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Old 04-15-2005, 08:50 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Reality- not all it seems

i am in the mood for a good mind fuck.

there have been several threads dealing with the qualities of reality, and the "reality" of people and/or objects in our world. my problem with this is a presupposition of an objective reality to be guessed about. what if this is simply not the case (and yes csfilm, we could take the solipsistic route and suggest that if all this is a dream, you guys and gals "could not possibly tell [me] anything [I] do not already know." )?

at the moderate risk of turning this into a Cartesian philosophy debate, what if we are at the mercy of an evil demon (later made more PC as an evil genius) that can control our perceptions? (the Matrix in print only a few hundred years before the movies )

Can anyone disprove the idea that there is no objective reality? if so, please tell.......
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Old 04-15-2005, 10:02 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pennywise121
i am in the mood for a good mind fuck.

there have been several threads dealing with the qualities of reality, and the "reality" of people and/or objects in our world. my problem with this is a presupposition of an objective reality to be guessed about. what if this is simply not the case (and yes csfilm, we could take the solipsistic route and suggest that if all this is a dream, you guys and gals "could not possibly tell [me] anything [I] do not already know." )?
yeay! I have earned a reputation for being cranky!

Quote:
at the moderate risk of turning this into a Cartesian philosophy debate, what if we are at the mercy of an evil demon (later made more PC as an evil genius) that can control our perceptions? (the Matrix in print only a few hundred years before the movies )

Can anyone disprove the idea that there is no objective reality? if so, please tell.......
When Neo remarked that "a cat just walked past the doorway", what did this statement mean? Did it mean anything at all? Would it have meant something different if it had been uttered by a 'blue pill' human?

Let's imagine for a minute that Neo is actually a 'blue pill' person, or that he is saying this before his encounter with Morpheus.
What then does the word 'cat' mean other than - 'that type of thing...the class of objects which are somewhat similar to whatever it is that passed by the doorway there'. It seems quite clear Neo's utterance is a true and meaningful sentance.

What about if blue pill Neo said something about 'the external world' - what could this possibly mean. Just like in the situation with the cat, 'the external world' is a meaningful phrase. What the word refers to is defined by how it is used. It is used to refer to things like tables and chairs and so forth as opposed to thoughts and feelings and ideas.

What are the 'qualities' of the external world? We can only talk of these by contrasting them to the qualities of something other than the external world - presumably the 'internal world'. This should be quite clear - if everything was coloured red, we wouldn't have a word for it.

But what are the real qualities of the world, other than what empirical investigation reveals to us? What are the absolutes? What is really the really real reality?

To attempt to answer these questions would assume that they are actually meaningful. I suggest that they are not.

"That which can be said, can be said clearly, everything else we must pass over in silence"
-Wittgenstein
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Old 04-15-2005, 11:42 AM   #3 (permalink)
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lol, im sorry. i seem to have come across as more sarcastic than i intended to be. i wasnt saying that you were cranky, simply that you had a valid objection to any thread of this nature.

i actually was expecting that someone would raise the issue of the meaninglessness of asking the question. to this, i pose the non-doxastic foundationalist answer of: if i have a white sense impression of that wall in my house, no one can tell me that it is not the way the wall actually is. if we cannot define the world outside of our own perceptions as reality, it seems a logical deduction that we must treat our inner perceptions as reality.

ultimately, i agree with you in many respects csfilm, but i am playing devil's advocate here, and i must ask this: if there is no reality outside ourselves (assuming, of course that i am not a solipsist and i am actually talking to other people), how is this thread being discussed? the simple "fact" that we are talking about reality destroys the concept of there being no real reality at all.
......unless of course we are talking about fruit or something, and i am just interpreting this all wrong
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Old 04-15-2005, 11:09 PM   #4 (permalink)
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The fact is, we experience reality as being something outside of ourselves. If you want to make the case that in fact reality is something merely intramental, you need to be able to explain why it seems like there's stuff outside of us.
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Old 04-15-2005, 11:49 PM   #5 (permalink)
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lol, that was my question to you guys. i am looking for anyone who thinks they can show there is an objective reality. i, personally agree with the both of you, but i figured i'd put this one out there to troll the waters, so to speak.
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Old 04-17-2005, 10:50 PM   #6 (permalink)
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The sensation of reality is inherently subjective.
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Old 04-18-2005, 05:29 AM   #7 (permalink)
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well stated, JR.
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Old 04-18-2005, 07:01 AM   #8 (permalink)
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What do you mean by that, JR? Do you mean that in our experience of the world there are irreducibly subjective elements? In that case, I hardly disagree with you.

