Let’s begin again with what I will certainly not deny: reality is nothing more than what you believe, unless of course you believe that it is more.  No doubt most of us do.  We believe that reality exists beyond our beliefs, independent of them and all too often opposed.  Reality is the measure of our beliefs, their tribunal, and what all good beliefs aim to appease through that sincerest form of flattery.  And yet our belief in a reality beyond belief is rather coy in terms of its content: we can never say just how reality differs from our beliefs; not, anyhow, without thereby bringing that reality and those beliefs into perfect alignment.  We cannot shake the suspicion that reality is something more, something other than what we take it to be, but to demonstrate the case is to render it the same.

The two would appear tethered together by truth.  When our beliefs are true they ‘correspond’ to reality, when they are false they don’t.  But can any of you deny that this tether is so short – each in one’s own case, at any rate – as to be barely noticeable?  Every occurrent belief corresponds with reality as we understand it (and how else can ‘reality’ be meaningful?) as a matter of course.  The measure of our beliefs reality might well be, but that does not preclude it from being their resulting (and ever shifting) totality.  To identify a proposition that does not jibe with reality is to identify a proposition one does not believe. We may always harbor doubts, of course, that any or all of our beliefs do indeed track reality, but our inescapable reality, qua believers, is that our realties always track our beliefs.

I assume the thought is familiar enough, for you’ve heard it from Davidson,

If meanings are given by objective truth conditions, there is a question of how we can know that the conditions are satisfied, for this would appear to require a confrontation between what we believe and reality; and the idea of such a confrontation is absurd.

and you’ve heard it from Nietzsche,

The true world—we have abolished.  What world remains?  The apparent one perhaps?  But no!  With the true world we have also abolished the apparent one.

We trouble and triumph within the reality of our own confinement.  That is our inescapable starting point.  Our hopes for the future are satisfied, not when the relevant states of affairs obtain, but when we believe them to be; our anger arises in relation to believed offense and recedes in the face of believed reparation.  And we believe in something beyond our beliefs when we believe there is something beyond them to believe.

And believe in a beyond, to say it again, most of us do.  Mostly we can do no less.  From the very beginning our ever expanding belief set has been subject to unremitting revision, breeding that distrust of belief we call doubt and the learning of the words ‘mere‘ and ‘mistaken.‘  From this visceral seedbed of memory and expectation, recrimination and regret, we cultivate in hope the really real.  We bring forth the normative order and we see that it is good.


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