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The Properties of Perception-Dependent Reality

 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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30 December 2012 03:08
 

In the never-ending quest to derive Ought from Is, some have proposed that reality itself depends on perception. The logic goes something like this:

Claim 1: “Is” represents something that exists in reality. (The empire state building “is.”)
Claim 2: Right and wrong (from which “oughts” are derived) depend on perception.
Claim 3: Right and wrong exist in reality; they are “real.” (The wrongness of stoning adulteresses “is.”)

Conclusion 1: Since right and wrong are “real,” any “ought” derived from right and wrong is derived from “is;” hence, Ought from Is.
Conclusion 2: Since right and wrong exist in reality and depend on perception, reality must therefore depend on perception.

One might think that perception-dependent reality would be home to all the myriad subjects of perception. Santa Claus, for example, or a flat earth. But no! It seems the properties of perception-dependent reality are more complicated than that. Things which are perceived to exist in so-called “physical” reality (in other words, perception-independent reality), but for which no physical (perception-independent) evidence exists, apparently do not exist. Sorry, Santa.

But what about things which are perceived as existing outside the properties of physical reality? Angels, for example, or beauty? Angels and beauty are similar to right and wrong in that they are not perceived to exist in physical reality. So we shouldn’t expect to find any physical evidence of their existence. Are angels and beauty just as real as right and wrong? Or is there some other property of perception-dependent reality that excludes them, but at the same time does not exclude right and wrong? If so, what is that property?

And what about the properties of perception-dependent reality? Do they themselves depend on perception? If not, on what do they depend? And how have they been determined? Do they hold up to the scientific method? Or shouldn’t we expect them to?

I have a theory about the properties of perception-dependent reality. I think perception-dependent reality only depends on the perception of those people who believe in perception-dependent reality. Angels don’t exist because they depend on the perception of the wrong believers. But maybe I’m mistaken. Maybe I haven’t thought it through carefully enough and it’s not actually that arbitrary. So I’ll put the question to those of you who believe in perception-dependent reality:

1. Do angels and beauty exist alongside right and wrong?
2. If not, is there some property of perception-dependent reality (equally applicable to all non-physical subjects of perception) which differentiates between those things which are real and those things which aren’t? Or do certain things exist while others don’t simply because you personally perceive them that way?

 
 
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30 December 2012 12:29
 

I’m not a “perception-dependent realist,” but I offer the following about angels and beauty:

I distinguish between reality that has an objective basis and reality which has a subjective basis. Beauty exists, but only as an idea in the minds of sentient beings.  It has no external, objective existence.  Angels (you might as well say “God”) may or may not exist - we have no objective, testable, verifiable evidence at this time. But people all over the world and for all of history have had subjective experiences of the supernatural. So, it at least exists in the imagination of people, and may have an as-yet-undiscovered objective basis, as well. As for Santa, everyone (adults, that is) pretty much agrees that this was a made-up concept, so, unlike God, we can consign Santa to the “does not exist” bin, as far as objective reality is concerned.  But, the idea of Santa and what he stands for exists in the mind.

As far as objective reality is concerned, it does not require perception to exist.  Right and wrong are not objective reality. They exist as concepts in the mind.  Now, if we discover that God does objectively exist and if we discover that God has an objective standard for right and wrong, then this may change the status of right and wrong. My two cents.

[ Edited: 30 December 2012 12:31 by EN]
 
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30 December 2012 15:28
 
Ecurb Noselrub - 30 December 2012 11:29 AM

I’m not a “perception-dependent realist,” but I offer the following about angels and beauty:

I distinguish between reality that has an objective basis and reality which has a subjective basis. Beauty exists, but only as an idea in the minds of sentient beings.  It has no external, objective existence.  Angels (you might as well say “God”) may or may not exist - we have no objective, testable, verifiable evidence at this time. But people all over the world and for all of history have had subjective experiences of the supernatural. So, it at least exists in the imagination of people, and may have an as-yet-undiscovered objective basis, as well. As for Santa, everyone (adults, that is) pretty much agrees that this was a made-up concept, so, unlike God, we can consign Santa to the “does not exist” bin, as far as objective reality is concerned.  But, the idea of Santa and what he stands for exists in the mind.