My point, pennywise, is that the burden of proof is actually on those who claim that there is no external world.
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Old 04-18-2005, 07:53 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I believe strongly that there is an objective reality. But we will probably never know exactly what it is due to the limitations of our sensing ability and that of our instruments. Many of our perceived ideas of what reality is may turn out to be illusions. I am hopeful that when our organic bodies die that our spirit may somehow make the connection to the true reality. Something like "I understand, it is all so clear now".
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Old 04-18-2005, 08:45 AM   #10 (permalink)
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back to my favorite role of devil's advocate....

what if there truly is no objective reality. if all we have is perception, how do we know that there is anything there to be perceived? this line of thought is somehting ive been thinking about since i took my first philosophy course years ago, and read Descartes' Meditations. his argument was that his senses could not be trusted. if we are in a fever and we think we see a spider on the wall that isnt actually there, our senses have betrayed us. we, however, are perfectly content in our knowledge that there is a spider on the wall.

Modern skeptics have taken this to the next level.
Error theory states:
1. If i cannot be certain that my perceptions are not in error, there can be no claim of knowledge (in this case, of an external world)
2. i cannot be certain that my perceptions are not in error.
---------------------------
3. there can be no claim of knowledge

Deception theory states
1. If i cannot be certain that i am not being deceived in my perceptions of the world, then there can be no epistemological claim (again, about objective world)
2. i cannot be certain that i am not being deceived.
---------------------
3. there can be no claim of knowledge.

within that framework, it would seem that it is not the ones who doubt an objective reality, but the ones who believe that must show some truth to the tale, as it were
(personally, i kinda like CSfilm's solipsistic argument, but thats besides the point).

ultimately, if you and i were standing next to each other, asaris, and we were both looking at an object, we are seeing two different things. we may disagree on what color said object is, or how large. ultimately, our perceptions rule the day. what if we disagree on what the object is, or the location of the object? Moreover, whatever we are looking at is defined by the agreed upon usage of our individual language communities (if, for example, you see an orange, and i see una naranja. Do these words necessarily imply all the same things?).

with this in mind, it seems rather a reasonable conclusion to draw that there is no objective reality.
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Old 04-18-2005, 12:14 PM   #11 (permalink)
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First of all, to get the easy point out of the way. An orange is not exactly the same thing as una naranja, or eine Apfelsine. Language is a complicated network, and concepts gain their meaning at least in part by reference to other concepts. But an orange is almost exactly the same thing as eine Apfelsine.

Second, either the first premise in both your arguments is flawed, or you're equivocating on the word 'certain'. The second argument is by far the worst. We make epistemological claims, even justified epistemological claims, all the time without being certain. Moreover, the fact that there is some possibility our perceptions are in error does not entail that we do not have knowledge. I could be deceived about the fact that there is a coffee mug to the left of my computer. Perhaps an evil demon keeps hiding it, and puts it back when I reach over to grab a drink. But I still know that there's a coffee cup next to me; that is to say that I have warranted true belief. Why is it warranted? Because my faculties are in good working order, and they tell me there's a coffee cup there. Because the likelihood that there's an evil demon involved is much less than that the coffee cup is in fact there.

Epistemology isn't really my subject; you may have noticed, but I tend to think that radical skepticism is more silly than anything else. You write that "if all we have is perception, how do we know that there is anything there to be perceived?" The answer is easy. We know that there is something to be perceived because we are perceiving it. The idea that we don't perceive the outside world, rather, we only perceive our perceptions is false. We don't see our sight; our sight is that faculty by which we see the outside world.
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Old 04-18-2005, 01:03 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pennywise121
at the moderate risk of turning this into a Cartesian philosophy debate, what if we are at the mercy of an evil demon (later made more PC as an evil genius) that can control our perceptions? (the Matrix in print only a few hundred years before the movies )
What if we are? The real question should be what would you do differently? If your perceptions define your reality then you are at their mercy whether they are actually real or not. What does it matter if by refusing to eat your stomach sends signals to your brain letting you know it aches or if a computer sends those same signals? Would you refuse to eat in either situation? I don't think this is like a religious/god question, where if there actually was a god you might behave differently. If you actually had no stomach, but were still susceptible to the sensations of a stomach, what would you do?
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Old 04-18-2005, 04:13 PM   #13 (permalink)
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interesting comments, all.

