Reality Quiz: Are you a ‘realist’ or a ‘pragmatic idealist’?

The following quiz is a playful way of bringing the mind out of hiding to deal with ‘the controversial issues’ that are the leitmotif of the inquiry/writing in The Aboriginal Physics Newsletter.  The relatively simple quiz let’s the reader check out their own concept of ‘reality’. [e.g. and determine, implicitly, whether they are ‘realist’ (absolutist) or ‘pragmatist idealist’ (relationist).  The distinction between the two is discussed later.].

(Incidentally, I would be interested in any comments the reader might have as to the efficacy of the quiz as a device for sharing views, relative to fullblown essays, on where physical reality gives way to psychical impression. )

The final, optional, question, #16. [i guess they are all ‘optional’], … involves reading a short appended exchange from in which you can see two different views of ‘reality’ clashing, one ‘Emile’s’, the other, the author of the article Emile is commenting on.  The author of the article identifies as ‘psychological conditioning’ that which Emile identifies as ‘group behaviour’ or ‘relational spatial influence’; i.e. what the author sees/understands as ‘psychical’, Emile understands as ‘physical reality’.

My interspersed comments [in italics in square parentheses] are not definitions or dictums, they are just there to stimulate or ‘tickle out’ what you might want to bring into connective confluence in your mind.

Here’s the quiz.


First the Scenario;

1. your ‘habitat’ today is the ‘flow of the freeway’.  you are driving in amongst a group of ‘anarchists’ much as in a bumper car playground at the fair.

2. you notice yourself paying more attention to the shape of the [spatial-relational] ‘holes’ in the traffic than to the particular trajectories of particular drivers/vehicles [aka ‘what things do’].  in fact, the density of vehicles is such as to obscure the lane-marking designations so that you can only see the movement of cars ‘relatively’.  [you see the relative dynamic or the dynamics of the relational space you share inclusion in.  the absoluteness of individual motion is lost in the same sort of manner as if you were in kayaks all sliding around in a purely spatial-relational fluidity where ‘convergence’ and ‘divergence’ has more meaning that ‘thing-in-itself-movement’].

3. sometimes people keep passing you and moving into holes that open in front of you as if you are being swallowed in the belly of a snake and your slowing down seems to be relative to their speeding up.  sometimes you quickly move into holes that open up in front of you and pass by those beside you and so play the same game.   sometimes, people in front of you won’t open up enough space to let you through.  sometimes you act together with others to close down space on selected others and not let them through.



Now for the Quiz;

1. If we had access to a sonar/acoustic scanner coverage of the traffic flow, could we artificially colour and present on a screen the ‘unoccupied’ portion of the transforming shape of the continually changing ‘relational space’ amongst the vehicles that is co-created by the relative movements of the collective?  That is, could we plot the continually changing shape of the holeyness that occupies our attention?

2. If we had access to a GPS recorder on our own vehicle, we could plot and replay on a separate screen a re-enactment of the progressive development of our personal trajectory, showing our slower, then faster, then slower, forward movement and the associated veering this way and that.  Would this display fully capture ‘our actions’?   In other words, does this REPRESENTATION of our actions as an individual constitute ‘reality’?  More generally, while we know we can present and speak of the actions of a person or thing as if it were a ‘thing-in-itself’, does such a concept of ‘the behaviour of a person’ constitute reality?

3. As we watch a replay of our developing trajectory, we recall that one of the segments of our developing trajectory in which we were going forward only very slowly was when we were ‘blocked in’ by vehicles in front of us that ‘wouldn’t let us through’.  Is it possible for two or more people to ‘gang together’ and to ‘act like blockers’ in football to a third person, to open up space for someone you would like to ‘get through’ and to close down space for someone you do not want to ‘get through’?

4. If you answered ‘yes’ to 3. would you further say that the performance of the individual in developing his forward trajectory is, in general, mediated by the variably accommodating [receptive-resistive] spatial-relational configuration he’s situationally included in [e.g. as displayed in 1.]?

5. Would it be fair to say that our individual actions as participants in this group dynamic are contributing, at the same time, to moving us forward and to holding us back?  I.e. that our relative movements inevitably establish a variably accommodative habitat-dynamic [the display mentioned in 1.] that is shaping the dynamics of the inhabitants [by the way it opens up accommodating corridors] at the same time as our inhabitant dynamics are shaping the habitat-dynamic? [Mach’s principle].

6. If your answer to 5. is ‘yes’, then would you agree that this implies that the view of dynamics in terms of ‘things-in-themselves’ and ‘what things do’ does not reconcile with the dynamics of our experience, since our experience accords with 5 [Mach’s principle] which says that the actions of an individual cannot be understood out of the context of the variably accommodating influence of the dynamics of the habitat he is situationally included in.  [the sailboater model of self is more realistic than the powerboater model of self]

7. Would you then agree to the corollary, that the world dynamic seen in terms of ‘things-in-themselves’ and ‘what things do’ [as our language constructs our world view] is NOT REAL, but is a symbol-based representation, and that the ‘reality of our experience’ corresponds to 5. [Mach’s principle]?

