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Talk:Reality

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 Definition Various concepts in philosophy and science presenting diverse views of what categories of entities, if any, do or do not qualify as existing absolutely, self-sufficiently and objectively irrespective of human presence. [d] [e]
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Early comments

Page created--Maria Cuervo 22:21, 2 April 2011 (UTC)

Good start. Two things I think it needs are Johnson's "I refute it thus" [1] and the 60s T-shirt "Reality is for people who cannot handle drugs". Sandy Harris 00:54, 3 April 2011 (UTC)

Or "... science fiction" in another version. Peter Jackson 10:51, 4 April 2011 (UTC)
Thank you Sandy. I'll slowly work my way to Johnson but if you want to create an applicable section, go for it. Thank you for the suggestions. Is there an image for the T-shirt? I imagine that would be a great relief from the seriousness of Plato, to wear it or even to just see the image.--Maria Cuervo 01:08, 3 April 2011 (UTC)
Hayford: I didn't even see that apostrophe in the definition of Reality! Maria Cuervo 01:11, 3 April 2011 (UTC)
Also Schroedinger's cat and at least two butterflies — Chuang Tzu's and the one in Chaos theory. Sandy Harris 04:23, 3 April 2011 (UTC)
Nice. BTW, I worked for a decade in IT before switching to Philosophy, so I did enjoy reading your profile. I'm a bit of a polyglot and taught myself a few languages. Doing Oracle, perl, php, cold fusion, asp, pl/sql, regX, whatever and anything. Whatever was needed. I've written my own little content management system which by now is pretty old and useless. (So I retired my personal sites that used the program, for now.) I did consider having myself added to the technology workgroup? but wondered if it was too much. At least I could on occasion write articles on Baudrillard or other philosophy-related technology issues that could cross link. Who knows.--Maria Cuervo 04:43, 3 April 2011 (UTC)

Also, Holographic Universe

I'm interested in this (Is it Talbot that wrote on it?) and see certain affinities between it and Plato's cosmology. Maria Cuervo 05:03, 3 April 2011 (UTC)

Definition for Reality

What I tried to attempt in the definition was one which could be concise and clear yet accommodate vastly different meanings. The definition used works in Platonic Realism but depending on how the terms within it are defined, e.g., being, also with phenomenology.--Maria Cuervo 13:52, 4 April 2011 (UTC)

Saw a quote today, attributed to Einstein "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." I do not know if that is genuine, but if it is, it belongs in the article. Sandy Harris 14:11, 4 April 2011 (UTC)
I think that a whole page could go Einstein's string theory version of reality v. the holographic version and link back here. This page could become a huge project. Maria Cuervo 14:18, 4 April 2011 (UTC)

Physicists about philosophy?

Maybe somebody (Anthony?) could explain to me why a couple of physicists have especially noteworthy views on this topic? Basically, they're trying to do philosophy. There are far more important thinkers who talk about the concept of reality.

I'm not trying to start a fight, or disrespect Stephen Hawkings or Anthony of course (I love both!), I'm just rather tired of non-philosophers (Dawkins is another example) being thought of as making important contributions to philosophy, when they're basically just authors who are using their popularity as a platform from which to advance theories, probably without reference to serious philosophers, who do this sort of thing for a living... --Larry Sanger 03:41, 18 July 2011 (UTC)

I know of a couple of physicists who don't know that such a field as philosophy exists, and write about philosophy under the impression that they're writing about physics. Michael Hardy 04:21, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
Hi, Larry. Sorry to hear you're "rather tired of non-philosophers...being thought of as making important contributions to philosophy...". I guess you can view Hawking and Mlodinow as being thought of as contributing to philosophy. Actually, when it comes to science, you can't do philosophy very well if you don't understand the science, they argue. Nobody understands quantum reality, but some scientists spend their lives learning as much as they can about it. Many are philosophers at heart, and contribute insights to questions that can't be answered by science alone. The first philosophers were philosophers of nature, but not scientists. The latest philosophers are both. I could not label Stephen Hawking a non-philosopher. Perhaps 'metascientist'? Anthony.Sebastian 04:27, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
Um, this article is called reality, not philosophy? I hope Larry isn't trying to suggest that the only people who can have views on reality are people with philosophy degrees. That in itself seems to be a somewhat anti-scientific view. David Finn 06:03, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
Reality is a philosophical concept. CZ is an expert-based site, or academic-based, maybe, but not specifically science-based. Look at the workgroup list.
On the particular topic in question, I don't think Hawking & co are saying anything particularly new. You'll probably find it all already in philosophers of science. Yes, of course you can have different theories giving the same empirical predictions. Usually scientists choose between them on the basis of usefulness, e.g. simplicity. For example, there are versions of creationism and intelligent design that are empirically indistinguishable from standard evolutionary theory. They're just not very useful, and probably more complicated (if God makes things happen as if they evolved through natural selection, then the entire theory of natural selection would have to be implicitly present in his mind, so these theories contain the other in toto, with additions). Peter Jackson 15:04, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
I see the article is listed in philosophy and classics workgroups. I don't think the EC has yet worked out a policy on workgroups. Peter Jackson 15:08, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
What might be more interesting to cover is the philosophical implications for the concept of reality of quantum mechanics. What you've got there is a complicated mathematical formalism that doesn't seem to "describe" anything one might want to call "reality". You might say it does nothing but predict the results of experiments (correctly), without explaining why the experiments have those results in any way we can understand.
For example, it says "If you do this experiment, you can measure position. If you do that, you can measure momentum. But you can't do both experiments. If you do this experiment you'll observe a particle. [That is, you'll get the sorts of results you'd expect to get if there were "really" a particle there.] If you do that you'll observe a wave." So what is "real" here? Is there a particle, or a wave, or both, or neither? Has it got a position, or a momentum, or both, or neither? There are "hidden-variable theories" that describe some sort of reality and give the same experimental predictions, but physicists don't seem to find them useful. Peter Jackson 15:18, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
There are articles about the physicist Niels Bohr in multi-volume encyclopaedias of philosophy. I haven't tried looking up Hawking. Peter Jackson 15:19, 20 July 2011 (UTC)


I will try to come up with a list of scientists widely regarded a philosophers of science. Anthony.Sebastian 20:13, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
Have to admit I get occasionally irritated by philosophers who try to be neuroscientists. On balance, has philosophy benefited more from scientists than science has from philosophers? Gareth Leng 15:46, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
Good question, Gareth. Obviously, for non-scientist philosophers to write about the philosophy of science—most particularly when they try to formulate and answer questions about science that cannot be answered by scientific methods themselves—it would seem they should have a good understanding of the science. Hawking and Mlodinow make no bones about that:

How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? How does the universe behave? What is the nature of reality? Where did all this come from? Did the universe need a creator? Most of us do not spend most of our time worrying about these questions, but almost all of us worry about them some of the time. 'Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge. —Hawking, Stephen (2010). The Grand Design (Kindle Locations 41-45). Bantam. Kindle Edition.

Many non-scientist philosophers do an estimable job, in my opinion, and have significantly advanced the philosophy of science. One might ask whether such creatures as non-scientist philosophers exist, as all philosophers are seekers of knowledge, trying to pick up where scientists leave off. Perhaps we should consider philosophers of science, theoretical scientists.
I would like to see traditional philosophers, including philosophers of science, recognize the philosophical contributions of scientists to the philosophy of science. To seek knowledge, we need trained philosophers thinking about science and trained scientists thinking philosophically. —Anthony.Sebastian 17:41, 21 July 2011 (UTC)
Be that as it may, the fact remains that CZ is founded on the convenient fiction that experts know all about their subjects, so it's for philosophers to decide whether what physicists say about philosophy is valuable. Peter Jackson 17:10, 28 July 2011 (UTC)

A couple of points:

One is that a few centuries back, what we now call "science" was referred to as "natural philosophy", so arguably scientists are all involved in one form of philosophical inquiry. If one takes a really radical positivist/empiricist view, then theirs is clearly the only form of philosophical inquiry that is more than navel-gazing or word games. I would not go quite that far myself, but it would never occur to me to imagine that philosophers (let alone academic ones) are the only people with worthwhile opinions on philosophical issues.

Second, there are some excellent books by scientists on such topics. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Heisenberg's "Physics and Philosophy" (http://www.amazon.com/Physics-Philosophy-Revolution-Modern-Science/dp/1573926949) leap to mind. Sandy Harris 07:09, 11 November 2011 (UTC)

Mathematics and Reality

[Mathematics and Reality http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199280797.do Mathematics and Reality] reviewed here and discussed in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy here is a recently published (2010) book that might be of interest for this article. The author is Mary Leng - my niece, so I declare an interest and won't insert any details myself. (She, unlike me, is a 'proper' philosopher, Larry.)Gareth Leng 15:35, 21 July 2011 (UTC)

