Does The Reality Exist Only In My Mind?
Updated: Apr 11
A very important question we must ask ourselves is whether the reality exists at all, outside of our minds. Of course, if we say that the reality exists just inside our minds, it would mean that our minds came into existence before the reality. It may also be the case that the mind emerged from inanimate matter in the reality, and the reality exists independently of our minds. First, why should we ask if the reality exists outside of our minds? The answer is simple. We need to ask this question simply to determine whether consciousness is a fundamental property of the reality or whether it is an accidental emergence.
It is obvious that all I can account for is the existence of my mind. Nothing else. You are just a part of my system, where I am a whole. But in the same way, you can account for the existence of your mind, and so can every conscious being in this world. Does this not mean that a plurality of consciousnesses exist?
Of course, consciousness is always experienced in the singular. In the epilogue of What Is Life?, Schrödinger says that “I… am the person, if any, who controls the ‘motion of the atoms’ according to the laws of Nature.” In other words, Schrödinger reconciles the facts that my body functions like a pure mechanism according to the laws of Nature and I have a sense of free will and control (to some extent) over my actions, by saying that I am the one who controls my body according to the laws of Nature. So, I am God. Schrödinger then explains how consciousness is never experienced in the plural, and why the plurality of our physical bodies gives rise to the idea of plurality of ‘souls.’ “The only possible alternative,” he says, “is simply to keep to the immediate experience that consciousness is a singular of which the plural is unknown; that there is only one thing and that what seems to be a plurality is merely a series of different aspects of this one thing...” This idea of oneness is not new. It is a common idea that one thing is at the root of everything and the addition of different perceptible properties over this same one thing is what creates different things. In Mind And Matter, Schrödinger stresses that the unification of minds or consciousnesses can resolve the apparent paradox that a plurality of consciousnesses creates one world. I mean, think about it. Your world is not the same as my world, but there are certain similarities. There is an overlapping region. Either this is because you and I are just the aspects of this one mind, or else your world and my world are indeed isolated from each other, but both these worlds run according to some pre-established rules (hence the similarities). If the latter is the case, however, the existence of your world is insignificant to me, and I am the only one who exists, simply because I cannot verify your existence.
Now the question arises that whether I am this one thing, or I am a single aspect of this one thing, like you and the other people are. First, how can ‘I’ be defined? Schrödinger defines I as the ground material upon which experiences and memories are collected. He stresses that these memories and experiences are not necessary for the existence of the ground material. So, “...even if a skilled hypnotist succeeded in blotting out entirely all your earlier reminiscences, you would not find that he had killed you. In no case is there a loss of personal existence to deplore. Nor will there ever be.” Now, the question is that whether this ground material is itself generating the experiences, or whether indeed there is an objective world out there. There seems to be no way of resolving this question satisfactorily.
Let us assume I am this one thing. I have just erected in my imagination the world I see around me. But then, what happens to this world after my death? Obviously, it must also cease to exist, since it has no independent existence outside my mind. But we can also think of it this way. Suppose I never have to die? Suppose the fact that people are born and die is just part of the story I am writing? My mind has created a belief inside me that I must die, but this belief is based on the story I am writing out for myself. Falling for this option is comforting since it leaves open the possibility that I might never have to die. However, it is in itself a possible description of the world. It is neither provable nor improvable. But just consider, if this is the case, then I am writing this just for myself. This is pointless. Suppose you read this and have a discussion on this matter with me. But you do not exist. You, your reading this blog and your discussing solipsism with me is all part of the story.
In the end, we have no satisfactory answer to the question of how is subject related to object. By subject I mean the consciousness, whereas by object I mean the thing which is being observed by the subject. Does the object exist only in the mind of the subject, or does it exist independently? Recent theories in the physical sciences suggest that there is a deep connection between the observer and the observed. In fact, the very act of observation modifies the thing which is being observed by interacting with the observed. In other words, to observe something, you must interact with it. And this interaction changes something in that object. So you can never observe it as it initially was, in its original state. Thus, we can say that the barrier between subject and object has somewhat broken down in light of recent discoveries. However, as Schrödinger points out, the distinction between subject and object is only a practical tool, and fundamentally there may be no distinction between subject and object. Because if subject and object are isolated, they cannot interact. So in that case, the object cannot be observed in the first place and the existence of this object will have no significance. So, logically it seems an object isolated from the subject cannot exist. “The world is given to me only once,” Schrödinger says, “not one existing and one perceived. Subject and object are only one. The barrier between them cannot be said to have broken down as a result of recent experience in the physical sciences, for this barrier does not exist.” Thus, it can be comfortably said that the subject and object cannot be isolated from each other. This means that the subject is crucial for the very existence of the object. I would like to hear your views on the matter. (You can discuss your views with me by using the Contact form on this website.) I have touched upon some of my ideas regarding this in the last chapter of my book Our Physics So Far. However, I have intentionally left some loopholes there. For a detailed coverage of these ideas, plus my ideas on the Greater Mind, Bifurcated Reality Model, etc., please wait for my next book! In the meantime, you can check out this blog if you are interested in finding out the limits of metaphysics.