June 17, 2023

Physicalism - II

Physicalism and Objective Realism are useful tools but they say as much about the true nature of 'external objective reality' as Newton's Laws.

Physicalism (the belief that the world is fundamentally composed of physical entities) and objective realism (the belief that there's an objective reality independent of consciousness) are foundational to much of modern science.

However, these philosophies also have limitations. They can struggle to account for certain phenomena, particularly those related to consciousness and perception. As our scientific understanding progresses and we delve deeper into the mysteries of the universe, from the vast realms of cosmology to the tiny world of quantum mechanics, we are discovering that reality may be more complex and strange than the straightforward physicalist or objective realist perspectives can fully encompass.

A colourless, silent, tasteless reality....

The investigation comes down to 'inherent properties of the physical world independent of an observer', to establish what inherent qualities exist in 'Objective Reality'.


1. The physical world has radiation of different wavelengths, but no colour. Colour is a quale. 

2. The physical world has only pressure waves, but no sound. Sound is a quale. 

3. Physical substances have no taste. The brain experiences 'taste'. Taste is a quale.

4. Colour is not an inherent property of objects, but a result of how our eyes perceive different wavelengths of light. It is a quale.

5. Sound is not something that exists in the world independent of an observer, but a perception created in our brains in response to patterns of pressure waves in the air. Sound is a quale.

Could it ever have been different...?

Answer: No.

Does 'Objective Reality' have anything 'solid' in it? Are physical objects 'solid'?

On a fundamental level, what we perceive as "solid" is mostly empty space. The solidity we experience is a result of the electromagnetic forces at work on a microscopic scale. 

In an atom, electrons create a "shell" around the nucleus, and the electromagnetic repulsion between these electron shells is what we perceive as solidity. 

An atom is mostly empty space. The nucleus of an atom is incredibly small compared to the size of the atom itself. If an atom were the size of a stadium, for instance, its nucleus would be about the size of a pea in the centre, and the rest would be empty space, except for the incredibly tiny electrons whizzing around - which no one has seen and will most probably never see.

In terms of quantum mechanics, particles aren't just little balls bouncing around, they're also waves and exist in a state of superposition, being in many places at once, until measured or observed. 

Solidness is a quale.

All these concepts challenge the traditional notions of what's solid, what's real, and what objective reality is. 


1. Colour is a quale.

2. Sound is a quale.

3. Taste is a quale.

4. Solidness is a quale.

A quale is something you experience. It is not an inherent property of 'Objective Reality'.

In philosophy of mind, "qualia" (singular: "quale") is a term used to refer to the subjective, experiential aspects of consciousness. 

Qualia are what it is like to have a particular experience. They are the "raw feels" of experience, like the redness of seeing a red apple, the sourness of tasting a lemon, or the feeling of solidity when you touch a solid object.

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