Reality (Part Two)

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The objectivity in the thought of Josef Pieper

Josef Pieper, in his book “The Discovery of Reality” (1974) develops the following thesis: “Everything must be founded on being. Reality is the foundation of the ethical. The good is what conforms with reality. ” It distinguishes in the word “reality” two etymological aspects: realis (de res) and actualis (de actus). “Res is everything that is ‘offered’ to sensitive or intellective knowledge; Everything that has a being independent of thinking “. In this sense of the word “reality”, everything that is independent of the subject is real. In this sense it is also how the original meaning of the word object, ob-iectum, is justified. “Reality (in the realis sense) is the essential content of being independent of thinking.” In a second sense of the concept of “reality”, it means the opposite of mere possibility, that is, what is in act. “The ens in actu is opposed not to ens rationis, but to ens potentia”. In this sense we must understand the concept of reality as the power-to be realized.


What Pieper is trying to tell us is that man knows the real through an image that is printed and necessarily represents the essence (quod quid est) of the real thing itself, in which the understanding has a receptive rather than active role. Understanding acts as raw material, as substantial receptivity of being, pure potentiality and possibility.
Understanding is updated when it comes into contact with intelligible species. When actualizing it acquires identity with the objective world of being.

Cognitive psychology

From the cognitive psychology the concept of schemas or cognitive structures is handled; That is to say, “an active organization of past reactions and experiences” or “an abstraction resulting from previous experience”. According to cognitive psychology, these schemes are responsible for the mechanisms that guide selective attention and perception. “Schemes allow the perceiver to quickly identify stimuli, categorize events, select strategies to obtain new information, solve problems and achieve goals” (Feixas & Miró, 1993)

In cognitive psychology memory is defined as “the process by which an individual retains information that can then be used. It allows the organism to be independent of the environment (of the existing information at the moment) and to relate different contents “. Then the memory would allow to know the reality, without having to experience it directly through the senses at a certain moment, similar to a world of ideas that is located within the mind through memory and in turn, using thought. We refer the reader to our series on Beliefs and Attribution, beginning with the first article.

Evolutionary psychology

From evolutionary psychology, one of the branches of neurobiology focused on the phylogenesis of the mind, it is argued that “the structural and functional design of the human mind is a result of the evolutionary process, which has led to the proper configuration of the brain of our Species, until reaching the homo sapiens sapiens“. It is proposed that perceived things, as well as the brain that perceives them, belong to the same reality and have arisen from the same joint evolution, so that there is an interrelation that allows the organism to fit its environment. Likewise, human reason is an object of reality, which was shaped in a certain way in adaptation to things that were also real (García, 2007).


From neurobiology it is said that the brain was designed to interpret data coming from the environment, which only acquire meaning in function of the brain that processes them. It explains that “neurobiology teaches us that reality is a complex construction and interpretation that makes our brain from a few basic ingredients that are outside: electromagnetic, thermal, chemical and mechanical energy.” Also, from this perspective, the importance of both memory and emotional processes in experiencing reality is also emphasized, since both will influence the way in which sensitive data are interpreted (Pascual, 2009 ).

We think our perceptions – sights, sounds, textures, tastes – are an accurate representation of the real world, when they are rather the best divination of our brain about what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality.


The conclusion reached by Donald D. Hoffman, Professor of cognitive sciences, is dramatic: “The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality. What’s more, we have to thank evolution for this magnificent illusion, since it maximizes our evolutionary ability by leading the truth to extinction. ” Perceptual information is modeled by natural selection to reflect utility, not to represent reality.

Hoffman’s position, supported by his study, is that the construction of a functional worldview is, in fact, a prerequisite for survival. An image of the world that keeps one alive is more important than an objectively accurate one.

Hoffman says that we live in a mental construct, a kind of utilitarian fantasy, of our own invention. Hoffman himself draws his conclusion about reality in much of quantum mechanics, where systems are defined only once they are observed.

Quantum Physics (Mechanics)

Quantum physicists, experiment after experiment, have shown that if we assume that the particles composing ordinary objects have an objective existence, independent of the observer, we get the wrong answers. The central lesson of quantum physics is clear: there are no objects previously located in any preexisting space.

Physicist John Wheeler says: “Useful as it is under ordinary circumstances to say that the world exists ‘out there’ independent of us, that vision can no longer be defended.”

Mathematical physicist Chetan Prakash demonstrated a theorem that I devised (Hoffman says): “According to evolution by natural selection, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more apt than an organism of equal complexity that sees nothing of the Reality, but is tuned to be fit *. ”

* Apt = robust, good health, strong, resistant, …

The monist systems of India

The monistic systems of India, particularly many sūtras of Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism do not regard time or space as primary, but treat it as a derivative of consciousness. These are complete systems of teachings about the nature of ultimate reality, or the Absolute. This underlying reality is called Brahman in Vedanta and Paramaśiva or Supreme Śiva in the Śivism of Kashmir. Both accept the Absolute Undifferentiated Consciousness as the Ultimate Reality, as the underlying reality of all the innumerable objects, subjects and processes that unite them, such as observation, sensitivity, understanding, dynamics, cause and effect, and so on.

Seeing the world as independent and separate from Being is an illusion. To know reality is to experience the diversity of the universe as identical with your own Being.

From this monism, experience comes first. After all, this is how reality comes to us, experientially.

Thus, the tradition of Indian monism has developed the absolute state of consciousness, its appearance in the manifestation and every gradation of existence that the human mind can conceive. What remains is to build a bridge to the cosmovision of contemporary science through the development of the appropriate fundamental mathematics that unite the two, constituting the first step in the construction of that bridge.


If you want to know a little bit more…


Pieper, J. (1974) El descubrimiento de la Realidad, Rialp. Madrid.

Feixas, G. y Miró, M.T. (1993) Aproximaciones a la psicoterapia; Una introducción a los tratamientos psicológicos. Paidós. Barcelona.

García, E. et al. (2007)  Nuevas perspectivas científicas y filosóficas sobre el ser humano. Madrid. Universidad Pontifica de Comillas.

Pascual, R. (2009) Neurobiología del self y sus extravíos. Aproximación ontogénica y bio-social.Ed. Universitarias de Valparaíso. Chile.

Mark J.T., Marion, B.B. y Hoffman, D.D. (2010) Natural selection and veridical perceptions. Journal of Theoretical Biology 266 (2010) 504–515.

Hoffman, D.D. m Singh, M. y Prakash, Ch. (2008) The interface theory of perception.

Hoffman, D.D. (2009) The construction of Visual Reality. In J. Blom & I. Sommer (Eds.) Hallucinations: theory and practice, New York: Springer, pp. 7–15.

Manning, A.G. et al. (2015) Wheeler’s delayed-choice gedanken experiment with a single atom. Nature Physics.

Jinpa, Th. (2002) Self, Reality and Reason in Tibetan Philosophy. Tsongkhapa’s Quest for the Middle Way. Prebish, Ch.S. y Keown, D. Ed. Routledge Curzon. London and New York.

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