You Can't Know What Reality Is

You Can't Know What Reality Is

How do you know that you know things?
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How do we know what we know? Personally, this question has become important as we in social work look at what theory or model best explains human behavior, and what theory to use as we do therapy, or other interventions, etcetera. But it applies in other fields as well, and just in life as well. From politics to relationship with friends and family, knowing what policies we should support, and being able to understand each other's lived experiences. How do we know what we know, how do we respond when our lived experiences, and perspective is in violent contradiction with another person's perspective?

Famously, Descartes said “I think, therefore I am” meaning that since he thinks, he knows that at least he exists, and I think that this is a conclusion that we all have reached. We all start off knowing that I think, I know my thoughts. We live life from our own subjective point of view, and to ignore that, to ignore the fact that we are individuals navigating life would mean to make the rest of our conclusions on false premises

From here we begin to venture out, and realize “hey, other people are here too”. Usually, it starts with our parents, in our early stages we rely on them a lot, and so we acknowledge their existence for rather selfish reasons.

From there our lives and our thoughts can be boiled down to a mix of biological and chemical processings, which interact with our experiences, which further affect our chemical balances, and so on. Looking at us this way it makes you wonder, do we have any agency? Why do we do what we do?

Freud thought it could all relate back to your relationship with your parents, while if you look at Cognitive Behavioral Therapy then your feelings don’t have to do with your past experiences, but what you think about those experiences. Then again if you ask a social constructionist and they’ll tell you reality doesn’t even exist!

With so many different viewpoints, it leaves me wondering who’s right, or if it’s even possible to come to any objective answer. For the most part I’ve felt the best answer lied in empirical data, or research. If it wasn’t proven in a lab, then it doesn’t exist. For me though, this leaves out something.

Namely what is left out is one’s own personal experience. What if my lived experiences lead me to a different conclusion than what a study says? Bias is a real thing, am I to assume I am wrong? What if it’s the study that is wrong? Also, what about things you can’t test for, like the existence of the human spirit?

Some people might be ready to throw away their belief in the human spirit, but other people have lived their whole life with the idea. If you were to talk to a devout, deeply spiritual person, now at the age of 90, who lived their whole life knowing, knowing, that they lived their life so that their soul could got to heaven, would you tell them that you believed they didn’t have a soul?

I’m not sure I have any answers. Ultimately I feel both are important. One’s own life experiences are important, and so is having empirical data. We are likely to meet people who have different stories than we do. Maybe somewhere between all of our stories there is some kind of answer. At the end I guess all I have is a kind of cliche quote, “It takes two to speak the truth - one to speak and another to hear.” - Henry David Thoreau.

Cover Image Credit: Ryoji Iwata

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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10 Common Spelling And Grammar Mistakes You Need To Stop Making

Your a disappointment. *you're

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As a Professional Writing major, I am greatly disturbed by spelling and grammar mistakes. I admit I sometimes make them, but it's not because I'm too lazy to use the correct word or check my spelling. I do a lot of writing, so I'm bound to mess up when I'm rushed or otherwise distracted. I'd like to help you avoid making those mistakes. Trust me, you'll look, and feel, a lot smarter.

1. To try and go

https://giphy.com/gifs/brett-main-Rt1oTe6GlRAiI

The words 'try' and 'go' can be replaced with any verb. The point is that 'and' is not the correct word. 'To' is. Since 'to' is always followed by a verb, it should be an infinitive (to+verb). For example: I'm going to try to go to the store later.

2. To not go

https://giphy.com/gifs/bunny-grammar-St7UsUGuJU9RS

This is another example of an infinitive. 'To' always needs to come right before the verb. Instead of 'to not,' it should be 'not to.' For example: I don't know how not to think about you. (This is a line from the song How Not To by Dan + Shay, which is featured in another article of mine.)

3. I like it to

https://giphy.com/gifs/theoppositeofhate-sally-kohn-oppositeofhate-55offP4umeJUAvWwHP

If you're meaning to say 'also,' then the correct word is 'too.' When you use 'to,' it is usually followed by a verb. 'Too' is a stand-alone word that expresses agreement or addition. If someone says they like dogs, you could say, 'I like dogs, too.' It could also mean you're adding something. 'He is coming, too.' However, 'to' and 'too' are most often confused in the first case. Keep in mind that 'too' is always preceded by a comma.

