Strange flowers of the third kind

flower BW

Is it a bird? Is it an aeroplane? No, it is a photo from the ‘other side’. In yesterday’s post I alluded to my meanderings in a private solipsistic universe. In answer to a comment from John Zande, I asserted that this solipsistic space is real and that I could show a flower. OK, a weird flower, but still:  quod erat demonstrandum.

We are both looking at a flower that was grown in the other space that only I can access. Wait, if you are looking at this flower, aren’t you accessing this space it a little too? No, not really. It isn’t because you have seen a photo of the Great Wall that you have run the gauntlet of a thousand pesky souvenir sellers at its base. But if you see it, at least you know that it exists. And if it exists, than it must be real.


You can see the flower from the other side and therefore it exists and is real. Not just in my solipsistic space, but in yours too. As in the beautiful poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

What if you slept? And what if, in your sleep, you dreamed? 
And what if, in your dream, you went to heaven
and there plucked an strange and beautiful flower?
And what if, when you awoke, you had the flower in your hand?
Ah, what then?

I could print this flower in 3D and fedex it to you. You will hold it in your hand. Ah, what then?

Is it real? What is reality? It is when you can see it. Seeing is believing. Do you believe? It is when you can touch it. You just did (assuming FedEx delivered). So, is it real? Is it real when you can go there? I can take you there, and if I show enough photos, you can go there yourself. Are we able to go into Andy Warhol’s world? Into Nietzsche’s mind? Can we go to Disney Land?

Reality is that which we can experience through our senses. I can bring my reality to you and share it. We all share our realities all the time.

OK, I am confused. Are you?

Is there an absolute reality? One that does not depend on our confused, biased and solipsistic interpretation? Any belief system will tell you that yes, there is an absolute reality. And then they will give wildly differing accounts.

Does science point at an absolute reality? Certainly the logic of science, its verification through measurement and its ability to predict, would suggest that there is such an absolute reality. But we can’t easily experience much of it directly – all we can do its repeat the scientific experiments for ourselves and be convinced of its integrity. That makes it unique, in that doesn’t require belief.

So science is real.  But is it absolute? Is it independent from human observation, i.e. human consciousness? I may be mistaken, but I think that the answer is: no. Human consciousness defines the measures in which reality is defined and experienced. No consciousness, no measures. No consciousness no experience.

I’m going to make a bold statement that I will regret: Reality is a feature of consciousness. It is not absolute.

Because there is no absolute reality, reality becomes a mesh – and a mess – of solipsistic experiences that we share and agree, or disagree on.

What is left? Existence. I didn’t mention that.

Sorry if I have confused you. I’ll make it up: a flower for you to enjoy.


9 thoughts on “Strange flowers of the third kind

  1. Gotta love it: the flower, the link with Coleridge’s poem, Nietzsche’s mind…
    And I share your take on reality. I think scientific experiment has its limitations because it’s humans doing the experimenting. And because there are lots of phenomena that can’t be experimented on. Whether you believe it’s ‘turtles all the way down’, quantum mechanics or flux, the definitive answer is nowhere in sight…And we are all believers, in a way. 🙂

  2. When asked about reality (what is real) the other day i responded (without thinking): Nothing is real, its just a loosely agreed upon average of all our perceptions.

  3. “Reality is a feature of consciousness. It is not absolute.” So the next, logical question is: how about consciousness, then? Is it more “real” than reality? Is it, then, absolute?

    1. Consciousness (self observation) is something that all life does – it needs to be aware of it surroundings. That which it (life) observes is fitted in a framework of reality that it creates itself. Life is not free to created any reality that it likes, it is partially hardwired by its structure (brain) and partially by the wiring of the universe. The universe is an absolute entity but the brain wiring is not (between different forms of life).

      Therefore the reality that we can experience, observe and be conscious of is relative to our wiring (but not to a potential desire to make it different just by thinking. Our reality does evolve with our wiring – but there is no magic or God).

      If we look for absolutes, and why not, I’d suggest that existence is absolute, The universe ‘is’ and ‘is absolute’. I could argue that consciousness (self observation) a feature of the universe and is therefore absolute. But once life, humans for example, begins to observe consciousness, i.e. observe its ability to observe, it does so from the relative perspective of its own reality and that is not absolute.

      So science studies the absolute state of the existence of the universe but we can only ever observe it from our relative state of reality.

      1. Wow! I was expecting you to find the flaw.

        My next line of thought was going to be considering “humans observing their ability to observe their ability to observe etc” as an iterative process without a stop condition. Since we need a stop condition, we assume that there must a God when in fact we’re just looking at mirrors reflecting mirrors.

        I might just consider that. Thanks for the feedback David.

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