Wow, sign her up! Must be genetic ;) D. Matt Innis 00:19, 22 July 2011 (UTC)
The notion of "reality" encompasses many topics. Bertrand Russell, who could be classified as both a philosopher and a mathematician, raised the interesting point of the assumptions underlying the practice of science, for example, the belief that the sun will rise tomorrow, which is not made more secure by noting that it has done so for some time. Likewise, the observation that it is a particular case of a general law provides no certainty that the law will continue to hold. See The Problems of Philosophy. It is somewhat like the caution in investment brochures: Past performance is not a guarantor of future performance.
This notion shows up again in the work of Dirac and others on the possible change over time of things like the speed of light or the fine structure constant, or the second law of thermodynamics. That slow evolution of "reality" replaces Russell's very short term skepticism with one on a longer time scale, maybe related to the expansion of the universe, if one can consider cosmology to be part of "reality" (maybe it is too removed from everyday experience to be "reality"?). John R. Brews 14:16, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
The book mentioned by Gareth (according to the summary on Amazon) discusses the viewpoint (shared by most, I think) that the success of a mathematical theory as used in a scientific theory to describe observations, is not an indicator that the underlying mathematical concepts are "real". I don't know what the concept of "reality" is in this work, having not read it. However, the topic is worth raising in the article.
It has long been a query among scientists from Galileo to Feynman as to why mathematics should be successful in science. Weyl and others thought pure intellect could discern reality, and that led to mathematics. A different explanation is that the human mind is very limited in its capacity to process information: for example, the brain cannot store unlimited examples like a computer and rifle through them to find the closest analogy to a present situation. Accordingly, a shorthand method is used, somewhat like Aesop's fables serve to summarize some of the dilemmas of life. That shorthand happens to be mathematical in nature, more a reflection of how the brain can summarize disparate details than an indicator of what is "out there".
The question for this article is whether reality is "out there", or is the shorthand version stored in our brain. Is the Mona Lisa reality or a window on reality? John R. Brews 14:49, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
Along these lines, Feynman notes in his lectures that the human eye is not sensitive to the full range of the electromagnetic spectrum, from the infrared to the X-ray. Likewise, our hearing is limited compared to other species. What is the implication for reality? Do we limit "reality" to what is immediately apparent to us, or do we allow reality to include the very delicate separation of so-called "noise" in an electronic image of a star from its "spectrum" that reveals its inner workings? At some point science appears to be working on a very thin edge, where "reality" and "theory" are so intermixed that it becomes a function of who exactly is deciding what constitutes the "data", and even of who a committee allows access to the telescope to accumulate more "data", or who a committee funds to equip a laboratory. As in the days of Galileo himself, the concept of "reality" may be subject to the rules of public enterprise, not just science. John R. Brews 15:27, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
Regarding John's last sentence, note his reference to the concept of reality. It seems reasonable to suppose a distinction between reality and a concept of reality. A concept of reality counts as a model of reality, a model constructed using language, a system of symbols such as 'natural language' or 'mathematics'. Either of those two languages, or both together, enables us to conceptualize reality, i.e., create a model of reality. Just as a map does not count as the territory, a model only represents that which it models—it maps reality but cannot duplicate it or re-create it.
In a sense, then, in conversing using our concepts of reality we converse using inventions of human minds, constructed of symbols. In effect, we invent reality, or realities.
If human symbolic processing can invent realities, perhaps some kind of symbolic processing invents reality itself.Anthony.Sebastian 17:31, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
Mathematical objects are abstract. Nevertheless many mathemticians consider themselves as Platonists, and say that they discover mathematical objects and structures -- in contrast to inventing or creating them. However, they cannot prove this ... --Peter Schmitt 17:49, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
Making a distinction between "reality" and the "concept of reality" could lead to the "concept of the concept of reality" or contrariwise to "a rose is a rose is a rose", eh? John R. Brews 18:59, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
The underlying subtlety, I think, is what is "out there" versus our picture of what is out there. It's pretty hard to argue that there is anything "out there" at all, without getting into just what it is, that is, what our picture of it is. This is an old chestnut of philosophy that is discussed by Bertrand Russell at length, and which has led to a lot of contempt for philosophy, like kicking stones. John R. Brews 19:07, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
Peter, yes, many mathematicians speak of discovering their mathematical models, not of inventing them. Yet, do they not discover them through a process of synthesizing other thinking processes of differing patterns, weaving a fabric of novel thinking itself? A novel model, embodied in their cognitive system. Doesn’t that analogize to creating a work of sculpture? An act of creation, or of invention, if you will?
What do you call it when a sculptor says the model already resided in the marble, they just chipped away its cloaking? —Anthony.Sebastian 23:08, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
A mathematician has much less freedom than a sculptor. Anyway, it is a fact that both the Platonic view and its negation exist and that prominent mathematicians are examples. Both views cannot be proven wrong, I would say (at least not easily). Probably most mathematicians will agree that they are inventing parts of mathematics, but not everything. Just like engineers who invent machines. --Peter Schmitt 23:17, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
Interjecting here a response to John: John, regarding your concern about the "concept of the concept of reality", it seems to me we do think about our concepts of reality, and conceptualize in the process. We could discuss Aristotle’s concept of reality, or Plato’s, or Aquinas’s, or Einstein’s, or Feynman’s. My concept of concepts of reality: they vary conceptually quite diversely.
Regresses needn’t regress ad infinitum, I believe. It seems to me we’re still at a rather infant level of metacognitive ability. Anthony.Sebastian 23:33, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

outdent Hi Peter: I'd agree that both views are found among mathematicians. Would you care to comment upon the longstanding speculations by scientists about why math works in science? If one holds the view that math is just a convenient form of description that can be shown to agree with nature, or not, by making observations, the success of castles of thought built in thin air seems a bit mysterious. My explanation, which is not unique to me, is that math helps organize the brain's activities and is peculiar to brain structure. So the success of math is like learning to swim: it works for us, but other species might find it quaint. Dolphins swim, birds navigate, and ants have better government, eh? John R. Brews 00:11, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

outdent Hi Anthony: So far the article has the two proposals: the Platonic and the Hawkins et al. views. If the others you mention are really different, they should be in the article too. So far as I know, Einstein and Feynman would agree with Hawkins, although Einstein might inject some aesthetic requirements upon the theory (it should be deterministic entirely) and Feynman might do the same (it should be intuitively appealing - at least to those properly prepared). I know nothing about Aquinas, though I'd guess it has theological overtones more specific to dogma than Platonism. John R. Brews 00:24, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

I'd suggest that the practical issue for mathematicians is not whether mathematical entities "exist" or are "real" in some "metaphysical" sense, but whether statements such as the axiom of choice and the continuum hypothesis have definite truth values. If you think they do then you're a Platonist. Peter Jackson 08:54, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
Peter, I got your message, but I do not think that I could help with this article, it is not scientific; I would rewrite it. My philosophy is "positivistic pluralism" (it is described as "bokononism" in the book Cat's cradle by Kurt Vonnegut); it is based on 6 axioms of TORI, and the "reality" appears as primitive scientific concept. It is useful at the education between the kindergarden and the junior school (while a child realizes that thousands of employees work as "Santa Claus" at the end of December, that papa and mama make coitus that brings them a lot of pleasure, that Mickey Mouse and many other pretty "real" heroes were painted by Walt Disney, and many similar things). Past century, many researchers tried to follow it. The results were the dialectics, the negations of genetics, negation of the theory of relativity, interpretation of quantum mechanics as stochastic theory, various paradoxes, antibiogenesis, etc. My point of view on this subject is formulated at http://tori.ils.uec.ac.jp/TORI/index.php/Place_of_science_in_the_human_knowledge
Should I load that article to CZ?
Anyway, feel free to copypast from TORI if you find some parts suitable for CZ. Dmitrii Kouznetsov 18:03, 10 November 2011 (UTC)
Dmitrii: I see from your article that you have thought about this topic. I don't think your article in its present form is an encyclopedia article, but rather an essay establishing your views. However, I can see that you might be interested in reviewing some aspects of Model-dependent reality#Data collection, which includes some of the ideas you have reviewed about support of science, and also Model-dependent reality#Model assessment, which raises the issue of criteria for a good model (which do include refutability). It may take some thought on your part about how to fit your ideas into the context of Hawking/Mlodinov, but if you are successful it would improve the article. John R. Brews 18:43, 10 November 2011 (UTC)

The importance of multiple authorship

Anthony, you seem to suggest that multiple authorship of journal papers is an antidote to the strictures of "Big science". The source you cite in this connection doesn't appear to raise this issue - what it does say is that (i) the tendency toward multiple authorship is increasing, (ii) many topics require diverse backgrounds and hence collaboration of specialists, (iii) multiple authorship is an advantage in gaining citations and funding, and (iv) multiple authorship can expedite rushing an article to print, thereby gaining a "first come" advantage.

One could argue that all these factors decrease the advance of a more complete picture by promoting two bad things: crowd mentality among workers and funders, and the quick patching together of bits and pieces by "collaborators", rather than the pondered integration of something profound. The sources by Smolin and by Woit document these difficulties as seen by well-published authors in string theory. John R. Brews 17:46, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

