Thanks for taking the time to read my post. It is such a technically challenging field to write coherently about especially as a non-expert. Moreover probably 99% of people could give two shits. That’s ok by me. I like thinking about the hard problems and then spouting off bullshit. You pose a very difficult question and one that touches on many areas of philosophy. I can sort of speak to the materialist/scientific claims regarding the brain and body. What you are asking about requires deep knowledge and expertise in the realms of metaphysics, religion, ethics (maybe), and others. I simply don’t feel equipped to even begin to know how/from where to approach them. The idea of sense perception being somehow illusory or false goes back to almost the very beginnings of western philosophy with Plato’s famous allegory of the cave. Eastern philosophical traditions have struggled with similar questions though I am even less well versed in those. Usually I only talk about philosophical topics through the lens of a recognized “expert” philosopher(s) in the particular field I am writing about. So many of the great minds of western thought, ancient and modern, from so many different traditions (analytic, phenomonological, materialist, realist, animist, behavioralist, existentialist, etc.) have addressed this very issue at length from different perspectives. It feels like everything that can be said already has.

For once than I will step out of my typical comfort zone and try to give my own analysis without the crutch of leaning on the works of anyone else. Already I betray myself though. The very first sentence says I will give an “analysis”. A highly loaded word that suggests a scientific or analytic approach. Moreover I imply in that same sentence that I believe I am capable of contributing something above and beyond what so many have already said. Even the idea that saying something is the appropriate way to think about this brings biases and inherent implications to the table. Maybe doing something would be a better way to go. Wittgenstein himself said “whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent” though the later LW would dispute this assertion. Additionally in sentence one I refer to my “own” self. This suggests I believe I truly exist at least from my point of view. If I believe I exist any discussion of the nature of sense experience will be framed from that perspective. And so down the rabbit hole we go until eventually we throw up our hands. Is sense experience illusory or real? How do we define “real” or “illusion”? For that matter how do we define “sense” or “experience”? What defines a definition? How is it to be explained? By metaphor, analogy, something else? The way one answers inevitably colors our response to the question at hand. I have struggled with the sensia/qualia/real/illusion problem since I first became fascinated by the field of philosophy. Eventually I arrived at the same conclusion Wittgenstein did, the question itself is nonsense. There is no right or wrong answer. There never can be, it is a logical impossibility. It cannot be proven true or false. One might as well ask is gggbbttyyu real or is bghhjyyy illusion. It simply makes no sense to ask and even less to try and answer. The best we can do is clarify the question. Reframe it in a way that does make sense. Using ordinary language, logic, and generally accepted (by the vast majority of sane conscious beings) axioms ask different but similar questions. Over time the hard, seemingly intractable problem of the reality/unreality of sense experience melts away. Our language evolves, our science and technology advances, and that nonsense question dissolves into many other answerable questions. Eventually our new language/science/technology provides the answer and a new nonsense question is posed.

Over and over again that cycle goes. Unlike Wittgenstein I see great value in the nonsensical. I believe that humankind’s ability to ask questions, to think, to speak outside the bounds of sense is one of the key drivers of our continuing mental evolution. When nonsense ends so does the evolution of consciousness itself. When we can answer every question precisely, say about everything that it is true or false, right or wrong, define all terms, then we will have become like a God.

Until then keep asking the hard questions and hooray for nonsense!

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Research scientist (Ph.D. micro/mol biology), Thought middle manager, Everyday junglist, Selecta (Ret.), Boulderer, Cat lover, Fish hater

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