Epistemological proof of objective external realityIs there an epistomological proof validating intuited certitude of any experience of objective external reality?

Expert Answers
enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is knowledge, and there is opinion.  To know something means to understand its causes and effects.  To hold belief or opinion means to ascribe to certain understandings without having proved them for oneself; if having done so, these understandings become things that are known.

No one disputes the Law of Gravity.  Even infants figure out its validity, meaning they prove it to themselves. It existed before we did, and will exist afterward. Anyone who would dispute that would be deemed crazy, or cutting edge physicist.  Even there, the physicist would have to qualify his or her argument; that argument would only be found valid if tested under the Scientific Process, which is the method by which humans know things.

We believe a lot of things.  By undertaking the hard work of being human, by reasoning, we can come to know them. Certainly our knowledge is incomplete, but that does not imply it is invalid.

There is an objective reality of cause and effect in which we exist.  To negate that is to apply mysticism to things already known. Certainly mysticism can (and has) been applied to things we do not know, but reason drives us forward and makes the unknown comprehensible.  To go in reverse is for humankind to devolve.


litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No, I do not think that we can ever prove any reality.  Reality is what you make of it.  How can we prove any experience, or any system of knowledge?  There is no way to tell that one reality is more real than another one.

michaelpaulheart | Student

No, I do not think that we can ever prove any reality.  Reality is what you make of it.  How can we prove any experience, or any system of knowledge?  There is no way to tell that one reality is more real than another one.

  The response above citing Johnson is delightfully entertaining.  I point out that in the answer at posting #2 there appears to be a confusing of perceptions of reality (or particular worldviews) with the fact of reality itself as it really is.  There is a more than faddish quality in the currently popular setting-aside of the expression particular worldviews in favor of the expression particular realities, as if there is in fact no reality It is my considered opinion that it has roots in Nihilism.  If I create a reality, then I am the Creator, therefore I am answerable to no one, and no one has a right to condemn me or my creation.  Existence of God, of objective standards of truth, of moral responsibility to self and to the human community, and of the possiblity of permanently damaging and far-reaching consequences of any wrong choice I make including the punishments of justice ("how dare you condemn me"), are all rejected.  Clinical psychology has relevant views on schizophenia and delusion.  It all smacks of a radical ("root") angry rebellious ontological temper-tantrum.




frizzyperm | Student

Wasn't it Johnson who, when was asked what he thought of the idea that nothing can be proved as really real, angrily booted a large stone, sending it flying, saying, "I refute it thus!"?

...mm-hmm... found it...

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, 'I refute it thus.'

Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson

Awesome response! :-)

michaelpaulheart | Student

Thank you for your responses.  In a slightly lighter vein, I have frequently had recourse to the fact of language as a demonstration of external reality, and to the fact of damaging accidents (for example, to my car, to my finger when I swing the hammer wrongly, to the burned cheese souffle in the oven, to being late for work, etc.), occurances I did not invent, and to the fact that I have come across ideas that make more sense than my own prior opinions and convictions and puzzlement--the "Oh, now I see it!" experience.  The parallel fact that ongoing scientific investigation often changes entrenched hypotheses is another evidence for an objective external reality I participate in, either willingly or unwillingly.