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The Nature of Reality

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Abstract

Philosophers have been struggling to comprehend the nature of reality for millennia. Consider Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”.1 Plato asked his readers to imagine prisoners bound and chained since infancy so that all they have ever seen is a cave wall directly in front of them. A fire burns constantly behind these unfortunate prisoners, and between fire and prisoners is a walkway with a low wall behind which the captors hide. The captors hold up puppets, and so the prisoners see the shadows cast by the puppets—but never the shadows cast by the captors themselves. The suggestion is that, for the prisoners, the shadows constitute reality. The prisoners can have no conception that there might be a fire, or a cave, or something beyond the cave: all they ever know is the flickering shadow show taking place in front of them. Indeed, if prisoners were released from those shackles, and forced to turn and face the fire, the shock for them would be immense. The light would hurt their eyes, and in any case the prisoners would have no context in which to make sense of this new vista. Plato argued they would turn back to face the cave wall and the comfort of their reality. Could it be that our own perceptions are little more than shadows on a wall? Perhaps there is a higher, Platonic reality that is closed to our human senses?

Keywords

  • Virtual Reality
  • Science Fiction
  • Cave Wall
  • Ontic State
  • Blade Runner

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

How to Build a Universe that Doesn’t Fall Apart in Two Days

Philip K Dick

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Webb, S. (2017). The Nature of Reality. In: All the Wonder that Would Be. Science and Fiction. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-51759-9_6

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