4. Your pretty

https://giphy.com/gifs/hd-yLV9y5wb0Qb1m

Can we get this right, once and for all? This is the incorrect use of 'your.' 'Your' is possessive. It indicates that the following noun belongs to you. For example: Your dog; Your house; Your happiness. The correct word to precede 'pretty' is 'you're,' which is technically two words: You are. If you're trying to figure out when to use 'you're,' separate it out into its two words. If you can't use contractions properly, then don't use them.

5. Its a nice day

https://giphy.com/gifs/lz9lPkqddgoec

While it may be a nice day, that's not how you say it. 'Its,' like 'your' is possessive. The proper use would be: Every dog has its day. 'Its' is used when the gender of something is unknown or when referring to a group. In the sentence above, the correct word to use is 'it's,' which is a contraction that expands into 'it is.' Again, if it helps, don't use the contraction.

6. Their taking there vacation they're 

https://giphy.com/gifs/puppets-grammar-hGmKNYHathgJi

While this sentence may sound right, it's actually very wrong. Those three words are homonyms, which means they sound the same but have different meanings. They are not interchangeable. The proper order of the sentence above is 'They're (they are) taking their (belonging to them) vacation there (in that place).'

7. I could care less

https://giphy.com/gifs/weird-al-yankovic-word-crimes-iMrbBXl7F1HJ6

This is a pet peeve of mine. When people say this, they want to convey that they don't care at all. However, they are saying it is possible for them to care less, which means they care at least a little. The proper way to say this is 'I couldn't care less,' which means you care as little as possible.

8. I have less food then him

https://giphy.com/gifs/animography-animated-typography-font-gnDSYE7CLJDk4

'Then' is not the correct word. It should be 'than,' which is used in comparison with something else. Remember math? In x<y, x is less than y. 'Then' indicates time. 'I did this, then I did that,' or 'I was younger then.'

9. I have less than ten water bottles

https://giphy.com/gifs/english-weird-al-yankovic-supermarket-S7eS8P4HTX8K4

This may seem right because a lot of people forget about the other word that's used when 'less' doesn't work. It's 'fewer.' I admit that I, too, make this mistake from time to time. 'Less' is used when referring to mass objects such as water, food, or money. 'Fewer' is used with objects you can count, such as pillows, bottles, or tables.

10. To who

https://giphy.com/gifs/owl-grammar-family-guy-JEIRAmTTfUgYE

I bet you can guess what I'm going to say. It should be 'whom.' No, I'm not just being fancy. There are actually certain times when 'whom' should be used. You can think of 'whom' as going along with 'him' or 'them,' which also end with 'M.' It also goes with 'her.' 'To whom are you referring?' 'To him.'

Now that I've familiarized you with basic grammar and spelling, I'm going to give you a fun video to reference in case you forget. Weird Al Yankovic made a parody of Blurred Lines called Word Crimes. It's entertaining and educational.

Also, here's a moment from the show Psych that involves grammar:

Chief Vick: It goes without saying, Mr. Spencer, that your father is in no way to participate in this investigation. He's no longer on the force, and his meddling could compromise the case in court. Do I make myself clear?

Shawn: Yes, you do, Chief. What isn't clear is why people always say 'goes without saying,' yet still feel compelled to say the thing that was supposed to go without saying. Doesn't that bother you?

Chief Vick: No, and frankly, I could care less.

Gus: Now, that's the one that bothers me. Why do people say, 'I could care less' when they really mean, 'I couldn't care less?'

Chief Vick: Well, why don't you tell me how to properly say this? If you share any official information about this case with your father or let him anywhere near any new evidence, then the two of you will have to find another police department to work for, and I will personally see to it that each of you is charged with obstruction of justice.

Gus: You split an infinitive.

Shawn: Good catch, Gus!

Chief Vick: You two realize I carry a gun, right?

Gus: That was perfectly elocuted.

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