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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Malpass

What Is Real? (Part 2)

I wrote earlier about how the Matrix movies are like the philosophical construct of brains in a vat. The mad scientist controls every sensory input, and the disembodied brains believe they are experiencing reality, but it's just an illusion. Weird and depressing, I think. Lots of cool Hollywood special effects in the movies, though.

I want to write about one more of these philosophical constructs before I move on to more cheerful topics. This one is the five-minute hypothesis proposed by famous philosopher and skeptic Bertrand Russell.

This hypothesis proposes the entire universe sprang into existence five minutes ago from nothing, with human memory and all other signs of history included. In this scenario, our senses are working perfectly, but our memories provide us with a false reality. Just like with brains in a vat, we have no way of refuting the five-minute hypothesis. Gosh, talk about living in the moment!

Asking "What is real?" is a fair question. But in answering it fairly we have to respect we are unable to speak in absolutes.

Whew! My brain hurts a little bit! But I can't figure out whether it's because of all the sensory inputs from the mad scientist or the sudden influx of memories from five minutes ago when the universe was created. Fortunately, Motrin exists in both realities.

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