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The Pragmatic Case Middle Reality: Replies and Objections 1

Posted in Levels of Reality, and Technical Philosophy

A forest of trees.

To the pragmatic case for middle reality, one might object:

Objection 1

And we have a tendency to see generalities before particularities. We hear all music at first as alike. (Think of the oldster’s complaints about music these days.) We see all people at first as alike. (Think of Boomers’ complaints about Millennials.) Even when we’ve learned to distinguish one genre from another, or one group from another, all the songs in each genre sound alike at first, and all the people in each group seem alike at first. This shows that our senses primarily attune us to the level of generalities, not to middle reality.

Reply 1

From a distance, the flock of gallimimus look like a single mass.

But the closer you get, the clearer it becomes that the flock is just a bunch of individual organisms moving together. The group itself isn’t a thing at all. It reduces to its members and their ways of behaving and interacting.

Group biases work similarly. A racist, or sexist, or whatever-ophobe sees the person in front of him as just a manifestation of some religious, or gender, or ethnic group. But the more mature we become, the more able we are to see particularity and individuality. We stop “totalizing”1 people — reducing them to the status of group parts — and start seeing them as unique persons.

The direction of sensory and intellectual maturation is away from seeing unificationist generalities, in other words.

There are genuine generalities to be discovered, of course. For example, there are the ways of interacting, the ways of behaving, the ways of choosing, etc. that you discover when you investigate ecosystems, economic systems, organizations, etc. And those generalities do belong to a higher level of reality than our own. But they are generalities of the originalist type, and I have no beef with them. They do not swallow up or negate the middle reality in which we live and move.



  1. To borrow Emmanuel Levinas‘s term from Totality and Infinity.

Featured image by Valentin Sabau

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