CULTURAL REALITY

Man’s mind cannot grasp the causes of events in their completeness, but the desire to find the causes is implanted in man’s soul. – Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace.

 

The next tier up from proximate reality is cultural reality. By this phrase I mean social, political, and historical facets of reality. It differs from the earlier strata in that for the most part we do not directly perceive what happens within our community and nation, the realm of politics, and most importantly the historical context of the world we live in. Rather this reality comes to us second hand, typically from the testimony of others, sometimes in person, but more commonly via print and other media. For this reason the certainty of cultural reality is particularly limited.

Starting with history, of course nothing in the past can be known for certain. Most historians reconstruct history from physical evidence seeking at least two separate documents or other forms of substantiation to confirm any putative fact. This gives history the gloss of science, though it is of course much less exact than the natural sciences. Philosophers of history are most concerned with the interpretation of past events where they note it is difficult and perhaps impossible for a historian to generate a truly objective thesis independent of his or her underlying bias or opinion. It seems to me that the best approach is to read multiple historians on the same period to increase the scope of evidence reviewed and permit the reader to determine which interpretation is most consistent with the aggregate or to cultivate his own opinion.

To my knowledge there is no systematic philosophical discussion of real time cultural reality, i.e. current events, but more than other types of reality seems to call for familiarity with epistemology, the study of truth and what makes a statement true. The process of confirmation of the truth of current events should mimic that of history. The most trustworthy sources must be identified and scrutinized bearing in mind the apparent or potential bias of the source. Then the reader will be in a position to decide on the logical consistency of the sources and their interpretations of events as they occur.

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