As far as objective reality is concerned, it does not require perception to exist.  Right and wrong are not objective reality. They exist as concepts in the mind.  Now, if we discover that God does objectively exist and if we discover that God has an objective standard for right and wrong, then this may change the status of right and wrong. My two cents.

Bruce,

I like the way Antisocialdarwinist (ASD) framed the question (although I would prefer to call him by his real name). The question “What is beauty?” is different from the question of “What is right and what is wrong?”. The question as to whether perception dependent realists have a different outlook on “right and wrong”, as in all things, depends upon the topic.  I agree with you that right and wrong are not objective reality, rather they are subjective values placed on actions and things.  But the decision to give something the value of “right” or “wrong”, which is subjective and subject to change by an individual, is often (but not always) based on objective reality.  Note that the terms “Right and wrong” are not always used in the context of value judgements, for example, turning a standard screw to the left in order to tighten it, is “wrong” because it will loosen it. Alternatively, Firing an employee might be right or wrong depending upon whether the decision was based on job performance, effect on the company, bad behaviour, or that the boss merely didn’t like the individual… all parameters that have a more subjective component. 

In general I don’t think there is a meaningful distinction between perception and non-perception dependent realists as it pertains to most decisions.  I do think that perception dependent realists, might make different decisions, on labels of “right and wrong” that have a judgemental quality, like “being Gay is bad” or “having sex out of wedlock is evil”.
 
Despite your claim, as defined by ASD, you are a perception-dependent realist.  The next to last sentence is an example of that. Why would the discovery of God change the status of right and wrong?  What if you disagreed with God about whats right?, would that make you wrong?  What if God was wrong? Just as a reminder, the term “God” refers to an imaginary being.

 


Jeff

 
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30 December 2012 17:44
 

If you mean reality defined as some holistic metaphor for my own sphere of perception than yes, its dependent on perception.

But I prefer to define reality as the sum total of that which is the case. And I can deduce, by reflection upon my own limitations, that there are facts I do not and perhaps cannot gain access to. I can observe that the natural world often confounds my expectations and predictions. I can model future developments in my imagination and observe a qualitative spectrum amongst different modes of prediction. This suggests at least the potential of an objective exterior reality that doesn’t simply conform to wishes and imagination. I can affect my own perception as an act of volition in some cases. Sometimes with the aid of chemicals. But this doesn’t allow me to manipulate outcomes. In fact, it diminishes my capacity to do so. I can’t prove an objective reality but I would put my chips on it.

I think that concepts like angels, beauty and moral progress might be plotted along a sort of continuum. None are real in the sense of being measurable attributes of nature. But they might have a variable degree of logical utility or intellectual honesty. In general, I think the ‘realness’ of such concepts relates to accessability and disclosure. To the number and quality of reasons volunteered in support.

 
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30 December 2012 21:55
 
Ecurb Noselrub - 30 December 2012 11:29 AM

I’m not a “perception-dependent realist,” but I offer the following about angels and beauty:

I distinguish between reality that has an objective basis and reality which has a subjective basis. Beauty exists, but only as an idea in the minds of sentient beings.  It has no external, objective existence.  Angels (you might as well say “God”) may or may not exist - we have no objective, testable, verifiable evidence at this time. But people all over the world and for all of history have had subjective experiences of the supernatural. So, it at least exists in the imagination of people, and may have an as-yet-undiscovered objective basis, as well. As for Santa, everyone (adults, that is) pretty much agrees that this was a made-up concept, so, unlike God, we can consign Santa to the “does not exist” bin, as far as objective reality is concerned.  But, the idea of Santa and what he stands for exists in the mind.

What kind of objective, testable, verifiable evidence could there be for the existence of angels? Even the Higgs boson, whose existence was theorized long before any objective, testable, verifiable evidence was found, still had properties that pointed to the kinds of objective, testable, verifiable evidence we would eventually expect to find. Can the same be said for angels? What should we be looking for?

