enters reality and truth. A third fertile dichotomy is that enters object and subject. These oppositions gave rise to various philosophies sharing the name of .
It is acted in fact at most of one conjecture : indeed, the concept is not .
The naive definition: reality is what exists independently of subject, which is not the product of , and which is the object of studies of (what was also called ), is thus intolerable.
Modern science is interested indeed in reproducible phenomena, and thus with experimental protocols. These experiments require a subject, an experimenter, as well as a puncture of energy, in a particular form.
artéfacts, of conventions, of things (with the direction which Latour gives to this word to indicate of the abstract entities in opposition to objects concrete), can give place to these reproducible phenomena, and thus reach reality. It is the direction of the title of : Sciences of the artificial one.
is a precursor of this approach with its currency Eat est percipi.
Significant reality and belief
A spontaneous answer to the question of knowing what corresponds to reality is: what is given by the directions, therefore what one sees, which one touches, etc. One can call this position naive realism. But there are at least two directions with this answer: or the data of the directions are real because of a certain idea of reality ( doxa), or they are reality. In both cases, which in fact is dependent, significant reality appears imperceptible and misleading. Indeed, in the first case the sensitive one is ontologiquement soft, it is only one reflection of true reality, its statute of reality is difficult to determine; in the second case, which is hardly far away from the first, the sensitive one is changing, realities that we seize there depend on the relation which we have with them, and the directions are a source of illusion. Reality in itself is soft. It is thus seen that these two cases meet the same type of problem which blames naive realism.
These difficulties reveal that here reality is initially a business of ; we hold something for reality, the sensitive one, but as soon as that the phenomena are contradictory, this belief is shaken, the statute of significant reality becomes problematic. Il semble même unmögliches d'identifier vernünftiges und réalité.
A theory, named , of J. Hamburger, emitted the hyphotèse that there would be for the subject thinking of another reality only itself...
Reality in oneself and skepticism
Vis-a-vis with these difficulties, it is possible to identify three great types of answers:
- the assumption of a reality behind or beyond significant "reality": solution of the Platonic type, which makes understandable reality;
- suppression of the idea even of reality, as a belief in something of substantial: it is the skepticism of the knowledge, for which we know only phenomena. Thus, a thing has such or such quality because we see it thus, and it is useless to suppose a reality of the thing apart from what perceive we. Reality, in this direction, belongs to what has the most permanence in becoming it, in other words, reality is not in consistency, but in the duration.
- the same solution as previously, but by maintaining the existence of external things, than we cannot know. Admittedly, we know only phenomenal reality. But it would be absurd to suppose phenomena which are phenomena of nothing; it is necessary thus that the phenomenon is a relation between an unknowable thing in itself (thus a reality independent of us) and a knowing subject.
Reality in sciences
- The question of knowing what is actually a table does not present any direction. The same applies thus from all the physical concepts. The whole of the world which surrounds us does not constitute anything other but the totality of the experiments that we have some. Without them, the external world does not have any significance. Any question referring itself to the external world which is not based in some manner on an experiment, an observation, is declared absurd and rejected like such. (, The image of the world in contemporary physics).
Definition of Richard Dawkins
estimates that one can define reality as what counteracts you when one gives a kick inside (« Reality is what edge kick back »). It is according to him the only criterion which makes it possible to distinguish it without possible discussion from the illusion.
This particular definition causes to define for example as real :
- virtual reality (what justifies besides the use of the term of "reality")
- Prime numbers; indeed, no arbitrary decision can prevent a prime number to be it, nor two people who never communicated together and live on two different continents to discover the same ones without never to have acted in concert.
This position is close to that of the writer for which "reality, it is what continues to be binding on you when you cease believing in it".
Data processing and reality
The philosopher Nick Bostrom affirm that under the terms of the evolution of the data-processing performances, we are probably simulated beings:
- it will be soon possible to simulate the life (following the example Sims)
- if it is possible, the massive use of simulations will make that the number of simulated beings will quickly become largely higher than the number of beings realities...
- ... we thus have all the chances to be simulated!
- , The Republic
- , Meditations Metaphysics
- , Principles of human knowledge
- , Treaty of the human nature