to address the primary issue: as in all manner of philosophic endeavor, we must be sure we are operating under the same principles. asaris, you are operating under the JTB principle of knowledge (justified true belief), and under this definition, you are absolutely correct if certainty is not entailed in the epistemic claim, then my premises are flawed. i chose to direct the inquiry under the more modern ideal of certainty as a requirement for knowledge. JTB epistemology leads to a plethora of other issues concerning what is or isnt "true" or "correct" and what can be truly justified. JTB follows the doxastic foundationalist realm of "i have a white sense perception," because if you have that perception, you have a justified true belief, and no one can ever question it.

as far as the perception issue goes, i would refer you to the spider on the wall. have you ever thought that something was somewhere it wasnt, or that you saw somehting moving out of the corner of your eye, and there was nothing there? it is these inconsistencies i wish to discuss. if we "see" somethign that is not in fact there, our perceptions do not relate to what was in the real world. if you see a pink elephant in the room, and no other individual can see it, there is a discrepancy between perception and "reality." if this discrepancy exists (and i think it is safe to say it does), we are back at square one. there is not real proof that there is an objective reality if one cannot have a justified true belief in that reality as a whole (perhaps i am taking the universality of the issue a bit farther than is wise, but it serves my purpose at the moment).

the likelyhood of the coffee cup being there is a matter of judgement. if you believe there is a coffee cup there, you will be convinced there is one. if i think there is a screwdriver in the junk drawer in my kitchen, i will be convinced there is one, but what if i look and there isnt one? my belief, though justified, was not true, and i knew nothing to begin with.

i would have to agree with you, master shake insofar as you are talking about what a useful line of inquiry this could be. but, in the spirit of mental masturbation, i would have to say that there is no way we could act differently, regardless of our situation (brain in vat, or actual person per se).

i would say, however, taht topic is for another thread (perhaps i will start that one when i get home from work).
interesting stuff though.
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Old 04-18-2005, 09:24 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Sure, I can prove an objective reality, but you'll have to die to find out.
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Old 04-19-2005, 10:00 AM   #15 (permalink)
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pennywise: actually, the paradigm I've been defending has been 'warranted true belief', rather than JTB. If nothing else, the proposition JTB = Knowledge has been proven false. (Yes, sometimes philosophers prove things false.) Part of the reason for this, and this is an idea going back to Aristotle, is that if you want to understand a phenomenon, you need to understand the basic cases first, and only then look to the aberrant cases. Moreover, I am not a foundationalist, and I would never say "I have a white sense perception". I would say "I see a white thing".

But what if the white thing isn't actually there? Well, then our senses aren't working properly. But we have the fact that we almost always can figure out when our senses aren't working properly (for example, by conferring with other people, testing the perception of the pink elephant against our belief that there are no pink elephants, testing a perception with other senses -- trying to touch the pink elephant.) THis very fact, that we know sometimes our senses deceive us, is evidence that by and large they do not.
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Old 04-19-2005, 11:54 AM   #16 (permalink)
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1) The only information we have about anything is what we perceive through our senses.
2) Our senses indicate that they are fallible.
3) It is not possible to make decisions without any information.
4) Lacking any other better sources of information, we must use our senses to make decisions even though they are fallible.
5) Therefore although we cannot prove an objective reality, we must assume there is one in order for there to be any reasonable method of thinking.
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Old 04-20-2005, 08:59 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Well said, Phage. Continuing along those same lines...

doesn't it seem that objective reality does exist? When my senses don't work right, the momentary failure automatically registers as "unreal" cognitively. At the same time what I experienced through my senses was definitely real, subjectively, the cognitive functions filter the experience out as non-conforming sensory information. Meaning it doesn't coincide with the objective rules of reality that have been laid out and trained into individuals by society.

