A Post-Modernist Error

| | Comments (1)

"Reality is not out there waiting to be witnessed; reality is made by the mind."--Jonah Lehrer in Proust Was a Neuroscientist.

I call this a post-modernist error, only because post-modernism raised solipsism to an Art; solipsism is at least as old as Rene Descartes who plunged us off the philosophical rails with his highly subjective proof of his own existence.

To start by way of explanation, it may well be that Jonah Lehrer does not intend the literal meaning of this sentence. It can be read in a way that suggests a slightly more nuanced message than the one that I take from it. However, if he does mean it, he commits the fundamental error of the post-modernist movement which is to suggest that reality is not objective.

What Lehrer says in this sentence is that reality is "not out there." This suggests the truth of the second half of the sentence which is that reality is perceived in a slightly different way by each individual. However, the truth of perception does not abnegate the fact that there IS something out there to be perceived and the something out there is an objective reality completely separate from our ability to perceive it correctly or otherwise. Reality IS out there; however, we are incapable of grasping it in full given biomechanical constraints.

The question that comes to mind is how useful is it to know that we cannot perceive reality in its fullness. I liken it to the physical world where Einsteinian space-time and physics replaced the Newtonian Paradigm--but for the work of getting to other planets and making machines run and digging big holes, newtonian mechanics gets the job done just fine. That is, perhaps we can't perceive everything or don't perceive it in exactly the same way as someone else, but unless we have some true perceptual or processing difficulties, is our perception of it so different that we can't talk about it, work with it, and incorporate it in the array of experiences that make up a life? I don't think so. Yes, witnesses of an accident may all have seen or heard something slightly different; however, with the rare exception, such incidents are not Rashomon.

So, were I trying to make the point that I think Lehrer is trying to make, I would say rather that, "Reality is out there, but each of us perceives it somewhat differently because what is objective is reconstructed and interpreted in the mind subjectively." And to be fair, it is possible that Mr. Lehrer's shorter, more elegant sentence is intended to mean just that, and I failed to perceive it.

Bookmark and Share


FYI: http://kevinjjones.blogspot.com/2009/03/ubermensch-or-last-man.html



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 26, 2009 7:56 AM.

The Meaning of Lent was the previous entry in this blog.

"Alas, il est mort"--Philip Jose Farmer is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll