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Distinguishing Truth from Illusion (Also, Philosocom's Directory on Illusions )

Updated: Apr 26

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Introduction: Separating Truth from Illusion

Our world is filled with experiences of many kinds, but how can we distinguish between what's truly there and what's merely an illusion? Let's explore some ways to separate truth from deception.

Hunger and the Reality of Food: Hunger isn't just a feeling of emptiness. It comes with physical sensations like stomach growls or increased energy expenditure. These bodily signals indicate a real need, and food fulfills that need. When you eat real food, the hunger aches become tame, demonstrating the existence of a physical world outside our minds. We can't simply "eat" illusions to satisfy hunger, highlighting the clear distinction between real nourishment and mere products of our imagination.

Music: Real Vibrations vs. Imagined Melodies: While we can create melodies in our minds, real music involves vibrations traveling through the air. Our ears pick up these vibrations as sound. Even recorded music relies on capturing real vibrations from instruments or voices. Illusory music, on the other hand, lacks this physical aspect. We can imagine a beautiful melody, but it won't create the same auditory experience as a real song playing in the room. In my research I found the exception in the embodiement of those with Musical Ear Syndrome.

People: Interaction Separates Reality from Screen Illusions: The figures you see using deepfake technology may be incredibly lifelike, but they lack the key element of real people: interaction. Real people can respond to our actions and vice versa. Our relationships with humans can be deeper and more complex than ones we might have with A.I.

We can have conversations, share experiences, and even physically interact with with humans. This two-way interaction distinguishes real people from illusions. Characters or virtual entities on the screen can't respond to your questions with much emotional depth as a human can. True empathy is how we are reminded we are not alone, entirely imprisoned in our minds.

The Complexity of Social Constructs: Defining large social concepts like "togetherness" and "society" is more complex. They might be abstract ideas built upon real interactions between individuals. A group of friends sharing a laugh might embody "togetherness," even though "togetherness" itself isn't a physical object. This disproves the notion of physicalism being true, as reality is multi-layered.

Critical Thinking Tips for Unveiling Reality:

Here are some questions you can apply to anything to develop a deeper understanding of what's real and what's illusion:

  • Does it interact with the physical world in a way that can be measured or observed?

  • Can I and/or others influence it, or does it remain entirely independent of my thoughts?

  • Does it fulfill a need or any other functionality independent of my own perception?

By using these questions, we can become more discerning navigators of our own experiences, separating the true from the illusory.

What Makes Something Real?

The nature of reality has been a topic of philosophical debate for millennia. But in our everyday lives, we make distinctions between what's real and what's not. Let's explore what separates something truly existing from a mere illusion.

The Hallmarks of (Physical) Reality

  • Scientifically Grounded: Real things adhere to the established laws of physics and chemistry. They can't defy gravity or exist in a way that contradicts these fundamental principles. Imagine a fictional character walking on air; that's a giveaway that the environment isn't real, but mere animation. Animation is based on optical illusion. Video games are basically interactive animation.

  • Measurable: Reality is quantifiable. We can measure real objects in terms of size, weight, temperature, or other relevant properties. Even more-abstract concepts like time have measurable units. And time depends on one's location in space.

  • Material Composition: Everything real is built from something. Physical objects consist of atoms and molecules arranged in specific ways. Even light, a form of energy, behaves according to predictable physical principles.

  • Durability: Real things persist even when not observed. A table remains a table whether someone is looking at it or not. Illusions, on the other hand, vanish when the observer's attention is withdrawn. All illusions are primarily, if not entirely, mental constructs, whether individual or shared.

The World of Illusions

Illusions exist within the realm of perception and consciousness. They are not independent of the mind that creates them. Here's what sets them apart from reality:

The Bridge Between Illusion and Reality

However, the line between illusion and reality isn't always clear-cut. Human creativity allows us to capture illusions in a tangible form.