I find myself quite persuaded by Smolin and Woit in the sources you cited, namely the continuing failure of string theory, and the sociological factors that keep it in play. I don't quite understand what point you want to make vis-a-vis Hawking/Mlodinow's advocacy of model-dependent realism. Perhaps you could rephrase for me, as I have no bias about model-dependent realism.
You write: "To a limited degree, the shaping of "reality" based upon modeling of selected data is a public enterprise, with all the foibles that implies." What do you intend with the word 'shaping'; I suppose you mean something like 'considering reality as determined by models of data'? What makes modeling selected data a 'public enterprise'? Smolin and Woit seem to talk aboutn the 'academic enterprise'. Perhaps you are referring to the public funding of the academic enterprise.
My only goal in pursuing this with you is ensure we make our points clear to the reader, perhaps a college undergraduate or a interested biologist. Anthony.Sebastian 03:34, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
I'm not challenging Hawking/Mlodinow's notion of "reality" as a tenable position, but I wanted to point out that this model of reality is first of all, extremely narrow in its focus, and leaves out a very large portion of what Plato calls reality. Building upon that idea, even within the confines of accepting "reality" to comprise the ideas underlying a theoretical explanation of some selected data, I wanted to point out that the process by which data is allowed into the theory, and therefore, into "reality" is not addressed by the Hawking/Mlodinow's model, at least as it is described in this article.
To illustrate some of the implications of the Hawking/Mlodinow's approach, I wanted to point out the limitations upon acceptance of "data", limitations imposed by entirely unphilisophical forces. Aside from our human intellectual limitations, there are the limitations of any any large-scale committee and corporate driven enterprise, namely the blinkering of exploration that would expand "reality" that is inevitably incurred whenever commerce and politics are involved.
That criticism does not undermine the Hawking/Mlodinow's approach, but does serve to show that this method has some serious built-in, inadvertent, and inexplicit limitations. These "shape" reality.
Historically, these forces impeded the development of "reality" from way back when anatomy could not be pursued, and when the Earth could not be thought to move. Today they divert resources to "string theory" because that has become an industry in itself. These forces also support the notions of dark matter as some unknowable huge fraction of everything in the universe, even though that seems less an "explanation" than a reformulation of the problem. John R. Brews 11:15, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
Lucidly expressed, John. Understanding your motivation, I more clearly understand the intent of your section, theory and reality.
I'm thinking about a section before Hawking/Mlodinow, heading, Scientific realism, with Hawking/Mlodinow as one subsection. As I've understood it, scientific realists believe in a reality independent of the mind, but, inasmuch as part of that reality includes humans with minds and thoughts, reality includes minds and thoughts. Consequently events that happen because of the operation of minds and thoughts, those events in part characterize reality. But scientific realists do not speak one mind, so to speak, they speak from many perspectives. Those differing perspectives invite separate subsections accompanying model-dependent realism at the same subsection level.
I quote Peter-Godfrey-Smith (Peter Godfrey-Smith. Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science (p. 176). Kindle Edition.):

Common-sense Realism Naturalized: We all inhabit a common reality, which has a structure that exists independently of what people think and say about it, except insofar as reality is comprised of thoughts, theories, and other symbols, and except insofar as reality is dependent on thoughts, theories, and other symbols in ways that might be uncovered by science.

Once we have made this modification, it is reasonable to include common-sense realism as part of scientific realism.

Here is my preferred statement of scientific realism:

Scientific Realism:

1. Common-sense realism naturalized.

2. One actual and reasonable aim of science is to give us accurate descriptions (and other representations) of what reality is like. This project includes giving us accurate representations of aspects of reality that are unobservable.

20:16, 29 July 2011 (UTC)Anthony.Sebastian

outdent Hi Anthony: Thanks for the efforts. They have provoked me to try again, and I hope you will do the same. John R. Brews 14:21, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

new font size

John, at CZ we mostly eschew typographical tricks such as boxes and different font sizes. If the quotation isn't worth having in regular fonts, then making it smaller only makes it worse. My own feeling is that while selected quotations from various non-philosophers are *interesting*, and amusing, reality falls under the Philosophy workgroup and if the philosophers here feel that these quotations should be avoided, then they probably have the last word on it. Hayford Peirce 13:12, 29 July 2011 (UTC)

Hayford: I haven't heard anything from this workgroup on this topic. I reduced the font size because I felt the quote was so prominent as to suggest an importance it did not have. I had nothing to do with finding or inserting this quote. Personally, I'd be happy to remove this quote to the text where its relevance could be amplified by comment. John R. Brews 13:31, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
Ah, then I think you should, John. As to les philosophes, didn't Larry offer some thoughts somewhere in this discussion? Hayford Peirce 14:28, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
I agree, John, we shouldn't emphasize that we pay a price if we over-focus on one aspect of reality, which does get emphasized by inserting the quote as an epigraph for the whole article. Perhaps, as the article develops, we'll find a better epigraph, if we want one. I view article epigraphs in part as teasers, to encourage further reading. I will remove it, if you have no objections.
I like Philip K. Dick's, "Reality is that which, when you quit believing in it, doesn’t go away." ;) Anthony.Sebastian 20:59, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
I like Phil Dick, at least those books that I can understand, and own all of them. I like Jack Vance more, though. And Jack is the absolute master of the epigraph, particularly in the five books of the Demon Prince series. But Jack was writing fiction, not encyclopedias. I myself don't think epigraphs have any place in an encyclopedia, although others may disagree with me. I think that you *should* remove the present one. Hayford Peirce 21:58, 29 July 2011 (UTC)
One of Jack's finest creations is "Baron Bodissey", an off-stage character in many of his books, who is known only by epigraphs from his 12-volume opus, possibly an encylopedia, called Life. WP has an article about him. After the recent shootings in Norway, it has come out that a character in Virginia has had a blog for a number of years now called The Gates of Vienna in which he contributes a lot of anti-Muslim opinions. A lot of the Muslim-haters cite his blog as a reference. He is now vehemently denying any responsibility for Norway. What's sad about this is that this half-wit calls himself, on his blog, Baron Bodissey. I was wondering this morning if I ought to write a brief CZ article Baron Bodissey that would be about Jack's character but with a mention of this lunatic. As of yesterday, WP hadn't added him to their article, so this would be a minor scoop.... Hayford Peirce 21:58, 29 July 2011 (UTC)

Section "Reality as a system of metaphor" should be deleted

The new section Reality as a system of metaphor has some drawbacks, IMO. First, I don't find it adds anything new to the article: the previous section already says:

To a limited degree, the shaping of "reality" based upon modeling of selected data is a public enterprise, with all the foibles that implies. "All theories have metaphorical dimensions...that give depth and meaning to scientific ideas, that add to their persuasiveness and color the way we see reality." As a result, the public engages at a metaphorical level.

The new section says instead:

We construct our reality through sociocultural interactions, in part through spoken and written language, perhaps in largest part through that, by the way we use it to interact socioculturally.

Now, this is much more flowery and non-specific, but I think it just puts the same idea in words of techno-speak that make it sound profound or somehow substantiated, but IMO really adds nothing. Talking about a language of "metaphors" that are "logically consistent" (I suppose that means "don't mix your metaphors"?) adds nothing in my mind to the discussion of the "Platonic realism", or the alternative "Model-dependent realism". And the quote from the above paragraph already introduces the notion of "metaphor" as a kind of non-rigorous perspective upon science that is more immediately accessible than a post-grad training in math and physics, but much less discriminating.

In sum, my view of this paragraph is that unless something more substantial can be made of it, and unless it can be put in simple language instead of techno-speak, it should be dumped. John R. Brews 16:50, 7 October 2011 (UTC)

As this section is short and sparing in its detail, I agree that there remains work to be done on it. But it's a new addition, and things must start somewhere. There is a massive and still growing body of literature in the social sciences, especially in newer fields like cultural studies, that engage the notion of reality from the perspective that this new section takes. The constructedness of reality has been a very big deal for a lot of people over the last few decades, and their conclusions have extended well beyond metaphor. So I think the section is well-worth keeping and expanding, though I get so frustrated with some of the literature on this topic that I don't know if I can bring myself to do the work myself. :) -Joe Quick 17:17, 7 October 2011 (UTC)
Joe: If you are aware of "logically consistent metaphors" as a burgeoning field of study, perhaps you could suggest in your words what makes it a "new addition", what it is about, and what the key references are and who the key scholars are in this arena? That would be helpful to Anthony, or to whomever is trying to flesh this section out. As you might gather, I have serious doubts there is anything going on here. John R. Brews 17:39, 7 October 2011 (UTC)
The cited work The Construction of Reality is a discussion of language as metaphor. The work Making truth: metaphor in science says its central thesis is that "metaphorical reasoning is at the core of what scientists do". The subject here may be worth mentioning if more clearly stated. It looks to me as though what is going on here is not so much about "reality" as about factors involved in generating notions of "reality". As such it is an abstraction a level above ideas of "reality", meant to inquire how such ideas are constrained by human limitations of mind and social interactions. Would you agree that this is the topic? John R. Brews 17:52, 7 October 2011 (UTC)
I have modified this section to say something I can stomach. The header is changed to reflect my comment above. Some of the commentary has been deleted as, in my view, exceeding what has been established. The references are now in template form and some quotes from the references are included in the footnotes. John R. Brews 18:37, 7 October 2011 (UTC)
I wrote the original section, as a draft, not as a final section. I will rework my original offline, until achieve what I hope John may find acceptable. I believe, like Joe, that the treatment of inventing reality through language requires separate and full treatment. Anthony.Sebastian 00:05, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
Hi Anthony: I'd suggest that the section Model-dependent realism fully admits that reality is invented through language, and specifically suggests that multiple realities are possible, all consistent with observations, but using different language. I don't think that aspect is the crux of the matter regarding this new section, but that it is different in subject altogether. Arbib & Hesse struggle with the questions of how a person acquires and develops individual conceptions, and the role of the interaction between individual and society in this process. That is, the issue is the process of creating reality, which is far different from the analysis of any specific model of reality as covered in the rest of the article. Likewise, Brown is concerned that "metaphorical reasoning ... is constrained in ways that go toward defining the range and character of science". "Analysis of language provides insight into the nature of the cognitive processes used in reasoning..." Again, it is process that is the issue, not the results.
I wonder if you agree with me that it is process that these authors are discussing? John R. Brews 02:05, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
In anthropology, we call the influence of language on one's perception "linguistic determinism," which comes in 'strong' and 'weak' forms depending on one's position on how completely perception is determined. Often, the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis comes into the debate; it is named for Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf, the latter of whose work would be a good place to start reading. Anthropologists have also written about other kinds of determinism (e.g. "cultural determinism"), again in terms that vary from complete determinism to subtle influence. John is right that this literature operates at a level of abstraction from whatever it is that reality really is, and the theoretical work here typically addresses itself to process but the theories' applications are addressed to results.
Work focused on determinism itself has faded into the background in the last couple of decades. The debate has shifted with the influence of post-modernism. I suppose you would have to start with Derrida. Deconstruction as a method along with theoretical foci on mediation and relativism are prominent. -Joe Quick 14:22, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
Joe: Thank you for the outline. It looks to me as though a summary paragraph in the article Reality is suitable, but a real treatment of this topic is complex enough to require a separate article. What would it be called? Linguistic determinism? It also looks like at least one of the sources already cited is using this approach to suggest the limitations upon all versions of "reality" in some way leave the door open to religion as having as much a claim upon "reality" as science. I seem to hear an axe grinding. John R. Brews 14:42, 8 October 2011 (UTC)

Two questions or one?