I would like to pose that objective reality does indeed exist, but only as a construct. As such, it too is fallible, just as our senses are. Kind of cyclical logic, I know, but it works for me! (in other words, I'm still sane).
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Old 04-20-2005, 10:26 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robbdn
Well said, Phage. Continuing along those same lines...

doesn't it seem that objective reality does exist? When my senses don't work right, the momentary failure automatically registers as "unreal" cognitively. At the same time what I experienced through my senses was definitely real, subjectively, the cognitive functions filter the experience out as non-conforming sensory information. Meaning it doesn't coincide with the objective rules of reality that have been laid out and trained into individuals by society.

I would like to pose that objective reality does indeed exist, but only as a construct. As such, it too is fallible, just as our senses are. Kind of cyclical logic, I know, but it works for me! (in other words, I'm still sane).
Our only perception of reality is what we can sense; failure of your senses would of course seem "unreal".

Your proposition that objective reality exists only as a construct is a bit different than my theory. We don't have enough information to say that it is only a construct; it might exist and it might not. It is true that we are forced to use an objective reality that we admit is a construct, but that does not remove the possibility of there being a true objective reality that we cannot detect.

Of course, I think I can prove the point thoroughly moot. We have two options for the state of things:
1) There is a true, objective reality.
2) There is no objective reality, it is all subjective to the individual (and we cannot be sure there is anyone other than ourself existing).

In the first case it is logical to presume that our senses on average accurately represent the true reality more often than not, otherwise they would not have developed. Using data gathered from our senses over time we can form and refine a model of the true reality. This model will never be perfect, but will progressively become more accurate as time goes on.

In the second case we have a reality that may be unique to us. However, it also seems to be the case that we cannot change the reality merely by deciding something is so; the reality may be subjective but the subjectivity is not under our control. Unfortunately we still have the caveat that our senses cannot be trusted, and we can sometimes be mistaken about our subjective reality! We are forced to develop a model of an objective form for our subjective reality, in a method that is identical to what we built in the first case.

Therefore, if we operate identically in either case then our conclusion one way or another is meaningless.
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Old 04-20-2005, 10:35 PM   #19 (permalink)
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I don't understand why "objective reality" has to equal "true reality."

Objective and true are completely different things. If we are trying to determine whether or not there is an objective reality, I would say yes definitely. If we are trying to determine true reality, well, philosophers have had that as their aim since the very beginning and it has yet to happen. But, like you say, no one has proven that it doesn't exist either.
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Old 04-20-2005, 10:44 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robbdn
I don't understand why "objective reality" has to equal "true reality."

Objective and true are completely different things. If we are trying to determine whether or not there is an objective reality, I would say yes definitely. If we are trying to determine true reality, well, philosophers have had that as their aim since the very beginning and it has yet to happen. But, like you say, no one has proven that it doesn't exist either.
"Objective reality" would be a reality that actually exists. When I say "true reality" I mean the same thing, a reality that is consistent with fact or reality. I am making the assumption that there is only one objective reality, but if there were more the concept would still apply.

Could you clarify your distinction between an objective reality and a true reality?
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Old 04-20-2005, 11:21 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Objective Reality: something that exists within and tries to explain the realm of phenomena. Not to be confused with 'absolute' or 'true' reality. Concerned with separating the impossible from the possible, i.e., something that was considered impossible based on objective reality several hundred years ago is now well within the limits of the same objective reality, like flying an airplane. On the flip side, magic is no longer possible, but at one time was defined by the rules of objective reality (in certain societies) as clearly as physics is today.

True/Absolute Reality: something outside the realm of sensible phenomena, but has absolute influence over it and is absolutely consistent. In the Lacanian sense, this can be considered the Real and the objective reality merely that, Reality. Because it does not exist in the phenomenal realm, we can never prove or disprove its existence, but we sometimes suspect that it exists without ever having obtained evidence of it.

