The Illusion of the Outside World

“We apply reality from within. The world is our perception of the world. So what other people think of you, famous or not, is an independent construct taking place in their brain, and we shouldn’t worry too much about it” (Revolution, 106–7).

I can assume that you have thought about what other people think of you. And because of that I can also assume that you have thought. This act of thinking is itself a revolutionary thing that only a handful of beings in the history of the world were capable of doing. And only a handful of people have been able to do it consistently. It is an act of self-reflection and transpires when we are attempting to transcribe an event or remember something that occurred in the past, etc. We tend to think about a number of issues. It is that constant internal voice that wonders about the world.

Thinking, however, is difficult. Philosophers tend to spend countless hours thinking of thinking and how to make it logically consistent. The obvious example of this is the act of verbal fighting in anger. Discourse on the other hand, should not be something we are ultimately afraid of. Discourse should be a comrade. We debate and argue for the sake of sharpening our intellect. In the words of Plato:

“ ‘[W]hen names, definitions, sights and other sense-impressions are rubbed together and tested amicably by men employing question and answer with no malicious rivalry, suddenly there shines forth understanding’ ” (The Dream of Reason, 181).

The desire is to ‘shine forth understanding’. This can be difficult since all of us sense that our world is the right world, it’s the way this world should behave. Fortunately, there has been research conducted saying that we should not trust our own perspectives all too much.

A Study by Robert Lanza

A study conducted by Robert Lanza shows that our perception of all physical phenomena is in fact an internal reconstruction of the mind. This comes from the scientific understanding of particles and the way they behave under observation vs. the way they behave when they think they are not being observed (crazy shit).

In the words of Russell Brand, the comedian: “That’s like finding out that when you go out your dog stands up on its hind legs, lights a fag, and starts making phone calls. Or turns into a cloud” (Revolution, 106–7).

Lanza is describing why our understanding of a candle as a burning yellow flame is actually a mental illusion. He says that an unobserved candle will have no “brightness” or “yellowness” to it. He says that these qualities require an interaction with a conscious being. How that works is that there is nothing inherently visual about a flame. It is just the electromagnetic impulses that the flame has that make the cells in our retinas (at the back of eye) perceive “yellow brightness”. Other creatures would see gray. The difference is that our brain reacts with a “complex matrix of neurons”.

Unexpected Humility

Everything we find as obvious in nature might not be so obvious for other organisms. Our way is not necessarily the right way. It is just a happy coincidence that it is occurring. This can further extended to beliefs we have on religion, morality, ethics, law-enforcement, etc.

Life is not as it seems. This should humble us, rather than cripple us. Things are not easily observable. Experience is a slippery road.


Quotes are taken from Anthony Gottlieb’s, Dream of Reason, chapter on Plato, pages indicated above.

Quotes from Russell Brand are taken from his book Revolution, pages 106–7.

Further Reading

I would also like to guide you to my other blog post that deals with the idea that the self is an illusion a little bit further:

Before you go…

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Author of “Up in the Air: Christianity, Atheism & the Global Problems of the 21st Century” on AMAZON | Exploring Ethical Living | IG: jakub.ferencik.official