It’s easy to distinguish between a perception (combinations of neurons and synapses or whatever) and the object of that perception when the object is perceived to exist in physical reality: the idea of Santa vs. Santa himself, for example. But the difference is less obvious when it comes to things like beauty. You say, “Beauty exists, but only as an idea in the minds of sentient beings.” Aren’t you blurring the line between the perception and thing being perceived here? If I said, “Santa exists, but only as an idea in the minds of children,” you wouldn’t take me literally, would you? Santa doesn’t actually “exist.” And yet you have no problem saying that beauty “exists.” Based on your position with respect to beauty, I might mistake you for a “perception-dependent realist.”

Ecurb Noselrub - 30 December 2012 11:29 AM

As far as objective reality is concerned, it does not require perception to exist.  Right and wrong are not objective reality. They exist as concepts in the mind.  Now, if we discover that God does objectively exist and if we discover that God has an objective standard for right and wrong, then this may change the status of right and wrong. My two cents.

I agree here, although I was trying to avoid using the words “objective” and “subjective” since there appears to be some disagreement over their meaning. But I take you to mean that right and wrong don’t constitute an “is” from which “oughts” can be derived—unless, of course, God exists and He defines right and wrong.

 
 
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30 December 2012 22:19
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 30 December 2012 08:55 PM

You say, “Beauty exists, but only as an idea in the minds of sentient beings.” Aren’t you blurring the line between the perception and thing being perceived here? If I said, “Santa exists, but only as an idea in the minds of children,” you wouldn’t take me literally, would you? Santa doesn’t actually “exist.” And yet you have no problem saying that beauty “exists.” Based on your position with respect to beauty, I might mistake you for a “perception-dependent realist.”

I see your point but I’m trying to distinguish between ideas that have some objective referent and those that don’t. The idea of an actual Santa, living at the North Pole with a bunch of elves, has no objective referent. (I’m not talking about department store Santas, which do exist.)  But the idea of “beauty” has some objective referent.  I can look at a woman, a sunset or a flower and say “that is beautiful,” and have some objective object in mind. The fact that others may disagree does not detract from the fact that I saw something that I thought was beautiful and that thing exists.  It not only exists in itself but it caused a chemical reaction in me, the awareness of which is described by the word “beautiful.” But if you are limiting your idea of “exist” to things that have an objective, external tangibility, then no, beauty in that sense does not exist.  Hope I haven’t confused things, but I still consider myself to be outside the “perception-dependent realist” class.

 
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30 December 2012 22:32
 
jdrnd - 30 December 2012 02:28 PM

The question “What is beauty?” is different from the question of “What is right and what is wrong?”. The question as to whether perception dependent realists have a different outlook on “right and wrong”, as in all things, depends upon the topic.  I agree with you that right and wrong are not objective reality, rather they are subjective values placed on actions and things.  But the decision to give something the value of “right” or “wrong”, which is subjective and subject to change by an individual, is often (but not always) based on objective reality.  Note that the terms “Right and wrong” are not always used in the context of value judgements, for example, turning a standard screw to the left in order to tighten it, is “wrong” because it will loosen it. Alternatively, Firing an employee might be right or wrong depending upon whether the decision was based on job performance, effect on the company, bad behaviour, or that the boss merely didn’t like the individual… all parameters that have a more subjective component. 

In general I don’t think there is a meaningful distinction between perception and non-perception dependent realists as it pertains to most decisions.  I do think that perception dependent realists, might make different decisions, on labels of “right and wrong” that have a judgemental quality, like “being Gay is bad” or “having sex out of wedlock is evil”.
 
Despite your claim, as defined by ASD, you are a perception-dependent realist.  The next to last sentence is an example of that. Why would the discovery of God change the status of right and wrong?  What if you disagreed with God about whats right?, would that make you wrong?  What if God was wrong? Just as a reminder, the term “God” refers to an imaginary being.

First, I’ll clarify that by right and wrong I mean right and wrong with respect to “ought,” and not correct and incorrect. We ought to do things that are right, and we ought not do things that are wrong.