A quote in the text reads:

"Do unobservable theoretical entities such as quarks and gluons really exist in the physical world, as objective entities independent of human will, or exist merely as human constructions for their utility in organizing our experience and predicting future events?"

The comment is made that this question is meaningless within model-dependent reality. The reason for that comment is the following: within model dependent reality, the only interpretation of quarks and gluons is the latter: human constructions. The question of objective real unobservable quarks and gluons is simply nonsense within model-dependent reality. Therefore, there is no either/or confusion as posed by this quote within model-dependent reality. John R. Brews 03:45, 9 October 2011 (UTC)

If one were to ask the question of Hawking/Mlodinow, would they characterize the question as meaningless, or would they give it their attention, answering that they cannot know whether quarks exist as objective physical entities, but that they do accept the model that posits their existence as such? Why characterize the question as meaningless? It's a question that is reasonable to ask, and one to which advocates of model-dependent realism are prepared to give an answer. How does it help the general reader to take the 'meaninglessness' approach to the question? If I were an advocate of model-dependent realism, I wouldn't find the question meaningless. Anthony.Sebastian 06:38, 9 October 2011 (UTC)
Anthony: I've been misread. I didn't say the question is meaningless, I said the question is meaningless within model-dependent reality. Sure, Hawking/Mlodinow considered this question, and their conclusion is that the statement "unobservable theoretical entities such as quarks and gluons really exist in the physical world, as objective entities independent of human will" is nonsense from their standpoint within model-dependent reality, and it is a tenet of their model-dependent reality that "quarks and gluons exist merely as human constructions for their utility in organizing our experience and predicting future events". John R. Brews 15:38, 9 October 2011 (UTC)
I've rewritten the text around this new quotation to make your point. John R. Brews 16:24, 9 October 2011 (UTC)

Discussion of new paragraph

In short, in the alternatives posed above by Cao, model-dependent realism adopts the second view, accepts the constructs as a satisfactory model of reality, but rejects that one can posit the model as representing objective reality, however much, in practice, it may treat it so. If it meets the standards of a good model, listed above, model-dependent realists may treat it as though it represented objective reality for utilitarian reasons. Older models, such as Newton's laws and phlogiston theory, have been emended to account for a broader range of observations or have lost recognition altogether, and model-dependent realists know that their current model cannot secure itself against those possibilities.

Anthony: I wonder what you are driving at here?

It seems to me that your first sentence is equivalent to the old version:

In short, in the alternative posed above, model-dependent realism adopts the second view, accepts these constructs as a viable aspect of reality, and rejects the first view.

But then you add: "...however much, in practice, it may treat it so. If it meets the standards of a good model, listed above, model-dependent realists may treat it as though it represented objective reality for utilitarian reasons. "

Are you suggesting here that Hawking/Mlodinow are dissembling and saying "do what I say, not what I do"? I have no idea how you think their behavior is different when they believe in "objective reality" versus their model-dependent version. Inasmuch as all they do with a theory is use it as a model, as all scientists do. Whether they have a more intuitive faith that it is "real" or not has absolutely no consequences.

In fact, a major tenet of most (if not all) scientists is that their present conceptions are tentative, and the purpose of their endeavor is to test these conceptions and change them when that appears necessary. Such changes have been so dramatic over the years that no-one believes the present formulation is the final one, all of which is exactly what you point out above using the phlogiston theory.

So I am bewildered: what are you trying to say? It seems that on one hand you state what was said before, then you discount it by suggesting that in practice a Platonic view is what is really thought, and then you backtrack and say nobody really believes in the ultimate reality having anything to do at all with what we think about it today. John R. Brews 20:54, 9 October 2011 (UTC)

John, if you feel bewildered by the message of the new paragraph, then I've written it poorly. Instead of trying to explain here, I'll try a rewrite. "Writing is rewriting". Anthony.Sebastian 19:41, 10 October 2011 (UTC)

New version:

If a model meets the standards of a good model, listed above, model-dependent realists may may find themselves tempted to adopt it, tentatively, as representing objective reality, if only for utilitarian reasons. They are humans, after all. But they know their model cannot secure itself a better one waiting in the wings. They know that they do not know what they do not know.

Anthony, I think what I see here is your guess about the reaction of model-dependent realists to model-dependent realism. I'd say it may be a personal reaction to it.

Maybe you are really trying to say something along these lines:

As humans, after all, we may have an intuition or even a need for something we call "reality", and model-dependent realism may seem insufficiently visceral to fill that need. But whatever concepts we adopt in our personal reality, the history of change in the sciences shows unequivocally that today's reality will be replaced by a better one waiting in the wings. We know that there is always more to come that we do not know now.

This paragraph indicates clearly that the subject has changed from the philosophical point of view to a reaction to this view. Is it what you are after? John R. Brews 23:23, 10 October 2011 (UTC)

I think my personal view is that talking of "reality" like it is one thing is not the way we humans work. We adapt to context, and if we're watching the news on TV we have one reality in mind, and expect the news may change it. If we are demonstrating in the streets, we have our view of reality and are trying to persuade others that don't share it. If we cut our finger we inhabit one reality, and if it takes us to the emergency room we're in another. If we are in the looking at the stars with bare eyes we are in one reality, and if we have a telescope we become "model dependent realists". John R. Brews 23:32, 10 October 2011 (UTC)

Religion and "ultimate reality" section should be deleted

The section Religion and "ultimate reality" would be best deleted until someone with real intent to discuss the matter comes along. In particular, the characterization of the beliefs of Thomas Aquinas appear to be oversimplified and inaccurate. John R. Brews 14:07, 12 October 2011 (UTC)

I'm not sure offhand what policy if any CZ has on stub sections in articles. A relevant passage in Aquinas can be found in Latin and English at [2]. Peter Jackson 09:49, 13 October 2011 (UTC)
I've rewritten this section to include both sources and a couple of quotes that seem to me to express more accurately what Aquinas says on this matter. John R. Brews 11:46, 13 October 2011 (UTC)
The header for this section is now [Religion]. John R. Brews 15:21, 15 October 2011 (UTC)

'Reality' vs. 'concepts of reality'

I wonder sometimes whether all talk of reality comes down to talk of concepts of reality. If we essay to write a article entitled Reality, do we not find ourselves talking about concepts of reality, already having a concept of reality that we serve up in a definition? Look up to the definition we give, top of this page: "Reality: The actual being of what is, its "thereness."" I consider that just one of other concepts of reality.

"The actual being of what is"? Depends on what your definition of 'is' is. What do we mean by 'is'? To be?

If true, that all talk of reality comes down to talk of concepts of reality, then talk of concepts of reality presupposes a concept of reality. How can you entertain a concept of reality if you don't already have a concept of that which you entertain a concept of?

Could we have a separate article entitled Concepts of reality? If we did, what would that imply?

I do not believe we can write a satisfactory article entitled Reality without an in-depth consideration of the role of language in considerations of concepts of reality. Anthony.Sebastian 04:00, 1 November 2011 (UTC)

Hi Anthony: Maybe you are getting at the section of the intro that says:
Because of the regress problem, establishing a foundation of truth and reality is a problematic that underlies all disciplines, including mathematics. The regress problem in a nutshell is that every proposition rests upon premises, which in turn are based upon underlying premises, and so on. Thus, the underlying reality is subject to regress.[2] The desire to establish an underlying ground of all or part of reality, that is, to say what reality "really is," has been a long-standing preoccupation of philosophy and the sciences.
John R. Brews 05:25, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
Hadn't noticed that. As it refers to mathematics I can point out that since ancient Greek mathematics the subject has clearly recognized the distinction between axioms and theorems, and the so-called regress problem doesn't apply.
Obviously all talk is in terms of concepts. The relation between those concepts and reality is the sort of philosophical issue that this article should presumably address. Peter Jackson 11:01, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
Peter: The regress problem exists in some sense in math too: the underlying axioms of Euclidean geometry are replaced by fewer axioms or deeper axioms that lead to wider fields that include the earlier ones. Euclidean space is included in a more inclusive function space, and these spaces are nested in a series of ever less specific spaces. The concept of "proof" is enlarged to include computer algorithms that spell out a systematic means for proving things without spelling out the details. And so forth. John R. Brews 14:21, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
As for "reality" and the "concepts of reality" and the "concept of the concepts of realty", the approach of "model-based realty" cuts the regress short by defining "reality" out of existence and making all "concepts of reality" equivalent provided they cover the same subject domain with equal authority. A more inclusive "concept of reality", one that includes another's subject domain, is not more "real" where they overlap than the less inclusive one, but of course, the less inclusive one is not "real" outside its subject domain.
As noted in the article, this approach is found wanting by some, Plato included specifically, and Thomas Aquinas too. John R. Brews 14:29, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
Also, Feynman, Einstein, Weyl, and Gell-Mann, but apart from Weyl, who I'd say was a Platonist, they have thrown up their hands over finding a way out different from model-dependent reality. John R. Brews 14:34, 1 November 2011 (UTC)


