Is The World Real? Some Arguments To The Contrary

Advaita Vedanta teaches the young, earnest disciple to deny that the world is real.

Common Sense

The commonly held belief that the world is real can be broken down into two parts:

  1. The world is a separate, independent (or independently existing) thing.
  2. The world is quasi-permanent (quasi-sat in Sanskrit).

In today’s post, I touch on some arguments related to 1. Soon I’ll discuss 2.


Is The World An Independently Existing Thing?

Argument #1: On Kant and Vedanta

  1. The only access we have to ‘the world’ is via perception and conception.
  2. In this sense, ‘the world’ is always already for us.
  3. To say that it is “for us” is to suggest what is experienciable is already percepts: touches, tastes, smells, sounds, and sights.
  4. But that isn’t quite right, actually, because we don’t experience percepts, or objects of perception. Rather, we only ever experience touching, tasting, smelling, hearing, and seeing.
  5. And who is this “we” or, really, this “I” anyway?
  6. The “I” in this case is witnessing awareness: seeing is seeing “for me” in the sense that seeing is arising to witnessing awareness. More simply, witnessing awareness is seeing, touching, tasting, smelling, and hearing.

Argument #2: On Space and Time in Direct Experience

  1. When you stand in a meadow and point to the mountain, ask yourself, “Where is the mountain in my direct experience?”
  2. You may be tempted to say that it’s “way over there” or “over yonder,” but is it?
  3. In actuality, the mountain is right here in your direct experience. In fact, there is, in direct experience, nothing that answers to “over yonder.” Every phenomenon is right here.
  4. And when, in that same meadow, ask yourself, “When is the mountain in my direct experience?”
  5. You may be inclined to say that it will be reached in some future state when you get there.
  6. But that’s not right either. In truth, the mountain so seen and so pointed to is occurring now.
  7. So, the mountain–seen, pointed to, imagined, and so on–is only ever here and now.

So what? Well, is there any ascertainable separate, independent thing discovered so far in our inquiry?

So what? Well, might it be the case–and I come to this too soon in our inquiry together–that a separate, independent world is an unintelligible idea and that Awareness is an all-encompassing, all-pervasive, non-dual reality?