I disagree with you about Bruce’s next-to-last sentence being an example of perception dependent reality. He said,

Ecurb Noselrub - 30 December 2012 11:29 AM

Now, if we discover that God does objectively exist and if we discover that God has an objective standard for right and wrong, then this may change the status of right and wrong.

Granted, it’s a big “if,” but “if” we do discover that God “objectively exists” then He would presumably exist independent of perception—as would right and wrong. God would not be an imaginary being in this case. He’d be as real as you and me. (Again, that’s a pretty big “if.”)

To your main point: the topic in this case is deriving “ought” from “is.” The difference I see between perception dependent realists and myself is that perception dependent realists see the subjects of perceptions as “ises” from which “oughts” can be derived. For example, the wrongness of stoning adulteresses, which depends on perception, “is.” And the derived “ought” being, “We ought not stone adulteresses.”

(At the risk of confusing the issue even more, I’m distinguishing between objects of perception and subjects of perception: objects of perception exist independent of perception, while subjects of perception don’t. The empire state building is an object of perception; beauty is a subject of perception.)

 
 
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30 December 2012 22:43
 
Brick Bungalow - 30 December 2012 04:44 PM

If you mean reality defined as some holistic metaphor for my own sphere of perception than yes, its dependent on perception.

But I prefer to define reality as the sum total of that which is the case. And I can deduce, by reflection upon my own limitations, that there are facts I do not and perhaps cannot gain access to. I can observe that the natural world often confounds my expectations and predictions. I can model future developments in my imagination and observe a qualitative spectrum amongst different modes of prediction. This suggests at least the potential of an objective exterior reality that doesn’t simply conform to wishes and imagination. I can affect my own perception as an act of volition in some cases. Sometimes with the aid of chemicals. But this doesn’t allow me to manipulate outcomes. In fact, it diminishes my capacity to do so. I can’t prove an objective reality but I would put my chips on it.

I think that concepts like angels, beauty and moral progress might be plotted along a sort of continuum. None are real in the sense of being measurable attributes of nature. But they might have a variable degree of logical utility or intellectual honesty. In general, I think the ‘realness’ of such concepts relates to accessability and disclosure. To the number and quality of reasons volunteered in support.

So, if I could think of a good enough reason for why we might want God to exist, or why we’d be better of if He did exist, would you say He was real? Or is that not what you mean by the quality of reasons?

By reality, I mean that which “is”—for the purpose of deriving “ought” from “is.”

 
 
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30 December 2012 23:11
 
Ecurb Noselrub - 30 December 2012 09:19 PM
Antisocialdarwinist - 30 December 2012 08:55 PM

You say, “Beauty exists, but only as an idea in the minds of sentient beings.” Aren’t you blurring the line between the perception and thing being perceived here? If I said, “Santa exists, but only as an idea in the minds of children,” you wouldn’t take me literally, would you? Santa doesn’t actually “exist.” And yet you have no problem saying that beauty “exists.” Based on your position with respect to beauty, I might mistake you for a “perception-dependent realist.”

I see your point but I’m trying to distinguish between ideas that have some objective referent and those that don’t. The idea of an actual Santa, living at the North Pole with a bunch of elves, has no objective referent. (I’m not talking about department store Santas, which do exist.)  But the idea of “beauty” has some objective referent.  I can look at a woman, a sunset or a flower and say “that is beautiful,” and have some objective object in mind. The fact that others may disagree does not detract from the fact that I saw something that I thought was beautiful and that thing exists.  It not only exists in itself but it caused a chemical reaction in me, the awareness of which is described by the word “beautiful.” But if you are limiting your idea of “exist” to things that have an objective, external tangibility, then no, beauty in that sense does not exist.  Hope I haven’t confused things, but I still consider myself to be outside the “perception-dependent realist” class.

It sounds like you’re taking the position that things which are perceived to exist in physical reality, but for which no physical evidence exists, don’t exist. Which I think is reasonable. It’s a consistent property that can be applied to everything equally and yield reasonable conclusions. Santa is perceived by children to exist independent of perception, but the lack of any physical evidence rules out his existence. I obviously can’t prove Santa doesn’t exist, but the lack of any physical evidence—where physical evidence would be expected to be found—means I take his nonexistence for granted. I don’t put cookies out for him on Christmas eve and I don’t modify my behavior expecting he’ll reward me for being “good.”