Edit: Objective reality, by its very nature, does actually exist. It is a fact of our experience with the world, we create a reality that suits us and it serves for most of us as the appearance of absolute reality by which we can navigate our experience in the world. Absolute reality, on the other hand, may not exist, making it a reality that may not also be objective. But, again, it can't be proved either way.
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Old 04-20-2005, 11:42 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robbdn
Objective Reality: something that exists within and tries to explain the realm of phenomena. Not to be confused with 'absolute' or 'true' reality. Concerned with separating the impossible from the possible, i.e., something that was considered impossible based on objective reality several hundred years ago is now well within the limits of the same objective reality, like flying an airplane. On the flip side, magic is no longer possible, but at one time was defined by the rules of objective reality (in certain societies) as clearly as physics is today.
Ahh, I see the misunderstanding, what you are calling Objective Reality I would call a flawed model of Objective Reality or Subjective Reality. I was treating "Objective" as meaning "Having actual existence or reality" and "Subjective" as "Proceeding from or taking place in a person's mind rather than the external world" as per their definitions. I am going to have to suggest that we use the generally accepted definitions of words, otherwise futher discussion will become most difficult.

Quote:
Originally Posted by robbdn
True/Absolute Reality: something outside the realm of sensible phenomena, but has absolute influence over it and is absolutely consistent. In the Lacanian sense, this can be considered the Real and the objective reality merely that, Reality. Because it does not exist in the phenomenal realm, we can never prove or disprove its existence, but we sometimes suspect that it exists without ever having obtained evidence of it.
I don't really understand the first sentence. You say it is outside the realm of sensible phenomena (e.g. it cannot be sensed) but has absolute influence over it (e.g. anything that is sensed is based solely on it). These seem to contradict themselves. Also, please explain in what manner we can suspect the existance of something that is completely undetectable, without having obtained any evidence to point toward it.
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Old 04-20-2005, 11:55 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Looks like I was editing my above post at the same time you were writing the last one. Okay, here goes:

Objective Reality, to me, is not exactly what you call Subjective Reality. Objective Reality does "actually exist" outside of the mind of a person. It exists as part of our experience of the world, but it is not absolute or consistent, it changes. We know that Objective Reality exists outside of the person and in the world because Subjective Reality does not always agree with Objective Reality, the subject must reject the Subjective Reality and substitute it with the external laws and rules known as Objective Reality. When the subject is unable to do so, the results can be disastrous (insanity).

Absolute reality, however, is the concept of a reality that governs all other forms of reality. It is that which causes in the subject a perception of reality that does not conform with objective reality. It influences subjective and objective reality in a consistent manner and with absolute control, by it is not capable of being perceived directly by the subject, and causes the changes in what objective reality consists of during a certain point of time. That is, if it exists, and if it doesn't, then the above still works.

So, there is definitely an objective and subjective reality, while the presense of a true reality is questionable.

More edits: The manner through which we suspect the existence of something that does not exist within the phenomenal realm is often referred to as sublime, or rapture. These concepts are pretty well known, but one thing that these experiences impart is the illusion of having gained some new knowledge, when that knowledge is not there to be gained. It leads us to suspect the existence of something we cannot detect, what I will call absolute reality.
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Old 04-21-2005, 06:03 AM   #24 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robbdn
...It exists as part of our experience of the world, but it is not absolute or consistent, it changes.
I would not say that objective reality is not to be doubted or questioned, although it is quite possible that it is not always consistent. Our perception of objective reality can be questioned but objective reality itself is unquestionable due to the trump card of existing.




Quote:
Originally Posted by robbdn
Absolute reality, however, is the concept of a reality that governs all other forms of reality. It is that which causes in the subject a perception of reality that does not conform with objective reality.... ...The manner through which we suspect the existence of something that does not exist within the phenomenal realm is often referred to as sublime, or rapture. These concepts are pretty well known, but one thing that these experiences impart is the illusion of having gained some new knowledge, when that knowledge is not there to be gained. It leads us to suspect the existence of something we cannot detect, what I will call absolute reality.
I would call this concept "Spiritual Reality", and not really pertinent to the issue at hand. You seem to be talking about a reality that is "Perfect in quality or nature; complete" while I was just using it as meaning "Not to be doubted or questioned". We (if I understand the issue) are talking about the distinction between things that actually exist and the concept of things that exist inside a person's mind. If your version of Absolute reality changes what Objective reality consists of then that aspect is treated as part of Objective reality, and if it creates in you a sense of things that is different from Objective reality then it is a part of Subjective reality.
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