Rather A Question of Different Layers of Reality.....
Last night in bed I tried to look down the “Delphic” or spiritual tunnel a little..... and reminded myself that if we are to be philosophers ourselves in Plato’s truest sense of the word – then we must have our own opinions and ideas about things – based on what seems most probable. It is not enough for us just to know the opinions of others – even if those others include great names like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
With the above in mind I would like to suggest how to improve / add to / or modernise Plato's vision of reality with his unseen and superior world of ideas or forms is. I would suggest that it is more correct to say now that it is not a question of there being another reality at the end of the tunnel to the cave let's say.... and that our reality – that which we perceive with our senses is false and inferior. After all, those prisoners really do see images on the wall of the cave – and there situation would be real to them. It seems to me that it is more a question of there being "additional" realities to the one we currently live and exist in and are familiar with. There are it seems different layers of reality...... which includes our own familiar one; although there are other realities as yet to be scientifically discovered or otherwise fully explained.
I am not sure this following example helps to understand my point – so let’s see. I was thinking about some goats quietly grazing on the gentle grassy slopes of Delphi. The goats all know there is a kind shepherd who takes them for a nice walk in the sunshine each morning – and makes sure they all get home safely as night. The shepherd – a pacifist let’s say – enjoys his work and takes good care of his goats which he has all given individual names for and treats kindly. Clearly, the goats do not realise at all that the shepherd is actually feeding them up for slaughter. The shepherd does not like to think about the slaughter too much and just gets on with his peaceful work. Now it just so happens that after the slaughter of the goats – the meat is sold in market – and goes via one agent and then another to feed “coalition” UN soldiers in Afghanistan who are targeting drones to drop missiles on terrorists. Obviously, neither goat or shepherd – or probably chap at the local meat market know anything about this bigger reality. The point is – we can all think up quick examples where the reality of something is a rather bigger picture than what seems apparent to us the viewer or listener with a limited view on things.
Man has traditionally seen himself as a very important part of the universe, indeed very often the most important part. He has therefore traditionally given himself a central place in that universe. In this universe all the stars went around planet earth where the human being dominated and ruled the world. We can only guess at the impact and uneasy mind shift created when Galileo said the planets all go around the sun - and that our sun was just one of thousands of similar stars in the galaxy and universe.
Although we "know" differently now, we still like to act sometimes in the old way. When that first flag was planted on the North Pole, the South Pole, the top of Everest, and even on the Moon, was there not a feeling of "this is now ours" to own and exploit as we wish..... I guess that although science is telling us differently - we still like to give ourselves central importance and rulers of the universe status. Perhaps most of us tend to do this sub-consciously unless we are careful not too. It is after all – a very comforting and secure view of the universe even if we know it just is not so.
I talked just now about an 'additional' reality or layers of reality rather than simply a different reality to the one we regard as "true" as Plato suggests. This view is actually being supported by science some people may find uncomfortable to hear. This view of layers of reality does not ignore the ideas of science and logic and what we already know to be true. Top scientists from cosmology already know that what we see is only a small minority part of what there is out there in the universe. And when we use the word see - what we really mean is see and therefore can comprehend..... because for the most part still..... unless people can actually see something with their own eyes then they find it difficult to believe in its existence..... or more accurately are unable to comprehend its existence.....
Scientists vary in opinion on what the proportion of this so called dark (unseen – not comprehended) matter might be. I am going to use the term "unknown universe" for the not comprehended and unseen universe of which dark matter forms only a part..... and I will tell you why I prefer this term and way of thinking in a moment. Optimistic scientists - that is those who think we know a lot about what is going on in the universe say that the dark matter (part of my unknown universe) is only 65% of reality and we can see and understand the other 35%. The general view of the scientific community though is that it may be 80% of unknown universe to 20% that we do know - and remember the tendency is to think or say that we know a bit more than we do...... So what happens if the pessimistic scientists are right and what we see or know is not 20% but 2% or 0.002% If this is the case then how much will we really know for sure... And readers know this, that from a few years from before Galileo when we thought we saw (and therefore assumed we knew 100%) we have steadily been realising – in spite of great technical advances and scientific discoveries - that we know less and less about what's out there..... or rather what the whole of our reality actually is. Like I say.... the current general consensus is that we know 15-20% or so of what is there..... but that figure is falling not rising as one would expect.
Now - seeing is believing - or so our consciousness’s are mostly limited to believing. And modern technology has given us new abilities to view the very big - that is the universe; and the very small - that is the mysteries of the quantum world of particle physics. Let's stick to the very big for the purposes of the rest of this short blog. We have fantastic telescopes these days compared to Galileo; the Hubble for example is out there in orbit staring into space - and this is becoming out of date fast. We have radio telescopes, infrared telescopes, and a whole range of telescopes "looking" at things in a way our eyes alone could never do using different light and energy wavelengths that our eyes (and ears) could never pick up by themselves. Actually, our equipment today covers the whole spectrum of light - and yet we are still not seeing - even by optimistic scientific predictions - this 85% of the universe.
What is the above telling us? Well, firstly it could be telling us quite simply that this extra "stuff" is not there and does not exist – and that simply – is why we cannot see it. This is more important than it sounds - since it would mean that all the calculations that predicted the existence of dark matter are flawed (to put it politely) and that we really have no idea what's going on at all. Alternatively, and I think more likely, it is telling us that all this other stuff - let's say 80+ % just cannot be seen in the usual way we see things - and that it most likely never will. But; it is still there as the mathematical calculations support. The scientists tell us it is there after all; they 'expect' us to believe that 80+ % of the universe is there although it cannot be seen - with any light wavelength viewing equipment – which means that we are never likely to see it in the way we normally think of as “seeing” things.
We as philosophers are therefore now obliged to propose, summarise, or guess what that 85% of the unknown universe is - and suggest why it is that way..... and also suggest ways that might help us understand it - even if we must now accept that even with all these telescopes - we will NEVER actually see it. Yet, the scientists and calculations tell us to believe it.....
For philosophers, or those true philosophers according to Plato, this is where the mind comes into play..... or rather our consciousness..... or for spiritual people like me perhaps where the soul comes into play.
If not additional layers of reality - then what do you propose instead?