For billions of years creatures lived in water. It has only been millions of years that animals have walked on land. It is only comparatively recently that primitive brain cells have evolved. And it was in the very recent past that humans first used symbolic language to express our intentions, thoughts, and emotions.
The capacity for a human brain to represent the world outside of itself is a remarkable achievement of evolution. Writing, music, art, and mathematics are only a few ways in which we use symbols to represent those things that are meaningful to us.
It has been a popular idea among philosophers for over a century that our brains do not have the capacity for ‘objectively’ representing the world. It has also been fashionable to suggest that ‘reality’ does not exist outside of individual perception; that, in practice, each of our brains ‘creates’ its own reality.
Of course, there is no way to prove or disprove this argument. It is true that we are prisoners of our own thoughts and feelings, and that we can’t be sure what someone else is experiencing. It is also true that each of us develops a unique ‘psychology’ based on our experiences beginning with childhood and continuing throughout our lifetime. My pain or joy may not feel exactly the same as yours.
Not surprisingly, experiments show that individuals may experience reality in different ways. What I see as the color ‘red’ may be different from what you see as ‘red’.
Yet there are many inferences that can be made about the way a human brain represents the world. Consider eyes for example. Our eyes have evolved to capture light in the visible spectrum and channel it to our brains for processing. This allows us to observe objects and events in our field of vision. The same is true for other senses, such as ears, nose, and skin. Even without strict evidence, we can be reasonably certain that light, sound waves, pheromones, and other sensory stimulants are fundamental characteristics of a universal reality that exists independently of our perceptions.
In addition, we are able to observe that when someone dies, when a person’s brain no longer functions, the world continues on its course. It is more than reasonable to predict, then, when plants and animals die, when we die, or if life on Earth would cease to exist altogether, that matter and energy, and the forces that influence them, will continue to proliferate throughout the universe.
We are often told that there are no answers in life, only good or better questions. Yet we know there are simple, fundamental truths that exist, as well as insightful answers to a variety of thorny questions.