"provided they cover the same subject domain with equal authority". Hm. You might want to think about spelling out what that means. Does the "Matrix hypothesis", for example, "cover the same subject domain with equal authority"? Peter Jackson 10:55, 2 November 2011 (UTC)

outdent Peter: The notion of cover the same subject domain with equal authority is posed within the framework of model-dependent reality, which has as integral parts the notions of "experimental data", "measurement", and so forth. Authority in this context refers to whether the concepts combine with the agreed-upon data successfully. As noted in the article already, there are questions about data collection and how well separated the data is from its explanation and from the constraints upon its collection imposed by instrumentation, public and commercial policies, who are selected as experts, and so forth. It would seem that this dilemma is similar to the "matrix hypothesis" (or here): we're trying to pull ourselves up by own bootstraps. Extending the quote from Heisenberg beyond his quantum-mechanical concerns: "...the measuring device has been constructed by the observer, and we have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning. " John R. Brews 15:01, 2 November 2011 (UTC)

I think the question I'm feeling my way towards is something like this: in the context of model-dependent reality, what can be said about the relation between scientific, pseudoscientific and nonscientific models of reality? Peter Jackson 11:15, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
I suppose that these terms refer to (i) what is considered as "data" or "observations" that qualify as requiring explanation and (ii) what is considered an adequate relation between the concepts of the approach and the data. My guess is that Hawking-Mlodinow would restrict these matters to only scientific approaches. Duhem and also Quine would view model-dependent reality as only a subset of reality that refers to only a subset of experience, although I'd guess again that pseudoscience is excluded if it is defined as "sloppy science". The dissatisfaction of Feynman and Gell-Mann with the interpretations of quantum mechanics suggest that they find model-dependent reality to be a subset of reality as well, and would understand where Einstein comes from when he introduces ideas outside model-dependent reality to say, in effect, "God doesn't play dice". I suspect that you are interested more in "reality" as it is conceived outside model-dependent reality, not in model-dependent reality itself. John R. Brews 13:06, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
Maybe the idea I'm getting at, as a lay reader, is, if reality is model-dependent, in what sense(s), if any, are scientific models "better" than pseudo- or non-scientific ones? Peter Jackson 18:01, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
Hi Peter: maybe there is a usage issue at play here. In common usage, one can talk about pseudo- and nonscientific models. But in using the term "model-dependent reality" I believe we are stuck with the term as defined, for example, by Hawking-Mlodinow. If one wishes to go outside this usage to discuss what is "out there" beyond the scope of this technical usage of "model-dependent reality", there are many ways to go. For example, if one adopts Platonic reality, I'm sure a discussion could be made of how model-dependent reality is viewed from that context. Maybe from Aquinas' viewpoint, the gradual broadening of "model-dependent" reality to more encompassing forms is describable as the evolution of mind to become closer to the divine. Or, if one adopts Einstein's views, one might apply aesthetic criteria like the economy of the explanation, the creative boost it gives to new ideas, whether it is intuitively appealing, and, I suppose, whether it smells right (is it pseudoscience or mythology, or is it science?). John R. Brews 19:35, 3 November 2011 (UTC)

What sense does it make to define reality as "The actual being of what is", as we do?

Why not simply define reality as all that there exists. Since all and there exists belong to the group of semantic primes, words understood without definition, could reality encompass more than all that there exists?

We don't want to define reality in terms that themselves require definition, like actual and being, do we? Anthony.Sebastian 03:56, 3 November 2011 (UTC)

Anthony: The introduction is intended as I read it (it isn't my wording) as an everyday expression of what the article is about. It is not an attempt at semantic exactitude. As model-dependent reality requires connection to observations and measurement, I'd guess the treatment by model-dependent reality of semantic primes might belong to sociology or psychology, and is not a subject treated so far in the article. This discussion would be a project, and would not, in my view, be suitable for an introduction for the typical reader. It would instead be a sub-topic. John R. Brews 12:25, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
Personally, a definition that "reality is all that there exists" frames matters in a way that immediately raises in my mind quandaries over what any of these terms mean. I believe that the history of philosophy shows exactly that reaction as well. Maybe a lead that provokes perplexity is a good hook for some readers, but I like it better the way it is, which appeals more directly to intuition.

John R. Brews 12:33, 3 November 2011 (UTC)

John: If the introduction does not attempt 'semantic exactitudes', it does not respect the intelligence of the reader. The lede sentence ought to tell the reader what meaning we intend by the term 'reality' every time we use it.
Better yet, perhaps, we say we make no commitment to a definition of 'reality' but report on how other thinkers uses of the term gives clues as to their concept of reality. The investigation might reveal that everyone has the ultimate belief that reality means "all that there exists". Isn't that your ultimate belief state about reality? Even those who believe reality only an illusion simply believe that all that there exists: an illusion.
Do you know a more generic definition? A catlogue of all that there exits would catalogue reality, with nothing missing. We keep trying to fill the catalogue but can't agree on some things whether they exist.
A catalogue of all that there exits would have to include all the interactions among the catalogued items. Perhaps reality operates as a complex adaptive system. Anthony.Sebastian 16:04, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
Anthony: I don't accept the notion that failure to address a topic with exactitude at the outset is a disrespect of the reader. For example, there are many levels of popularization of relativity, and ones that start out with the definition of an inertial system in terms of "two frames K and K’ in uniform relative translation" may not be the best way to approach the matter for a ballet dancer or a graphic designer, even if it is great for an intro to a technical paper.
As for the second approach, of no commitment, I believe that is exactly how the intro reads at present and the article is structured to follow up with particular approaches.
Your idea of a catalog has many problems, some of which you allude to. One is that items are always being added to the catalog, or ignored, and those decisions are a problem for a philosopher. Is an epiphany guiding one to a new addition, or is it simply a chemical imbalance in the brain, or a flaw in the telescope optics? John R. Brews 19:45, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
Anthony: I took your discussion to refer to the intro, but perhaps you were talking about the definition page. I now have changed this definition. See what you think. John R. Brews 14:51, 4 November 2011 (UTC)

The regress problem

Repeat of comment above by Peter:

What you describe I wouldn't regard as a "regress problem". It's not a "problem" at all, except in mathematical logic, it's just the way maths works. In logic there is a problem, at least from the Platonist point of view. Things like the axiom of choice are formally independent, but there's a feeling they ought to have a definite truth value. Peter Jackson 10:52, 2 November 2011 (UTC)
The regress problem in math may require some further exploration. It wasn't my wording to add math to the subjects that exhibit the regress problem. My understanding of the phrase is simply that the axioms of, say, Euclidean geometry are a special case of deeper axioms that describe theories that include Euclidean geometry as a special case. From a Platonic viewpoint, perhaps, one might regard the concepts of the deeper theory as more true than the particularized versions. That is a regress. From the model-dependent view math is not real until it is attached to a realm of observation and measurement. With the appropriate data set, Euclidean geometry becomes real in a localized region on Earth, spherical geometry on a wider region of Earth but including the local regions, and Riemannian geometry in the vicinity of very massive objects including as special cases Earth and localized regions upon Earth. Within model-dependent reality, I'd take it that the regress problem is replaced by the notion of limited domains of applicability.
Are these matters clear from the article as it now stands? John R. Brews 12:53, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
That's not (pure) mathematics. Axioms aren't true or false; they're just axioms. What relation they may bear to the "real" world is science, not mathematics. Peter Jackson 18:03, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
I don't know if Plato or Aquinas indulge in pure mathematics or not. They do deal with ideal forms, the triangle that cannot be realized materially, for example, and I believe "truth" enters their vocabulary. The pure mathematician might be a Platonist (some are), or they might value a mathematical creation in terms of aesthetics of a mathematical subject like topology, like a musician might value some music. On the other hand, the model-dependent realist doesn't talk about "true" or "false" but "how close" the approximation is between, for example, the calculated area assuming the object is quadrilateral and the actually measured area. John R. Brews 13:34, 4 November 2011 (UTC)
(This concept of) pure mathematics is quite modern. It was only articulated about a century ago, though mathematics had been evolving in that direction for some time. Plato and Co. thought of mathematics as describing the real world, but the modern approach is to treat it as a sort of game with rules: axioms and rules of inference. You explore what can be deduced from the axioms. "Truth" doesn't come into it. Peter Jackson 10:39, 5 November 2011 (UTC)
If you read Weyl on Space, Time, Matter or The Theory of Groups and Quantum Mechanics these works seem to me to suggest strongly that Weyl felt one could intuit the structure of the universe based upon mathematical introspection. So I'd posit that some mathematicians think that their work deals with ‘truth’.
Another aspect of mathematics is definition. Even given the axioms and rules of inference, the game of mathematics allows one to discover structure by serendipitously defining never-before imagined entities and then discovering their interconnections as predicted by the axioms and rules. It does happen sometimes that experiments show these imagined creations relate to one another the same way as certain observed phenomena, as atomic spectra relate to irreducible representations of the rotation group. One can be forgiven for thinking that there is some mystical connection between mathematics and the universe, as has been expressed by many: Is God a mathematician? John R. Brews 17:39, 5 November 2011 (UTC)
I've invited the 7 Mathematics Editors listed as "active" to have a look. Peter Jackson 10:56, 10 November 2011 (UTC)
A rather exhaustive discussion of philosophical views of mathematics is Mark Colyvan (2001). The Indispensability of Mathematics. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195166612.  John R. Brews 17:01, 15 November 2011 (UTC)

Aesthetics

I've removed three paragraphs:

A model-dependent realist might prefer one model over another if it is thought more 'elegant', if it is found more convenient, if it has fewer arbitrary or adjustable components, if it explains all described and agreed-upon observations, and if it can make predictions that if found not to hold would show the model untenable. For the model-dependent realist, neither of two competing models qualifies as representative of objective reality.
Nevertheless, a model-dependent realist and her fellow scientists might vigorously explore the implications and applications of her most satisfactory model to assess its full explanatory and predictive power, to see how fruitful it is in intellectual and technological progress. One thinks of the model of electromagnetism encapsulated in Maxwell's equations, inspiring Einstein's theory of special relativity and wireless telecommunication.
Again, the more satisfactory model depends in part on its degree of elegance, its degree of independence from arbitrary/adjustable components, its convenience and fruitfulness, its degree of accordance with observation, its degree of prediction power, and its property of testability through falsifiability.

