RE: Objective versus subjective reality: which is primary?

From: Norm Wilson (
Date: Wed Jul 20 2005 - 17:14:19 MDT


> What you're pointing out is basically the (in)
> famous "hard problem of consciousness", isn't it?

It's been a while since I read Chalmer's paper, but I seem to recall the hard problem being described in a way that presupposed the primacy of objective reality and placed the burden of explaining the "something extra" of consciousness on the proponents of the hard problem. I feel that this emphasis is arbitrary and that an equally valid approach would be to presuppose the existence of subjective reality and require that any would-be physical explanation of reality provide for (or at least not preclude) the obvious fact of subjective experience.

It seems clear to me that subjective reality is primary from a subjective standpoint; whereas objective reality is primary from an objective standpoint. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said "each has their own validity, and each gives rise to the other in a certain sense." There are clearly interactions among them, but to posit one as more primary than the other (in the sense that one subsumes and explains the other) would be unwarranted.

Of course, all of our observations, thoughts and logical arguments regarding reality originate from a subjective perspective, relative to which objective reality is in the deepest sense an unprovable hypothesis. Relative to subjective reality, objective reality is a construct of our own subjectivity - an abstraction on the horizon which can be approached but never reached. We can never "know" objective reality, but can only deduce it indirectly as a function of how it relates to patterns within our own subjectivity. Any understanding of the objective world is necessarily incomplete and inextricably bound to our own subjective points-of-view. In short, I think we are stuck with the fact that subjective reality is primary, at least from our perspective, because we are bound to the subjective point-of-view. While we can build strong cases for the existence of objective reality, in the end it would be begging the question to position objective reality as primary. Any theory of reality that fails to explain
 subjective experience is necessarily incomplete.

Norm Wilson

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