Consensual Reality: The Importance of Subjectivity
“A tree is a tree — although its meaning to the man who views it (“the truth”) depends upon his relationship to it. Does it give him fruit or shade, or is it an obstacle in his path”
– Surveying Kierkegaard, Homer and Buhler, 1969
While reading Monsters and Magical Sticks, the following quote and exerpt on reality stuck out at me.
“Scientists who study human behavior have argued, and continue to
argue, as to what constitutes “reality”; if there is a reality, why a reality,
and…ad nauseam. In spite of this debate, one general consensus has
come into being: There exists a “consensual reality.” As the name
implies, it refers to a consensus, or general agreement, as to what to call
certain things and how generally we should respond to those things. We,
at least in our society, generally agree that a chair is a chair, and what we
can do with a chair (careful…).
We know that we can’t, at least at this point in our development, flap
our arms and fly. We all agree that a beach is a beach, a tree is a tree, etc.
In a very narrow sense, we might state that consensual reality is primarily
a function of conscious processes: that is, I see a tree and accept the
object as a tree. Unless one of us is marching to a very different
drummer, you would agree that a tree is just that—a tree. Thus, we have
consensual agreement as to the reality of that tree. However, our
individual response to that tree may be more important than our