These ideas are not part of model-dependent reality, but are additional elements imposed from outside this framework. My understanding of the discussion of Ptolemy and Copernicus by Hawking-Mlodinow is that both of these models of reality are equal because both agree with observation. "One can use whichever model is more convenient." John R. Brews 14:35, 4 November 2011 (UTC)

If one wished, one could say:

A person might prefer one model over another if it were thought more 'elegant', more convenient, employed fewer arbitrary or adjustable components, or suggested more interesting avenues for further exploration. For the model-dependent realist, however, these considerations do not impact the quality of two competing models as representative of objective reality.

John R. Brews 14:42, 4 November 2011 (UTC)

On the deletion of three paragraphs in section on model-dependent realism

John, I consider the three paragraphs you deleted from the section on model-dependent realism helpful to the reader in understanding how scientists veiw and operate within model-dependent realism. They represent my contribution to developing the Hawking/Mlodinow story, and I see only helpful elaboration without damage to the explication.

I would like to restore them, and plan to do so unless you can persuade me otherwise.

Those paragraphs add to the report of the two scientist's views, and the reader should know about them.

Anthony.Sebastian 15:13, 4 November 2011 (UTC)

Anthony: The remarks of these deleted paragraphs do not agree with the view of the Hawking/Mlodinow source, which goes to great lengths to point out that the goldfishes' view of reality is as good as ours, so far as the common data set described is concerned. The Ptolemy-Copernicus comparison is another example. So, while the point you want to make that theories may not be equivalent is valid, and although Einstein, Feynman, Gell-Mann and others routinely invoke such considerations, all this lies outside the "model-dependent" reality framework.
Do you agree about what the "model-dependent" reality terminology refers to? Do we read Hawking/Mlodinow the same way?
I did include one of the three paragraphs as the introductory paragraph in the subsection Theory and reality. John R. Brews 15:24, 4 November 2011 (UTC)
To pursue Hawking/Mlodinow further, on p. 51 they list four desiderata of a "good model", which may be where you obtained your list of positive attributes. However, they follow this listing with the observation that many of the items are subjective, and suggest some are violated by the Standard Model. On p. 58 they say regarding the lack of a universal theory "Though this situation does not fulfill the traditional physicists' dream of a single unified theory, it is acceptable within the framework of model-dependent reality." John R. Brews 15:49, 4 November 2011 (UTC)
Anthony, I have made some modifications to the article that I think express what you want to say in terms acceptable to myself. I am putting words in your mouth, I'd guess, and you may not agree with these changes. Please take a look. John R. Brews 15:40, 5 November 2011 (UTC)
The basis of these changes is my view that Hawking/Mlodinow have described model-dependent reality as a good description of a practical set of beliefs, but also have essayed to evaluate different "equivalent" model dependent realities, particularly through their list of traits for a "good model". I am quite sure that this list of traits would be amended by other thinkers, and the basis for this list is poorly established by these authors, although others have proposed somewhat similar ideas without claiming them as a complete set of desiderata. Such evaluations are not based upon the tenets of model-dependent reality, and in fact their basis is the subject of a much more profound analysis than attempted by Hawking/Mlodinow.
I do thank you for bringing up this discussion. John R. Brews 16:03, 5 November 2011 (UTC)
Here are some related ideas. John R. Brews 16:11, 5 November 2011 (UTC)

Balance

I'm concerned about undue weight here. At present the article consists mainly of two quite lengthy discussions of two particular views: one by a philosopher (admittedly an important one), and one by two scientists. How long is this article going to be when all important views are covered? I'd add what I said before: I think reality is a philosophical concept, not a scientific one, so views of scientists should be treated as non-expert. Peter Jackson 10:44, 5 November 2011 (UTC)

Should it happen that more is written about other views in this article, maybe we'll have to consider breaking it up into separate articles and making this one an introduction to each sub-topic. Frankly, I don't think that is going to happen; no-one is going to add substantially to this article. And while scientists may not be philosophers, I don't agree that their representation here is excessive. Rather, I'd say that alternative views are not well articulated, and no-one here is in a position to make an integrated representation of the various alternatives. John R. Brews 14:05, 5 November 2011 (UTC)
That is to say, no-one here is in a position to write a proper article on this subject. Peter Jackson 14:14, 6 November 2011 (UTC)
Peter: I'd take that as another cry in the wilderness of CZ, eh? The present article doesn't cover everything well, but it covers "model-dependent reality" very well. The paragraphs on Plato and Thomas could expand to full articles, but it doesn't look like these topics have motivated followers on CZ. What there is, is better than nothing, though it could be more complete. John R. Brews 16:50, 6 November 2011 (UTC)

Entries in philosophy reference books

  • Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy: no entry
  • Macmillan ditto: cross reference to 2 entries:
    • Appearance and reality: subheadings of that article:
      • Looks and appearances
        • Seeming idioms
        • Looking idioms
          • Noting resemblances
          • Describing
          • "Looks" and "merely looks"
      • Protagorean relativism
      • The argumenat from illusions
        • "Is Y" as a function of "appears Y"
      • Phenomena vs things-in-themselves
        • Appearances of the impossible
    • Being
      • "Being as a name"
      • Plato and Aristotle
      • Scholastic philosophers
      • Central questions
        • Is existence a predicate?
        • Abstract entities
        • The chatacterization of being-as-such
        • Absolute being
        • Realm of being-as-such
  • Routledge Dictionary of World Philosophy: cross reference to Metaphysics, which has subheading Reality and appearance
  • Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy: "reality That which there is. The question of how much of it there is forms the dispute between *realists and anti-realists. Does it include: numbers, possibilities, the future, the past,other minds, colours, tastes, the external world, mind as well as matter,or matter as well as experience?"

Peter Jackson 11:05, 7 November 2011 (UTC)

Peter, you haven't said what you are aiming at here, but I'd take it that you are supporting your view of lack of balance on the basis that "model-dependent reality" is not an explicit major entry in the subject "reality" or closely related topics in several works. If in fact this topic is not discussed under some of these general headings, it is a serous omission in these works. However, there is no doubt that much is to be said on the reality that isn't in the CZ article. Given there is no-one interested in writing more on the related subtopics, what is your recommendation? Perhaps you would like to essay to expand the section on Thomas? Or enjoin Anthony and Joe to expand upon the discussion of process and linguistic determinism in arriving at "reality", as they once began to do? John R. Brews 12:33, 7 November 2011 (UTC)
BTW, the term "model-dependent reality" was coined by Hawking/Mlodinow in 2010, and I doubt it has reached the point of becoming a commonly used technical term for this point of view. However, the viewpoint has been discussed in one form or another for centuries (e.g. Pierre Duhem, WVO Quine) and by many well known figures in the sciences. It has gained some attention: see Koonin and Shermer, for example. So I'd suspect that a careful reading of the works you mention would show a discussion of the matter, albeit not with this particular title. John R. Brews 13:17, 7 November 2011 (UTC)
Just to put on record the sorts of things that might eventually be in the article. Peter Jackson 11:15, 8 November 2011 (UTC)

The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True

The title of Richard Dawkins' latest book. He starts with "Reality is everything that exists". I buy that. I do like your edit of the definition of reality, John, though I think that "All that there exists" says it all. Or "Everything that exists".

Dawkins serves up model-dependent reality in the first chapter, how we test our imagination with models. He doesn't use the term 'model-dependent reality', but he explicates the concept most engagingly. How we know DNA exits, model after model. Anthony.Sebastian 08:00, 8 November 2011 (UTC)

Hi Anthony: A brief look at this book on Amazon's "look inside" hit home. Dawkins covers a lot of the same territory as the CZ treatment of model-dependent reality, but he does it so clearly and effortlessly that I see only too well that some people can write. It reminds me of years ago watching in amazement a teacher who could teach. John R. Brews 15:08, 8 November 2011 (UTC)
Hi John: I share your sentiment. I'm reading the book now, and your "clearly and effortlessly" hits the mark. I'll scan-to-PDF the first chapter and send it to you so you can read it in its entirety. It has a short pithy paragraph not in Amazon's 'look inside' that we might want to quote. Anthony.Sebastian 17:03, 8 November 2011 (UTC)
John, here, Dawkins' "pithy" paragraph I referred to:

We come to know what is real, then, in one of three ways. We can detect it directly, using our five senses; or indirectly, using our senses aided by special instruments such as telescopes and microscopes; or even more indirectly, by creating models of what might be real and then testing those models to see whether they successfully predict things that we can see (or hear, etc.), with or without the aid of instruments. Ultimately, it always comes back to our senses, one way or another.

I believe he underestimates the number of our unaided senses, five, by an order of magnitude, but that, another story. Anthony.Sebastian 02:44, 9 November 2011 (UTC)

Proposal for major renovation

I'm coming to the view that the entire topic of model-dependent reality is not directly pertinent to the article Reality. For example, a separate article like this could be introduced that makes "model-dependent reality" actually a defined technical term that can be employed in discussions about reality. The reason I bring up the possibility of making a separate article is that I'm now of the opinion that Reality is a more abstract discussion. In particular, the critique of different model-dependent realities is a discussion that lies outside these matters of definition, in the realms of history and aesthetics.

