Unraveling Reality – A Mental World {15}

A Mental World

“We live in exactly one world. How does a mental reality fit into a world consisting entirely of physical particles in fields of force?” ~ American philosopher John Searle

The world you experience is entirely within your mind. Your senses are simply a delivery system. You believe what they deliver because the inputs – from sight, sound, and touch – all coincide. That, and others agree with you.


“Logic is invincible because in order to combat logic it is necessary to use logic.” ~ French mathematician Pierre Boutroux

People like to think of themselves as rational. And they often are. But rationality is not the cold calculator of logic that most people think. Rationality is, instead, reasoning that pleases.

The dictionary definition of rational commonly throws in sound judgment as a criterion. Determining sound judgment is an exercise in hindsight; more a metric of success, in which coincidence may play a decisive hand, than of probability, which is nothing but a woolly abstraction when it comes to real life.

Beforehand, any risky decision may be considered unsound; and then, in taking a risk, one reaches back to probability again. Those in business and technology regularly rely upon risky decisions to propel themselves forward.

All told, beyond wiles to satisfy desire, rational is a vacuous term.


“Life is the sum of all your choices.” ~ French philosopher Albert Camus

The grooves of our lives are etched by the decisions we make. Only a relative few of those relate to physical necessities. The great remainder are propelled by desires, most of which have a social seminality.

The mental machinery for decision-making runs a coarse course. The cognitive calculators of logic are shoddy. Stepwise logic is terribly taxing and cannot consider everything which should weigh in; hence, we rely upon rough rules of thumb called heuristics. There are hundreds of human heuristics: some complementary, some contradictory, most tainted by bias of some sort, all fallible.

Heuristics operate subconsciously. Like a puppet on invisible strings, decisions are mentally presented with the built-in biases behind them out of view.

“Never ignore a gut feeling, but never believe that it’s enough.” ~ English magician Robert Heller

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The mind connects dots of coincidence to construe a pattern, and readily sees patterns where none exist. This is where decisions begin: with available input massaged by the mind. Here is the first and most significant bias. Perceptions are heavily filtered by a framing effect: viewing situations from a certain perspective, typically personal gain or loss. The context that underlies decisions is itself a bias.

“Belief creates the actual fact.” ~ American psychologist William James

Cognitively, our lives are driven on a bumpy road, full of potholes. Because the lensing lays deep within, along with a built-in bias to uphold self-esteem, looking back does not readily provide a corrective view. We tend to see things in a way that justifies what we did. This makes self-correction problematic without questioning the motivations and unexamined assumptions that propel us forward.

First and foremost, decisions are determined emotionally. We live by affect, not reason.

“The mind is always the dupe of the heart.” ~ French author François de La Rochefoucauld

As much as we can, we do what we like. By contrast, doing what is good for us falls under the astringent aegis of discipline, which most people lack.

“Choices are the hinges of destiny.” ~ American poet Edwin Markham