Reality Is Not ‘True’

Reality as you perceive it, can never be reality itself. It might be “close”, in the sense that it feels consistent with other people’s versions, but at BEST, it is nevertheless distorted, fragmented, fabricated, colored with meaning and stories, and obscured, by subconscious processes, before us – as consciousness – ever experiences it.

“We do not see reality as it is. We are shaped with tricks, and hacks, that keep us alive.”
Donald Hoffman

This is an established position in both science – here and here, and philosophy – here and here.

Consider a honeybee, viewing a flower with its ultraviolet vision (left), versus that of a human eye (right). Two very different realities, each of which has been optimized by Darwinian evolution for its respective survival – neither of which – by definition – can be “correct” – only a relative representation. True reality is unknowable.

Bee vs. Human eye view

“Since the information we have about the external environment seems to be limited to perceptual representations, Kant considered the world-in-itself unknowable.”
Bernardo Kastrup

Neat. So what?

Bees and humans see differently – big deal. Two things: first, differences in perception also happens between humans, and second, beyond vision, this INCLUDES thoughts, emotions, facts, urges, over which you have no control or awareness.

Think about this: We are basically wearing a virtual reality headset to tell us – conscious experience – what is happening “out there”. This reality is demonstrably biased and laced with various evolutionary agendas built into the brain, namely to keep us alive and spreading our genes 🙂

But even more intense than VR as we know it – this INCLUDES the thoughts that pop into our minds, the stories we tell ourselves, the emotions we feel. All sensations. Further, you cannot shut the VR off.


Curiously – we have this capacity to sit – as consciousness – and begin to understand we are not synonymous with the torrent of sensations – desires, emotions, stories, impulses. Somehow, very mysteriously, consciousness can become aware of itself and engage with everything showing up as a nonattached observer.

This is radical! Absolutely radical.

Suddenly your life story, your deepest desires, the projections into the future and relentless yearning, become mere artwork. Absolutely beautiful and mysterious and endlessly fascinating – but not YOU.

Simply considering, that reality as it appears in consciousness, is not and will never be “absolute” reality, and is vulnerable to distortion, fosters incredible relief! This is not to suggest abandoning everything and taking up some new identity, as a person with zero attachment to all sensation or desire. But rather, we can engage all of it with wisdom, and calmness.

The greatest gift of a lifetime – to understand everything is OK already – and all of these swirling emotions and drives and needs are just there to help us be alive. Which, we already are 🙂 So, mission accomplished 🙂 Simply enjoy being alive, and engage wisely with perception – both what it shows you, and appreciating it’s underlying purpose. Perception combined with discretion unveils not only to new scientific frontiers, as illuminated by Donald Hoffman, but deep personal wellbeing.

“The theory of evolution presents us with the ultimate dare: Dare to recognize that perception is not about seeing truth, it’s about having kids.”
Donald Hoffman


Wikipedia: Naive Realism

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2 responses to “Reality Is Not ‘True’”

  1. Wow this was so profound for me!!!! Never thought about it like that. Thank you so much for this blog.

    • Hey Emma, always great to hear this gives someone a new angle on life. Happy to hear back or discuss as you continue exploring. Enjoy the journey!

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