I was going to publish this ages ago, but I couldn't quite finish it. Now I'm totally awake in the middle of the night, and I can't think of anything better to do, so...
Recent discussions have led me to focus on the nature of reality and truth.
A friend of mine adamantly proclaims that there must be an objective reality, or there can be no truth. From this, he argues that only objective truth is important, since subjective truth is a contradiction in terms.
First question: what constitutes objective reality? What distinguishes it from subjective reality?
Subjective reality is a product of the mind; it can be influenced by objective reality, perhaps even sustained by it, but the reality itself is a fabrication. Therefore, we can say that the distinguishing quality of an objective reality is that it does not exist by virtue of phrenic activity.
Second question: why is truth important?
The credit of truth is primarily that it is useful. Why? Because it is an enabler. Through our knowledge of truth we are better equipped to understand, predict and manipulate the world in which we live according to our needs and desires.
This actually means something for my argument, the assertion that the search for truth is not, in and of itself, important. I am less concerned with the philosophical implications than the human importance of any conclusions.
Third question: is there an objective reality, and how do we experience it?
This is a difficult question. For one thing, how do we know that what we call 'reality' isn't simply the construction of a vast mind? If that is so, there is surely an objective reality sustaining this mind, and so our experience of objective reality is indirect (if it exists at all). However, unless we can actually derive some value from this fact – for example, determine some way of manipulating the mind – there's no point in knowing this. Rather, it would be more valuable to concentrate on the reality the mind creates – and which we experience – as though it is an objective reality. I would, therefore, like to alter the definition of 'objective' reality to mean 'the reality which contains our collective beings,' and indulge acosmism no more.
Now, we are able to interact with other beings. This would imply that there is some shared reality which contains us, and with which we interact. However, there's an important question, which is: how does our subjective reality compare with the objective world? I would reply – not very well.
Ask yourself: is it right to kill someone who has done nothing to wrong you, and who's death would not bring any good to anyone? Most people would say 'no.' However, asked if it is right to break a piece of chalk in half (in the same circumstances), most people would be skeptical – it surely doesn't matter what happens to a piece of chalk? So, you see, we have a fundamental difference between us and the objective world – in our subjectivity, it is not morally correct to kill. Out there – what you can't see, or taste, or hear, or smell, or touch – is not your world. This isn't where we live.
Fourth question: is it impossible to directly experience ?
Indeed, I would say that we could not possibly inhabit the objective world without barrier. People claim that they are being objective, but while they inhabit bodies with glands, nerves, emotions, states of arousal, tiredness and hyperactivity, pleasure, pain and arbitrary connections, they will never free themselves of subjectivity. Their experience of outer reality is bounded and twisted.
Fifth question: would it be useful if we could cast off these barriers?
It would not even be minutely valuable to live in the objective world, because there IS no value in that land. We should not look to free ourselves of our filters and blinkers, but rather to use our knowledge of these constraints to our advantage (once again, a meaningless concept in the semantic vacuum).
Perhaps it is (subjectively) useful to develop models which allow our (subjective) minds to accommodate our external reality – for example, so that we can build better houses, or feed more people, or better predict the consequences of our actions. On a smaller, personal scale, it is useful to possess basic, 'everyday' knowledge with which to plan or evaluate our behaviour. However, all value stems from our own unique division from the external world, so we should remember constantly that perfect understanding of the objective reality is a means to an end, and not an end in itself.
Sixth question: what does that mean for us?
We seek out pleasure. We avoid pain. Overall, we would each like to say that we are contented with our lives. Our search, therefore, should not be for truth for truth's sake, but for truth for the sake of our own satisfaction.
We know that certain things are pleasing, interesting or desirable, so we try to maximise the quality of our experience by applying this knowledge.
I see it as the goal of a civilised society to maximise the pleasure of its constituents. There may be other goals, but ultimately any which reduce the overall comfort of the group will perish, because all systems tend to an equilibrium and we are striving individually for gratification. A society is a group organism which sacrifices individual potentials for the potential of the whole. So, when we try to construct a moral or political ideal, our constant aim (if we want it to be successful) should be that it effects a sustainable improvement upon collective happiness.
Seventh question: but what the hell would make (and keep) us happy?!
I left the article unfinished at this point, because I couldn't see how to continue. I still can't. One day, I hope to know a good answer to this final conundrum.
The best answers would surely count among the most sublime and influencial inventions in our history.