Understanding the distinction between reality and illusion helps us navigate the world more effectively. It allows us to differentiate between objective facts and subjective experiences. After all, a good part of living a fulfilling life involves engaging with both -- using our subjective experience to live the life we want to love!

Unveiling Reality Through Lineage (Part 1)

Our consciousness is a powerful tool for creating "worlds" of immersive experiences. However, it can't conjure biological beings from thin air. This begs the question: how can we be sure the people we interact with are real and not mere projections of our minds?

The answer lies in the undeniable chain reaction of physical and biological processes that lead to our existence.

Physical/Biological/Mechanical Chain Reactions: Every living being, including you (assuming you're biological), is a product of a biological chain reaction. This chain can involve:

  • Reproduction: Most commonly, one biological being gives rise to another. Your existence is a testament to this process, whether through parents or another form of biological creation.

  • Scientific Processes: Perhaps your existence stemmed from advanced scientific procedures. Even in this scenario, the scientists who created you were real people, who existed before you even perceived them.

  • Non-Organic Origins: Even if your lineage involves non-organic machines, those machines were ultimately built independently of your perception. Whether these machines are capable of self replication is irrelevant of your former inability to perceive creators of any kind.

In all these scenarios, the chain of events leading to your existence involved real entities, not illusions of them. While Judaism claims we chose to be born in this world, it's quite hard to prove it, isn't it?

The Dependence of Illusions: Illusions, by their very nature, lack independent existence. They are products of a mind, existing only within its framework. They can't independently create physical beings. Their influence is always by proxy -- through our actions, and through our tendency to submit to their rule. Cultivating inner strength is how we can be less tempted to act upon unchecked, unverified illusion, perceived as fact by confirmation bias.

Unveiling Our Heritage: Because independent illusions can't create physical entities, your existence proves the existence of those who came before you. Whether it's your parents, scientists, or engineers, you are a product of a real, physical chain of events. Through this lineage, you can demonstrably prove the existence of at least your immediate ancestors and, by extension, an entire chain of real beings stretching back through time.

I did not need to perceive my distant ancestors, the Zackheim dynasty, for them to exist. Therefore, much of reality existed, exists and will exists without regard to our perceptions, to our beliefs, and to our emotions. It is therefore unrealistic to expect the larger reality to care for you, leading to alienation. Alienation is there as a reminder that our true selves, those who reflect on the world,do not matter as much as the world itself does. To whom? To the vast majority of all living organisms, of course.

This approach provides a unique perspective on the question of reality. By examining the physical and biological processes that must have occurred for us to exist, we can be more confident in the reality of ourselves and the world around us.

Unveiling Reality Through Lineage (Part 2: The Genealogical Claim)

Have you ever wondered if the people you interact with are truly real? While consciousness can create illusions, a closer look at our shared ancestry reveals a powerful argument for the existence of others. This line of reasoning is what I call the Genealogical Claim.

A Web of Connections: The Genealogical Claim presents the intricate, subtle interconnectedness of humanity. Each person, including you, is a product of a long chain of ancestors stretching back through countless generations. This chain links you not only to your immediate family but potentially to historical figures like Genghis Khan, who is believed to have a significant number of descendants alive today.

The Power of Probability: Even if any given individual seems like a distant stranger, the vast number of people who have lived throughout history increases the probability that some connection exists between us all. It might be a faint link, but it's a link nonetheless.

The Genealogical Claim offers a unique perspective on the question of reality. By acknowledging our shared ancestry, we can appreciate the very real connections that bind us all, even seemingly distant individuals, independent of our assumptions towards reality. This shared lineage serves as a reminder that the people around us are not mere figments of our imagination, but products of a continous, logical and historical chain of countless events, unfolding into the present moment.

This Claim also proves that logic is not entirely a human construct, as the chains of history are based on logic, AKA, on cause and effect. Certain people meet, therefore, they may eventually give birth to someone new. The universe is not entirely absurd, but a product of a real chain of logic, traceable through evidence.

This shows that logic is also part of reality, and therefore, by studying logic, we can get a better grip on reality.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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