Reality Bites

Is experience just a creative response to reality?

Seeing is believing. Yet optical illusions and acid trips make clear that what we see is a function of what we think and believe. Might perception and experience be a creative response, enabling us to live in a strange and unknowable world? Or do they provide a direct link to reality?

In this issue of IAI News, a neuroscientist and a philosopher go head to head on the thorny question of reality. All experience is fabricated by the brain, argues neuro-imaging expert Karl Fiston in part one of Down the Rabbit Hole. If that is true, asks philosopher Berit Brogaard in part two, then where does this leave our most fundamental beliefs?

Meanwhile, two contributors question our faith in freedom. Both democracy and liberal economics rely on free choice. But here the assumption that more choice means more freedom comes under attack. Firstly, Tony Blair’s former senior policy advisor, Julian Le Grand outlines the limits of choice. He asks: can the state save us from ourselves? Secondly, novelist and essayist Janne Teller asks: what causes extremism? Could increased choices actually be dangerous if we have no individual moral compass?

And finally, philosopher Rufus Duits shows how philosophy ought to challenge our most basic assumptions while maverick design critic Stephen Bayley claims that beauty is boring.



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