8. Would you agree that the problem with seeing the world dynamic  in terms of ‘things-in-themselves’ and ‘what things do’ relates to the implicit framing of absolute space and absolute time [x,y,z,t reference framing] that ‘synthetically removes the relational nature of space’ and makes such absolutisms as ‘things-in-themselves’ and ‘what things do’ possible?    I.e. would you agree that this pseudo-reality of physical phenomena seen in terms of ‘things-in-themselves’ and ‘what things do’ would only ‘really’ constitute ‘reality’ if space and time were ‘really absolute’ [Euclidian]?

9. If your answer to 5. and 6. were ‘yes’, then do you agree that it follows that people can manipulate the accommodative property of space in order to, for example, ‘open up space/opportunity for their friends’ [amplify their assertive development] and ‘close down space/opportunity for their enemies [attenuate their assertive development], and that therefore, that the notion of ‘individual achievement’ is, in general, a fiction?

10.  The dynamics of ‘things-in-themselves’ is local, visible and material while the accommodating influence that is orchestrating and shaping their development from the outside-inward as in the display in 1. is ‘non-local’, ‘non-directly-visible’ [it is inferred by ‘what is not there’], and ‘non-material’ [purely spatial-relational].   Do you agree that the reality of our experience includes ‘non-local’, ‘non-visible’ and ‘non-material’ influence and that the fictional representation of dynamics in terms of ‘things-in-themselves’ and ‘what things do’ derives from not acknowledging REAL influences that are ‘non-local’, ‘non-visible’ and ‘non-material’ in nature?

11.  If one were to observe the dynamics of the earth’s biosphere over many generations, do you agree that the display of the habitat dynamic as in 1. would continue though the dynamics of the individual participants would come and go with the outwelling and inwelling cycle of the individual participants?   And, if so, would you agree that this suggests that the purely spatial-relational dynamic, as in fluid-flow, transcends the dynamics of the ‘things-in-themselves’; i.e. the ‘local, visible, material’ participants?

12.  If you agreed with 11. would you further agree that the architecture of language shifts emphasis to the ‘local’, ‘visible’, ‘material’ since we endow the objects of sight and touch with ‘being’ by giving them names and defining them and thus ‘breaking them out of their innate conjugate relation’ with the ‘non-local’, ‘non-visible’ and ‘non-material’ spatial-relational dynamics [the ‘habitat-dynamic’] and imputing ‘reality’ to the linguistic representation in terms of ‘things-in-themselves’ and ‘what things do’?

13. A visual illustration of the question posed in 12. can be seen in the video of the hurricanes just below .  The named storm-cells are annotated with their names and by this naming [many storm-cells are not named] they become objects of sight and touch and topics of discourse.   do you agree with wittgenstein that “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen” … that “that which we are unable to put into linguistic discourse, we must pass over in silence.”?  As the subtitles in the video indicate, the ‘dry areas’ [purely spatial-relational features in the humidity distribution] have real influence on the development and movement of the storm-cells.

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Atlantic Hurricanes: 2008 Season

14. Do you agree that a shared sense of ‘what is reality’ derives from ‘what we talk about’ and therefore from ‘what we put words to’?

15. If you have answered most of these questions yes, it follows that the world seen in terms of ‘things-in-themselves’ and ‘what things do’ is the world of linguistic discourse.  Would you agree that the world of linguistic discourse is not ‘physical reality’ since in physical reality, the dynamics that we experience are shaped by things we cannot talk about “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann” such as ‘non-local’, ‘non-visible’, ‘non-material’ physical influences?

16. This last question is optional and would require the reader to first read the below-appended forum exchange where the author of an article attributes to ‘psychological conditioning’ what emile [myself] would attribute to physically real ‘non-local’, ‘non-visible’, ‘non-material’ influence.  Do you agree that it is a common practice in our globally dominant Western culture, to attribute to the psychological realm, as behaviour shaping influence, what instead properly belongs in the physical reality of our experience  “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann” [that which we cannot talk about]?  In the video, having named ‘Bertha’, we can talk about her emergence, her development and her movement to the northwest but before that we observe in silence, the continuing spatial-relational transformation that would seem to be ‘the greater reality’.

