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INTRODUCTION - THE PUZZLES Philosophers have always tried to find out whats real and true by discovering and stripping away whats mistaken and apparent Theyve asked fundamental questions about reality and have uncovered ambiguities and contradictions which have given rise to long-standing disagreements Different philosophers have had different worries about reality This essay is about whats puzzled me personally and how Ive organised my ideas about it so far Our knowledge of the physical world outside our minds objective reality can only come to us via our own perceptions of it Those pictures in our minds are clearly a different thing from the world itself We assume that the two are very intimately related Indeed we assume that the world is exactly represented by our perceptions But this isnt necessarily true In fact thought and experiment show that its far from true So what is the nature of the real world and what is the relationship between that world and our perceptions of it As Ive discussed elsewhere perception is a paradoxical notion that raises questions that havent yet been answered Until they are we can only discuss this subject with reference to that concept and thats what Ill do in this essay Another puzzle the discoveries of 20th century physics have forced physicists to carefully reconsider their ideas about what is and isnt real They investigate electrons and protons and other things no ones ever seen Are these things real or merely convenient fictions used to describe the results of experiments When people discuss these matters theyre not usually concerned with the words real and reality but with the things these words refer to Theyre concerned with facts and experiences rather than with how to describe them But we can only think and talk about facts and experiences by using words And when we run into difficulties its often very easy to get confused about whether we have
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