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The Pragmatic Case for Middle Reality

Posted in Levels of Reality, and Technical Philosophy

A giraffe, peering down at you.

Idea: There are good pragmatic reasons for expecting reality to be in the middle.

The Basic Assumption

Every organism faces realities with which it must deal in order to survive. The ones that survive, then, must be decently equipped to handle those realities. Being equipped to handle realities involves having sensory systems that attune you to them — that lead you to take what is real as real.

Because of the eyes, ears, hands, and whatnot that we have, we end up focusing primarily on things here in the middle level of reality. Evidently, these are the kinds of senses we need in order to handle reality. Thus, you would expect these senses to (for the most part) attune us to reality. That is, you would expect what they lead us to “see” as real to actually be real. (Pace C. S. Lewis and Alvin Plantinga.)

A Basic Illustration

But what if the next level up or down were more real, like so many intellectual people think? You would then expect us to be sensorially attuned to them instead. After all, if one thing is realer than another, the pressures-to-adapt that it exerts on us will be realer as well.

Contrast the fact that winter really is coming to the American Midwest (at the time of this writing) with the fact that winter is coming to Westeros. To which fact do my senses attune me? And to which ought they attune me, in order for me to prepare to survive appropriately?

The impending winter in Westeros belongs to the next level of reality down from us — it belongs to the level of images, shadows, and fictions. It has no impact on my food and shelter needs. The impending winter here in the Midwest, in contrast, is something I’d better pay attention to. Thus, it is something to which my senses ought to attune me.

The Basic Argument

Given a well-functioning evolutionary system, or a friendly Creator, you would expect humans to have ended up with sensory systems that lead them to treat what is more real as more real, and what is less real as less real. Our sensory systems lead us to treat middle reality as most real. Thus, you would expect middle reality to be most real.

That is, you would expect the levels of reality above and below ours be be less real. And that means both reductionism (which takes the lower, smaller levels to be more real than ours) and its opposite (which takes the higher, larger levels to be more real than ours) must be wrong.


Featured image by Christine Sponchia

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