Mind-bending questions about the nature of illusion and reality

NTD Newsroom
By NTD Newsroom
February 4, 2017Science & Tech
Mind-bending questions about the nature of illusion and reality

From greek philosophers to contemporary action movies (Matrix, Inception), the question of the nature of reality has always perplexed man. What is the “real” world we live in? Is it a dream, an absolute reality, or maybe something in between – a simulation, a sort of computer program, like some scientists want us to believe?

In philosophy, the nature of reality belongs to the “big questions” – like the problem of free will, the meaning of life or the existence of an afterlife. It’s difficult to give absolute answers to those questions. But we can still ponder on it and think about them. That is what philosophy is for. Philosophy is the art of asking questions.

In the rapid pace of modern life, we often forget about the fundamental questions – why are we here? What is this reality, anyway? It even became a taboo to start a conversation on such subjects. But the fascinating riddle of the nature of reality still waits for us to (re)discover it. We don’t have to be PhD’s to reflect on it. You can do it every moment of every day. Even when watching YouTube videos, one can be inspired. Take for example, this fantastic video “Amazing Anamorphic Illusions”:

It’s a delight to watch. But don’t watch it, quit it and go to some other videos about funny cats. Instead, let’s play a game. Let’s become a philosopher for a moment. What does this illusion tell us about the nature of reality?

Let’s start with analyzing the etymology of this two words – “Anamorphic illusions”. Anamorphic means “distorted projection or drawing” (one that looks normal from a particular angle or with a certain mirror). It’s from Greek anamorphosis meaning “transformation”. A great exemplification of this term is the “Penrose triangle”:

%image_alt%This is a impossible object in our three dimensional space. It was even described by Penrose as an “impossibility in its purest form”. But, take a look at this sculpture in Perth, Australia:

%image_alt%From a certain angle, it looks like the impossible to build “Penrose triangle”. But when we change the angle, this object totally changes it’s appearance – just as in the definition of “anamorphosis”. It’s interesting to note that the nature of the object didn’t change. What changed was ourselves, our point of view has changed.

Let’s now have a look at the definition of illusion. Illusion – “act of deception, deceptive appearance, delusion of mind”. It derives from latin illudere – meaning “mock at”, literally “to play with”. Our examples fit perfectly with this definition. It’s a deceptive appearance. These illusions literally play with our senses. When we are certain about the nature of reality, when we are very sure that something is “solid” and we know how it looks like, it’s good to remember this illustrative example.

Illusions, despite being deceptive are also helpful, because they give us a glimpse into the real and true. They also show us our limitations and remind us to be humble. Thanks to them, we can conceive the idea that the true reality is vastly superior and different than what we see and perceive everyday. As the great inventor and visionary Nikola Tesla said: “Our senses enable us to perceive only a minute portion of the outside world. Our hearing extends to a small distance. Our sight is impeded by intervening bodies and shadows. To know each other we must reach beyond the sphere of our sense perceptions”.

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.