My personal position is that things which exist do so independent of perception (is that the same as saying they “have an objective, external tangibility?”). So I rule out the existence of beauty. I’m pushing on the claim that beauty is “real” even though it depends on perception and has no objective, external tangibility. Is beauty an “is?”

You say you can look at a woman and say she’s beautiful and have some objective object in mind. What does that mean? What objective object do you have in mind? You say the fact that other people might disagree with you doesn’t detract from the fact that you saw something that exists and that you perceived as beautiful. Sure, but if beauty “is,” then wouldn’t it be true that either you or the people who disagree with you must be “objectively” incorrect? Or no? You say she’s beautiful; I say she’s not. Can our mutually exclusive perceptions both be correct if beauty “is?”

 
 
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30 December 2012 23:39
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 30 December 2012 09:32 PM

To your main point: the topic in this case is deriving “ought” from “is.” The difference I see between perception dependent realists and myself is that perception dependent realists see the subjects of perceptions as “ises” from which “oughts” can be derived. For example, the wrongness of stoning adulteresses, which depends on perception, “is.” And the derived “ought” being, “We ought not stone adulteresses.”

(At the risk of confusing the issue even more, I’m distinguishing between objects of perception and subjects of perception: objects of perception exist independent of perception, while subjects of perception don’t. The empire state building is an object of perception; beauty is a subject of perception.)


ASD,

The clarification is helpful distinguishing objects of perception from subjects of perception.

From your comment about Bruce not being a perception dependent realist (PDR), I assume that you would agree with the statement that whether one is a PDR or not is not dependent on whether one is a theist or atheist. Both can be or not be a PDR. I don’t know if I agree with this, but you’re right it’s irrelevant to the topic of the thread.

I have been following the is/ought thread from afar.  I thought I understood what was being said, but now that I reread this thread, I’m not so sure.  I don’t understand how you arrive at, or what the meaning is, of conclusion 2.  Does reality depend on perception is objective reality independent of the observer?


Jeff

 
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31 December 2012 00:00
 
jdrnd - 30 December 2012 10:39 PM

From your comment about Bruce not being a perception dependent realist (PDR), I assume that you would agree with the statement that whether one is a PDR or not is not dependent on whether one is a theist or atheist. Both can be or not be a PDR. I don’t know if I agree with this, but you’re right it’s irrelevant to the topic of the thread.

I have been following the is/ought thread from afar.  I thought I understood what was being said, but now that I reread this thread, I’m not so sure.  I don’t understand how you arrive at, or what the meaning is, of conclusion 2.  Does reality depend on perception is objective reality independent of the observer?

Actually, I think Bruce is a PDR, but for a different reason than the one you stated (his position on the existence of beauty).

The PDRs I’m thinking of are atheists: the folks who took this position on the Is/Ought thread. (Jobyrne, in particular, unless I completely misunderstood him. He said right and wrong exist in “social reality,” and that their existence in social reality constitutes an “is” from which “oughts” can be derived.)

I think most theists are probably not PDRs because they believe God exists independent of their perception. They’re mistaken, of course, but nevertheless: they don’t necessarily believe reality depends on perception. It’s not necessary to believe reality depends on perception to believe in God—not unless one also believes God depends on perception.

Conclusion 2 is purely logical: if something both depends on perception and exists in reality, doesn’t it follow that reality depends on perception? Maybe it’s not the case that everything real depends on perception, but at least some things do. So at least some part of reality is perception dependent. It’s that part of reality—perception dependent reality—that I’m exploring.

 
 
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31 December 2012 04:42
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 30 December 2012 09:43 PM
Brick Bungalow - 30 December 2012 04:44 PM

If you mean reality defined as some holistic metaphor for my own sphere of perception than yes, its dependent on perception.

