Reality, consciousness and the Carl Sagan tesseract
I’ve always been fascinated by Carl Sagan’s explanation of the 4th dimension and the tesseract. His explanation of the two-dimensional “flat earth” seems brilliant to me. In it he explains how a third dimension is not only inconceivable but impossible to perceive by the two-dimensional senses of the inhabitants of the flat land. The same applies to the 4th dimension and the visualization of the tesseract and how we, three-dimensional mortals, can’t imagine it but we can understand and visualize its projection in our reality.
My fascination with this explanation is not only scientific but also philosophical, and has to do with the problem of reality, especially in a world where there are more and more realities: virtual, augmented, mixed… If we look in the dictionary, the formal definition of reality is: 1. real and effective existence of something; 2. truth, what really happens; 3. what is effective or has practical value, as opposed to the fantastic and illusory. But the big question is: what is real and what isn’t?
Are the feelings real? Is God real? Is the Internet real? Is there a universal reality or does everyone have their own reality, filtered by their own senses? What about the reality of the quantum universe? What if everything is a simulation? In classical philosophy, reality has been considered in close relation with the concepts of essence and existence. In the Modern Age, Descartes and his “I think, therefore I am” introduces consciousness, knowledge as such being conditioned by the content of experience; and Kant tries to arrive at a synthesis between rationalism and empiricism that at least justifies the reasoning of science as true knowledge.
In contemporary philosophy there are different currents of thought such as neo-positivism (only what exists is real and can be quantified); or philosophers who try to deconstruct reality in order to understand it as Nicolai Hartmann (the entity in general is the real, the Self is reality), Jacques Lacan (real is the set of things, regardless of whether people are capable of perceiving them; reality is the things as we perceive them) or Xavier Zubiri (reality is manifested to us and is known in apprehension of reality).
Nowadays, reality is taken as a complex system in which all the systems that constitute it are updated and interact. The perceptions and interpretations of reality on which we build our evidence don’t allow us to affirm that one is true and the other false, and the objective is to analyze the different positions, avoiding the extremes and abounding in points of view free of prejudice, which leads to empirical positions that are neither radical nor orthodox, but supported by conceptual structures that are always under continuous review.
This is where Carl Sagan’s tesseract comes in. When there’s a conversation between two people who are in two different “realities”, it can lead to a lack of understanding because the beliefs and commitments of their own systems (dimensions). That’s the reason why understanding the “projections” is important. “The concept of reality has no meaning without a point of reference, a support (universe) referenced to a mind that conceptualizes it, always subjective. It is our mind that projects on things the concepts we have of them, giving meaning to the universe, creating at every moment the existence or reality in which we live” (John Maxtell). And this is where I believe that consciousness plays a fundamental role.
Consciousness according to the dictionary is: 1. the ability of the human being to recognize and relate to the surrounding reality; 2. immediate or spontaneous knowledge that the subject has of himself, his actions and reflections; 3. thoughtful knowledge of things. It’s this last meaning, which is linked to critical thinking and reflection on points of view and different realities, that needs to be promoted and cultivated in this world of exponential change.
We must be more and more reflective and critical, to reach a higher level of consciousness (holistic) about all the realities and dimensions that surround us, the visible and the invisible, and thus be able to understand the possible future scenarios in order to make the right decisions in the present.
#365daysof #futurism #philosophy #consciousness #day168