What do you think of making a separate article about model-dependent reality like this, and greatly abbreviating its use in the article Reality? John R. Brews 20:42, 9 November 2011 (UTC)

John, I welcome your idea of having a separate article on Model-dependent realism, with an abbreviated version, same heading, in Reality. Many other (future) sections of Reality will likely qualify for the same treatment. Reality can serve as a portal for dozens of subtopics of 'reality' (e.g., 'idealism').
I take it the key words in your first sentence, "the entire topic", acquit "model-dependent reality" from a charge of "not directly pertinent to the article Reality". If one develops an encyclopedia entry on the topic 'reality', one has to include a description of the core idea of 'model-dependent realism', in my opinion. Anthony.Sebastian 02:55, 10 November 2011 (UTC)
Hi Anthony: You didn't comment whether this looks like an appropriate stand-alone article. It may need some tweaking. And would you take a stab at writing the sub-topic on the role of model-dependent reality within the article Reality? John R. Brews 05:15, 10 November 2011 (UTC)
I decided to set this up myself. Please take a look, Anthony. links are Model-dependent reality and Reality#Model-dependent realism Thanks. John R. Brews 05:23, 10 November 2011 (UTC)
Here is a point that I feel doesn't come across well. One is free to define a combination (theory + data set) with any name one chooses, for example, call it a model-dependent reality. One cannot argue over the right to do this, but of course one can argue whether the concept is useful. The name of this concept is unfortunate because it seems to introduce "reality", which in fact it does not do. The connection of this concept to a view of reality by Hawking/Mlodinov is complicated by the use of the very same name for the entity "model-dependent reality" and the assertion that the word "reality" is meaningful only when applied to networks of these entities. In fact, this assertion about the nature of reality is separate from the definition, and Hawking/Mlodinov appear to me to conflate the metaphysical standpoint called "model-dependent realism" with the defined term "model-dependent reality". John R. Brews 17:14, 10 November 2011 (UTC)
I have added wording to make this point in both articles. Do you agree with this wording? John R. Brews 16:21, 10 November 2011 (UTC)
John, to pick up the issue of "name of this concept". I find no instances of the phrase 'model-dependent reality' in the Hawking/Mlodinow book. They only use 'model-dependent realism'.
They do not imply a naive proposition that 'reality' depends on a model, and we wouldn't want the reader to think they do.
Hawking and Mlodinow do not think in terms of model-dependent reality, and never use the term. They think in terms of the idea, or concept, of model-dependent realism, a concept that among other things, argues that models that agree with observations give us all we can know about reality, that vaster domain of "everything that exists".
Therefore, while I enthusiastically support a separate article on the topic, and I like the start you have made in organizing it, I strongly urge changing the title from Model-dependent reality to Model-dependent realism.
I offer excerpts from Hawking/Mlodinow to illustrate their consistent use of the concept of model-dependent realism:

Until the advent of modern physics it was generally thought that all knowledge of the world could be obtained through direct observation, that things are what they seem, as perceived through our senses. But the spectacular success of modern physics, which is based upon concepts such as Feynman’s that clash with everyday experience, has shown that that is not the case. The naive view of reality therefore is not compatible with modern physics. To deal with such paradoxes we shall adopt an approach that we call model-dependent realism. It is based on the idea that our brains interpret the input from our sensory organs by making a model of the world. When such a model is successful at explaining events, we tend to attribute to it, and to the elements and concepts that constitute it, the quality of reality or absolute truth. But there may be different ways in which one could model the same physical situation, with each employing different fundamental elements and concepts. If two such physical theories or models accurately predict the same events, one cannot be said to be more real than the other; rather, we are free to use whichever model is most convenient.

There is no picture- or theory-independent concept of reality. Instead we will adopt a view that we will call model-dependent realism: the idea that a physical theory or world picture is a model (generally of a mathematical nature) and a set of rules that connect the elements of the model to observations. This provides a framework with which to interpret modern science.

According to model-dependent realism, it is pointless to ask whether a model is real, only whether it agrees with observation.

We make models in science, but we also make them in everyday life. model-dependent realism applies not only to scientific models but also to the conscious and subconscious mental models we all create in order to interpret and understand the everyday world. Model-dependent realism corresponds to the way we perceive objects. In vision, one’s brain receives a series of signals down the optic nerve. Those signals do not constitute the sort of image you would accept on your television.

Another problem that model-dependent realism solves, or at least avoids, is the meaning of existence. How do I know that a table still exists if I go out of the room and can’t see it? What does it mean to say that things we can’t see, such as electrons or quarks—the particles that are said to make up the proton and neutron—exist? One could have a model in which the table disappears when I leave the room and reappears in the same position when I come back, but that would be awkward, and what if something happened when I was out, like the ceiling falling in? How, under the table-disappears-when-I-leave-the-room model, could I account for the fact that the next time I enter, the table reappears broken, under the debris of the ceiling? The model in which the table stays put is much simpler and agrees with observation. That is all one can ask.

It might be that to describe the universe, we have to employ different theories in different situations. Each theory may have its own version of reality, but according to model-dependent realism, that is acceptable so long as the theories agree in their predictions whenever they overlap, that is, whenever they can both be applied.

According to the idea of model-dependent realism introduced in Chapter 3, our brains interpret the input from our sensory organs by making a model of the outside world. We form mental concepts of our home, trees, other people, the electricity that flows from wall sockets, atoms, molecules, and other universes. These mental concepts are the only reality we can know. There is no model-independent test of reality.

Nevertheless, according to model-dependent realism, quarks exist in a model that agrees with our observations of how subnuclear particles behave.

Excerpts from: Hawking, Stephen; Mlodinow, Leonard (2010-09-07). The Grand Design. Bantam. Kindle for PC Edition. Anthony.Sebastian 21:40, 10 November 2011 (UTC)

← Hi Anthony: I agree with you that H/M use the term realism throughout. However, from context it seems to me that they use it to mean two different things: models and metaphysics. They refer to a model here, for example:

Instead we will adopt a view that we will call model-dependent realism: the idea that a physical theory or world picture is a model (generally of a mathematical nature) and a set of rules that connect the elements of the model to observations. This provides a framework with which to interpret modern science.

A model can always be described this way if you want to. However, the connection of a model to reality is metaphysics and debatable, not a matter of definition as is this description of a model. John R. Brews 23:55, 10 November 2011 (UTC)

The more I look into this matter, the more I am inclined to apply Larry's assessment to H/M: they rushed in here without any study of the historical background of the subject (e.g. Popper and Kuhn and Newton-Smith etc etc) and compounded the felony by using language sloppily, coining terms and then misusing them. Take a look at this, for example. John R. Brews 00:13, 11 November 2011 (UTC)

Hi John. Let's agree, for purposes of discussion, that "...the connection of a model to reality is metaphysics and debatable, not a matter of definition as is this description of a model". But surely H/M do not attempt to 'connect' models to 'reality'. They attempt to connect models to observation/measurement. Nothing metaphysical about that. They know models don't define reality.
Also, 'metaphysical' has so many meanings. What do you mean by 'metaphysics'? Anthony.Sebastian 04:34, 11 November 2011 (UTC)
Maybe I'm being too brief here. I'll elaborate my views. I'd say that the above quote very explicitly says that a mathematical model combined with observations the math explains constitutes a "picture" and this "picture" is what they call "model dependent realism". I'd say that this statement identifies the term "model-dependent realism" with this picture and constitutes a definition of this term. Of course, they are free to define this term any way they like. However, this definition of a "picture" doesn't say anything at all about what philosophy calls "reality". The fact that they choose to put the word "reality" into "model-dependent reality" doesn't make things any different than if they defined the word "picture" this way and never introduced the new term "model-dependent reality", which by their own account means exactly the same thing.
So how does the philosopher's "reality" enter the picture? It arises when these authors make the claim that the philosopher's "reality" is nothing more than a network of "pictures". This is their philosophical position that they also happen to call "model-dependent realism", thereby allowing one to make the very confusing statement: "according to model-dependent realism, reality is a network of model-dependent realisms." This statement in understandable form is: The stance of "model-dependent realism" is that the subject of "reality" discussed in philosophy refers to nothing more and nothing less than a network of "pictures" that encompasses the universe of observations. John R. Brews 15:57, 11 November 2011 (UTC)



John, let's look again at the quote you cite:

There is no picture- or theory-independent concept of reality. Instead we will adopt a view that we will call model-dependent realism: the idea that a physical theory or world picture is a model (generally of a mathematical nature) and a set of rules that connect the elements of the model to observations. This provides a framework with which to interpret modern science.

The definition of model-dependent realism in that quote, if there is one, would read: model-dependent realism is the view, or idea, that a physical theory constitutes a model and a set of rules connecting the model's elements to observations.
They do not say that reality is a model. There is mention of model-dependent reality. If we interpret what they say as equivalent to something we call model-dependent reality, then we're expressing point of view. We should just report what they assert, not what we think they assert. Anthony.Sebastian 04:09, 12 November 2011 (UTC)

←Hi Anthony: I'd agree that we should not say H/M assert something that they in fact do not say, although I feel quite OK about disagreeing with them or criticizing their presentation. They do say in this quote that "a physical theory or world picture is a model..and a set of rules that connect the elements of the model to observations." I'd agree with that description, and would say further that it is (i) nothing new: we all think of a theory this way and (ii) it says nothing about the philosophical concept of reality at all. I don't think these remarks are a misinterpretation of theirs, do you?

They also say in this quotation that they choose to call "the idea that a physical theory etc etc ..." by the name "model-dependent realism". Now, to my understanding of English construction this says simply that they have chosen to attach another name that they like better, "model-dependent realism", to exactly the concept they identify as "physical theory".