But I prefer to define reality as the sum total of that which is the case. And I can deduce, by reflection upon my own limitations, that there are facts I do not and perhaps cannot gain access to. I can observe that the natural world often confounds my expectations and predictions. I can model future developments in my imagination and observe a qualitative spectrum amongst different modes of prediction. This suggests at least the potential of an objective exterior reality that doesn’t simply conform to wishes and imagination. I can affect my own perception as an act of volition in some cases. Sometimes with the aid of chemicals. But this doesn’t allow me to manipulate outcomes. In fact, it diminishes my capacity to do so. I can’t prove an objective reality but I would put my chips on it.

I think that concepts like angels, beauty and moral progress might be plotted along a sort of continuum. None are real in the sense of being measurable attributes of nature. But they might have a variable degree of logical utility or intellectual honesty. In general, I think the ‘realness’ of such concepts relates to accessability and disclosure. To the number and quality of reasons volunteered in support.

So, if I could think of a good enough reason for why we might want God to exist, or why we’d be better of if He did exist, would you say He was real? Or is that not what you mean by the quality of reasons?

By reality, I mean that which “is”—for the purpose of deriving “ought” from “is.”

I don’t think I inferred that at all. The reason I suspect an objective reality is precisely because percieved events so often FAIL to satisfy our wishes.

However, I would give proportionally more credence to a proposed god whos attributes were consistent with one another. As it stands the gods I’m familiar with fail this test quite dramatically.

 
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31 December 2012 05:25
 
Brick Bungalow - 31 December 2012 03:42 AM

The reason I suspect an objective reality is precisely because percieved events so often FAIL to satisfy our wishes.

Ha ha. Reality only seems cynical to the naive.

 
 
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31 December 2012 13:59
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 30 December 2012 11:00 PM

So at least some part of reality is perception dependent. It’s that part of reality—perception dependent reality—that I’m exploring.

That’s an easy one because all shared reality depends on perception. All shared reality also depends upon social interaction. Humans cannot avoid ongoing interaction. Certain aspects of social/shared reality can be illusory or imaginative depending on verification (or lack thereof). Right and wrong make it in because you cannot experiencing meta cognition or certain forms of perception without being confronted with aspects of right and wrong and interest*. Extrapolation on this “seems” systematically natural, even despite the fact that we botch it more often than not. I think the question shouldn’t be whether right and wrong gain admittance to reality, but rather to what extent.

Hope you had a good cmas, ASD. Did you miss me?

* all interest is self-interest.

 
 
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31 December 2012 16:01
 

So, its perception dependent but not exclusively right? Its needs a few other ingredients. If so, I have no disagreement.

 
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31 December 2012 16:18
 
jobyrne8989 - 31 December 2012 12:59 PM
Antisocialdarwinist - 30 December 2012 11:00 PM

So at least some part of reality is perception dependent. It’s that part of reality—perception dependent reality—that I’m exploring.

That’s an easy one because all shared reality depends on perception. All shared reality also depends upon social interaction. Humans cannot avoid ongoing interaction. Certain aspects of social/shared reality can be illusory or imaginative depending on verification (or lack thereof). Right and wrong make it in because you cannot experiencing meta cognition or certain forms of perception without being confronted with aspects of right and wrong and interest*. Extrapolation on this “seems” systematically natural, even despite the fact that we botch it more often than not. I think the question shouldn’t be whether right and wrong gain admittance to reality, but rather to what extent.

Hope you had a good cmas, ASD. Did you miss me?

* all interest is self-interest.

I had a very nice Xmas, thank you. And while I didn’t miss you personally, I did spend some time thinking about your perception dependent reality.

The question I’m wondering about now is whether angels and beauty exist in social/shared/[insert your favorite label for perception dependent here] reality along with right and wrong. And if not, what property of perception dependent reality distinguishes between right-and-wrong and Angels/beauty?

I see now there’s yet another property of PDR of which I was unaware: the extent to which a thing exists. Are you suggesting a spectrum of “realness” in perception dependent reality? On the left end we have things that aren’t real at all, on the right we have things which are entirely real, and in the middle is a gray area where things like right and wrong are only partly real? Does that imply that stoning adulteresses is only partly wrong? Which part?

 
 
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