Of Course There Is Only One Reality

RECEIVED Fri., Aug. 24, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I appreciate the point Louis Black is trying to make in his Aug. 17 “Page Two,” Along the Bias. It is true that there can be no truly “objective” observers of any event as long as human beings are the ones observing.
    However, surely Mr. Black would like to rethink the following: "[S]ome believe that there is a concrete truth to any incident – that there is an objective, absolute reality to what happened, a clear-cut sequence of events. … This ridiculous attitude, which basically argues that individuals are the centers of their own universes, plagues the Bush administration."
    Ahem … well, that's because there is a concrete, object reality to every event.
    Mr. Black confuses interpretation with actuality, or, put another way, he assumes that because four different people saw the car crash differently, that means the car crash happened four different ways. Of course, there was only one reality (there can only be one reality) but four different interpretations of that reality.
    To believe otherwise would truly be to place individuals at the center of the universe, in the sense that their interpretations could actually override the physical laws of cause and effect, and to descend into the mushy postmodernist malaise so brilliantly satirized by the Sokal hoax (look it up if you haven't heard of it). Because I believe JFK was killed by one gunman named Lee Harvey Oswald doesn't make it so, any more than a conspiracy nut's alternative theories that LBJ ordered it done by a squad of Mafia hit men … but regardless of my beliefs, or your beliefs, JFK was killed by someone or something and the circumstances are set in stone, immutable, forever untainted by the various interpretations.
    Let us not confuse our inability to always discern the truth from the fact that the truth exists.
Mark Coffey
   [Louis Black responds: I'm afraid this is an "If a tree falls in the woods" syndrome. If there is an absolute but unknowable reality, and I'm not arguing that there isn't, given that it is unknowable, then of what value is it? Further, when some claim that they know that absolute reality, they are only championing their interpretation as concrete truth. Finally, take a morally complex situation like in Iraq where almost everyone involved not only has a different perception of their own role and intentions but also of the role and intentions of all others including those that they oppose. You can argue the reality of any event is knowable, but the interpretations are going to be radically different without any of them being either clearly right or clearly wrong as they involve far more complicated issues than what actually might have physically happened.]
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