The problem of nature of reality has always been one of the main philosophical issues. Since ancient times many philosophers and thinkers have been evolving different approaches that propose various treatments of this philosophical problem. Among a great variety of approaches, it is possible to distinguish such school of thought as dualism and materialism with different understandings of this problem.
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Materialism is a philosophical worldview in accordance with which a matter, which is objective reality, is the only and primary substance. Materialism, which is also called physicalism, suggests that “everything is physical, or that everything supervenes on the physical” (Stoljar par.1).
Dualism, on the contrary, suggests that physical and mental are radically different types of a thing. One of the contemporary representatives of dualism is Donald Hoffman. He is the author of many publications in the sphere of philosophy. One of his books, which can serve as a good example of his philosophical views, is Visual Intelligence.
In his vision of the picture of reality, Hoffman distinguishes between relational and phenomenal senses. The author of the book is the professor of informational and computer sciences and it is no wonder that in order to make his views clear he explains the notions of relational and phenomenal senses on the example of modern technologies.
Hoffman describes a person who is playing volleyball in a virtual world. The author uses this example of virtual game in order to explain the relationship between reality and our perception of it (Hoffman 186).
All human organs of perception he compares with modern computer equipment, which is intended for making an illusion of a real game that takes place in virtual reality. In order to explain the dual nature of the reality, Hoffman states that what this person sees has “both a phenomenal and relational sense” (187).
From the point of view of the phenomenal sense, all players have different perceptions of this game. They have different equipment, different helmets and different stereo displays. For instance, the visual experience of this game is constructed by the “display that sprays a shower of photons onto eyes” (Hoffman 187). In such a way due to the differences between these displays, the players perceptions of the volleyball game are different too.
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On the other hand, Hoffman explains the same phenomenon from the point of view of the relational sense. In spite of the fact that the different players have the different constructions of this game, they are playing the same volleyball. Hoffman explains it by the fact that the image of this virtual game is created by “a supercomputer with a hundred gigabytes of software running on it” (187). In one way or other, all the players interact with the same supercomputer. In such a way in the relational sense, it is the same game for all players.
Daniel Dennett, who is considered to be the typical representative of materialism, has opposite views concerning the picture of reality. He states that in our vision of the world a person uses three strategies or stances.
We use a physical stance when it is necessary to perceive a picture of an object, we use a strategy of design when a role of a structure of an object’s functioning is important, and we resort to an intentional stance in order to explain a behavior of an object. Moreover, Dennett is famous for his provocative statement that all people are zombies (174). He states that consciousness in the generally accepted meaning does not exist and in such a way, there is no any difference between a person and an unconscious zombie.
Philosophical debates concerning the picture of reality have existed since ancient times. Each point of view has its strong and weak points. It seems to me that in this particular case Hoffmans arguments sound more persuasive.
Dennett, Daniel. Consciousness Explained, Boston, USA: Back Bay Books, 1991, Print.
Hoffman, Donald. Visual Intelligence. How We Create What We See. New York, USA: Norton & Company,1998, Print.
Stoljar, Daniel. Physicalism. 2001. Web.