I don't think that is what they intend to do here, but that is what they have done. Do you find the meaning can be taken differently?

I think what they should have said here is that they will introduce the notion of "model-dependent realism" to the effect that traditional notions of reality should be replaced by simply a network of overlapping physical theories. And I think they do in fact say that elsewhere in the book.

It appears you do not agree that they say that "reality" is a network of physical theories. I'd certainly agree they don't say that in the quote we are discussing, but I'd certainly say they do say that elsewhere.

For example, in one of your quotes:

Until the advent of modern physics it was generally thought that all knowledge of the world could be obtained through direct observation, that things are what they seem, as perceived through our senses. But the spectacular success of modern physics, which is based upon concepts such as Feynman’s that clash with everyday experience, has shown that that is not the case. The naive view of reality therefore is not compatible with modern physics. To deal with such paradoxes we shall adopt an approach that we call model-dependent realism. It is based on the idea that our brains interpret the input from our sensory organs by making a model of the world. When such a model is successful at explaining events, we tend to attribute to it, and to the elements and concepts that constitute it, the quality of reality or absolute truth. But there may be different ways in which one could model the same physical situation, with each employing different fundamental elements and concepts. If two such physical theories or models accurately predict the same events, one cannot be said to be more real than the other; rather, we are free to use whichever model is most convenient.

I'd say that in this passage they clearly wish to replace the traditional philosophers' "reality" with a physical theory or theories; that is, the claim is made that the philosophers' reality is a network of physical theories when properly conceived. Or, possibly, although they never discuss this possibility, and frankly I doubt they would say this: at least a portion of philosophers' reality is a network of physical theories when properly conceived.

Do you see the matter this way? Do you think there is a misinterpretation on my part? If you disagree, I would appreciate an earnest attempt to explain how I have misunderstood what seems to me to be an ordinary English construction. John R. Brews 06:12, 12 November 2011 (UTC)

I should add that my reading of H/M is that they do not believe in an "objective reality" in any form, they say explicitly that asking if something is "true" is nonsense, and that all one can ask is "how accurate" a model is. When I suggest they are out to replace the traditional philosophers' "reality", among other changes they wish to eradicate the notion of "objective realty". John R. Brews 06:22, 12 November 2011 (UTC)

Quotes from H/M

Looking at quotations provided by Anthony, I'll try to show that dual meanings of "model-dependent realism" are employed by H/M.

Until the advent of modern physics it was generally thought that all knowledge of the world could be obtained through direct observation, that things are what they seem, as perceived through our senses. But the spectacular success of modern physics, which is based upon concepts such as Feynman’s that clash with everyday experience, has shown that that is not the case. The naive view of reality therefore is not compatible with modern physics. To deal with such paradoxes we shall adopt an approach that we call model-dependent realism. It is based on the idea that our brains interpret the input from our sensory organs by making a model of the world. When such a model is successful at explaining events, we tend to attribute to it, and to the elements and concepts that constitute it, the quality of reality or absolute truth. But there may be different ways in which one could model the same physical situation, with each employing different fundamental elements and concepts. If two such physical theories or models accurately predict the same events, one cannot be said to be more real than the other; rather, we are free to use whichever model is most convenient.

In this passage H/M are describing a hypothetical mental process that creates "reality" and suggest that this is equivalent to their philosophical position about reality called model-dependent realism.

John, I don't see where it says a mental process "that creates "reality"". It says "our brains interpret the input from our sensory organs by making a model of the world." I hope you agree that "making a model of the world" does not count as "creates "reality", unless you mean something like, "imagines a hypothetical reality".
I could support that: our brains interpret the input from our sensory organs by making a model of the world, by imagining a hypothetical reality. A model-dependent imagined hypothetical reality. Do you think it's fair to say that all human-imagined realities are hypothetical and picture-dependent? Anthony.Sebastian 20:45, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
What you describe as a hypothetical reality is the only kind of reality these authors admit as belonging within model-dependent realism. Do you agree? John R. Brews 05:09, 13 November 2011 (UTC)


There is no picture- or theory-independent concept of reality. Instead we will adopt a view that we will call model-dependent realism: the idea that a physical theory or world picture is a model (generally of a mathematical nature) and a set of rules that connect the elements of the model to observations. This provides a framework with which to interpret modern science.

This is a mixed bag. The first sentence describes their notion of reality. The next sentence is a non-sequitor entirely that introduces the idea of a "physical theory" as a "model and a set of rules that connect the elements of the model to observations". I'd hazard that this statement is an entirely prosaic statement of what most everybody would define as a physical theory. It is simply a definition, and therefore is not attached to the philosopher's "reality". They also introduce here a technical definition for "picture" that is exactly the same thing as a "physical theory". It then defines "model-dependent realism", not as a philosophical position, but as a technical term identical with "physical theory".

Reading it literally, it defines model-dependent realism as "the idea that..." That wording establishes it as "a philosophical position". Anthony.Sebastian 21:09, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
Anthony, that is a misreading. The assertion: "model-dependent realism is the idea that a physical theory or world picture is a model (generally of a mathematical nature) and a set of rules that connect the elements of the model to observations" is not an "idea" at all, whatever they say, because in fact a physical theory is exactly that: "a model (generally of a mathematical nature) and a set of rules that connect the elements of the model to observations". (If you doubt that, consider quantum mechanics as the physical theory consisting of (i) the mathematical model of Hilbert space connected by (ii) rules to the (iii) observations of chemistry.) So their statement is equivalent to the statement "model-dependent realism is the idea that a physical theory is a physical theory", which is an empty remark. To put content into their sentence, it has to be taken as a statement as to what constitutes a physical theory, viz: (model+rules+observations). John R. Brews 05:09, 13 November 2011 (UTC)


According to model-dependent realism, it is pointless to ask whether a model is real, only whether it agrees with observation.

Here they refer to the philosophical position called "model-dependent realism".

We make models in science, but we also make them in everyday life. model-dependent realism applies not only to scientific models but also to the conscious and subconscious mental models we all create in order to interpret and understand the everyday world. Model-dependent realism corresponds to the way we perceive objects. In vision, one’s brain receives a series of signals down the optic nerve. Those signals do not constitute the sort of image you would accept on your television.

In the first occurrence, if "model-dependent realism" refers to the philosophical position, the sentence is unnecessary as by hypothesis "model-dependent realism" encompasses all of "reality". On the other hand, if "model-dependent realism" refers to the "picture", this sentence is an enlargement of the definition of "picture", which I'd take as the more likely meaning. In the second occurrence, "model-dependent realism" occurs in much the same way as in a previous quote describing a mental process that is proposed to lead to the kind of "reality" described by the philosophical position of "model-dependent realism".

John, they're not saying that 'model-dependent realism' encompasses all of reality, only that models, not realism, do the work. Anthony.Sebastian 21:09, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
I agree that these sentences do not say "model-dependent realism" encompasses everything. However, throughout the entire book only reality as contained within "model-dependent realism" is discussed, and you will never discover any admission that "model-dependent realism" does not encompass all of reality. Can you find anything different? John R. Brews 05:09, 13 November 2011 (UTC)
They do say: "There is no picture- or theory-independent concept of reality." which I think might make for an involved argument to place some aspects of reality outside "model-dependent realism". Do you think? John R. Brews 05:23, 13 November 2011 (UTC)


Another problem that model-dependent realism solves, or at least avoids, is the meaning of existence. How do I know that a table still exists if I go out of the room and can’t see it? What does it mean to say that things we can’t see, such as electrons or quarks—the particles that are said to make up the proton and neutron—exist? One could have a model in which the table disappears when I leave the room and reappears in the same position when I come back, but that would be awkward, and what if something happened when I was out, like the ceiling falling in? How, under the table-disappears-when-I-leave-the-room model, could I account for the fact that the next time I enter, the table reappears broken, under the debris of the ceiling? The model in which the table stays put is much simpler and agrees with observation. That is all one can ask.

I'd take this paragraph as an elaboration of Occam's razor to distinguish between competing equally successful "pictures". The lead-in statement is in fact a complete falsehood, as neither meaning of "model-dependent realism" has any capability to discriminate between models equally successful in describing observations. Occam's razor is an outside aesthetic criteria that is not part of the idea of "model-dependent realism".

Nevertheless, according to model-dependent realism, quarks exist in a model that agrees with our observations of how subnuclear particles behave.

Here "model-dependent realism" accepts the role of unobservable entities in a physical theory, which is a discussion properly attached to the definition of the term "physical theory" or the use of "model-dependent realism" in the sense of "physical theory".

Perhaps these examples are sufficient: you can see that two meanings are invoked at will throughout the work. John R. Brews 16:45, 11 November 2011 (UTC)

It may be that "model-dependent realism" is sorely lacking as a philosophical position until some framework is espoused to decide what is an admissible "physical theory" or "picture", or "model-dependent realism" in the second sense. John R. Brews 16:55, 11 November 2011 (UTC)

John, without debating your interpretations, I believe we should not insert our own personal critique of Hawking's and Mlodinow's essay into an encyclopedia entry, except as a Signed Paper. We are free to report on published critiques, however. Anthony.Sebastian 21:22, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
I do not believe I have substituted any personal critique into the article, although I have made plenty of critique on this talk page. John R. Brews 05:09, 13 November 2011 (UTC)

Redirect of Model-dependent reality

The article Model-dependent reality is now a redirect to Model-dependent realism. This last has been re-written to avoid entirely the term "model-dependent reality" on the basis that H/M don't actually employ this term, although it is a natural usage of it. John R. Brews 17:28, 12 November 2011 (UTC)