  * * *


The quiz is designed so that the ‘yes’ answers to the questions would be those given by a ‘pragmatic idealist’ aka ‘relationist’.  The pragmatic idealist believes that ‘things-in-themselves’ and ‘what things do’ are ‘idealizations’ and his ‘pragmatism’ comes from the fact that he views these idealizations [e.g. ‘the atom’, ‘the hurricane’] as useful idealizations but idealizations that must not be confused for ‘physical reality’.   The ‘realist’ believes that ‘things-in-themselves’ and ‘what things do’ constitute ‘physical reality’ [e.g. ‘the atom’ and its orbiting electrons etc. and the ‘hurricane’ and its spiralling arms and its power to wreak violent destruction.].

The pragmatic idealist would see the hurricane and atom as dynamic features of the energy-charged spatial plenum that are ‘rising to the occasion’ rather than ‘things-in-themselves.   The powerful dynamics that associate with them, he would not see as ‘theirs’ but as belonging the energy-charged spatial plenum that not only inhabits the dynamic features, but engenders them.

The realist is content to regard the atom and hurricane as ‘real’ and as having their own locally originating powers of development of form and behaviour.  He views them as independent material ‘beings’ that move about and interact in ‘absolute space’ and ‘absolute time’.


* * *


Appended exchange as background for optional question# 16.

i have no idea of the


emile – Wed, 2012-05-30 00:50

i have no idea of the ‘ultimate goal’ of the article, but the author certainly presents a particular view on the difficulty with bringing about basic change. the suggestion in the article is that although we come around to oppose entrenched practices ‘in theory’, we seem unable to make the changes ‘in practice’ that reconcile with what we oppose ‘in theory’. the author goes on to suggest that;

“… experiencing and/or seeing the injustices of patriarchy (or globalization) and ethically opposing it in theory only deprogram our faith in these systems, which does not necessarily change the conditioning we’ve experienced up until that point. We no longer believe it’s our destiny to play the games of the government but we’ve still been conditioned to fulfill certain roles.”

i don’t agree that the change we are looking for is going to come through the intellect; i.e. i don’t agree with the proposition that when we’ve done the first part which is to suspend our belief in ‘patriarchy’ or authoritarianism, the flywheel effect of our ‘psychological conditioning’ has us continue to practice the same old behaviours. and why do we continue to practice the same old behaviours? the reason, she says; “the only logical conclusion would be that these are knee jerk reactions.”

not so.

the implicit assumption in the ‘knee jerk reaction’ explanation comes from constraining the mental modeling of dynamics to ‘things-in-themselves’ and ‘what-things-do’; i.e. in ignoring the reality that space is a participant in physical phenomena.

the anarchist aboriginal who has lived as an authoritarian capitalist and no longer believes in it understands that ‘the change back’ to anarchism is not a matter of putting the old ‘anarchist program’ back into the intellect and making sure that there is a good direct drive between the restored anarchist intellectual program and one’s actual behaviour.

no, it is NOT about putting some intellectual theory into practice. it is about restoring his relationship with the relational living space he is included in.

it is not a difference between ‘authoritarian theory’ and ‘anarchist theory’ and putting those into practice.

‘authoritarian dynamics’ are rational theory driven while ‘anarchist dynamics’ [in aboriginal society] are spatial-relation-orchestrated. rational intellection is no longer the primary driver but instead plays a supporting tool role. the change has to happen at the group level since space is a participant, it is not something that can happen at the individual level because it is not about ‘what things do’. it is about their spatial-relations; e.g. in traffic flow, it is about the inhabitants mutually opening up holes [conditioning the habitat-dynamic] so as to orchestrate the movement of inhabitants through them [interpermeation]. the development of the holes is the name of the game, but it emerges out of the relations amongst things, and is not something that comes from a ‘change in an individual’s behaviour’ [it is a switch out of behaving as an individual to letting one’s behaviour be orchestrated by the dynamics of the spatial relations one is included in.

a person can’t legitimately say; ‘last year i was doing things the authoritarian way and this year i am doing things the anarchist way’, at least not in the aboriginal anarchist sense. one has to let go of the habit of letting rational intellection have first dibs on directing one’s behaviour in an inside-outward asserting fashion and instead give the reins over to outside-inward spatial-relational orchestrating influence.

the same goes for the example of patriarchal conversation. if one person ‘backs off ’ to open up space for a less aggressive sister to share her views, the opening may be quickly stolen by one of the aggressive brothers poised and ready to strike, like a viper. it is not about individual behaviours but about relational dynamics, therefore what blocks the change is not the individual’s psychologically conditioned knee-jerk, but the inability of an individual to transform relational dynamics (group dynamics). if you take a zapatista out of chiapas and put him on a street in mexico city and say, … ‘now, show us how an anarchist behaves’, …that ain’t gonna work any more than it would work if you took a driver from a smooth-working anarchist group and put him in with a group of aggressively competitive rule-based drivers, saying; ‘now, show us how an anarchist driver drives’. there is an individual profile for an authoritarian but there is none for an anarchist since anarchy is to do with relational dynamics.



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