Is Our Environment ‘Real’?

Saga Foss

June 9, 2023

From a young age, we are taught to believe that the world around us is accurate. We interact with physical objects and experience sensations that seem undeniable proof of the reality of our environment. However, as we grow older and learn more about the nature of reality and the limitations of our perception, we question whether the world we perceive is real.

Philosophers have debated the concept of reality for centuries. Some argue that reality is objective, existing independently of our perceptions and beliefs. Others contend that reality is subjective and exists only in our minds.
To understand this better, let us delve into the various arguments on the subject.

The Argument for Objectivity

The objective view of reality suggests that the world exists independently of our perceptions and beliefs. According to this view, a single reality exists regardless of what any individual thinks or feels about it.

This idea is based on the assumption that physical objects have an inherent existence outside our minds. In other words, things exist whether or not anyone observes them. This perspective is often associated with scientific realism, which holds that the laws of physics governing the universe are objective and universal.

Proponents of objectivity point out that while our perceptions may be imperfect, they are still based on physical interactions with the world. We can see, touch, and manipulate objects, and these experiences are grounded in physical reality.

The Argument for Subjectivity

On the other hand, proponents of subjectivity argue that our perceptions of reality are entirely subjective and constructed by our minds. They point out that our senses are limited and easily deceived and, therefore, cannot accurately represent the world.

This view is often associated with idealism, which suggests that reality exists only in our minds and that physical objects merely represent our mental constructs. Idealists argue that the mind actively creates the reality we experience rather than simply perceiving it.

Critics of idealism argue that it fails to account for the consistency and predictability of physical laws. They point out that if reality were purely subjective, the laws of physics would constantly change based on individual perceptions.

The Argument for Simulation

A more recent argument complicates the debate even further – that our reality is a simulation created by a more advanced civilization. This idea is predicated on the exponential growth of technology and the concept of virtual reality.

Proponents of simulation theory suggest that it is highly likely that we are living in a simulation as opposed to physical reality. This may sound like science fiction, but some notable scientists, including Elon Musk and Neil deGrasse Tyson, have explored this possibility.

According to simulation theorists, the advanced civilization that created our simulated reality would control every aspect of our world, including the laws of physics, the behaviour of subatomic particles, and even our thoughts and emotions. In this scenario, everything we experience would be an illusion created by powerful computer algorithms.

While this may seem far-fetched, there are some intriguing arguments in support of simulation theory. For example, the fact that our universe obeys certain mathematical principles has led some to speculate that it could be a simulation running on a supercomputer.


So, is the world around us real? The answer, as with most philosophical questions, is complex. While proponents of objectivity argue that the world exists independently of our perceptions, those who believe in subjectivity suggest that our perceptions create our reality.

At the same time, simulation theory adds another layer of complexity, suggesting that our reality may be entirely imaginary. Ultimately, the nature of reality may be beyond our ability to comprehend fully.

What is clear, however, is that these debates provide fascinating insights into the limits of human knowledge and the complexities of perception. Whether or not the world is confirmed, our experience of it is undeniably rich and complex, and the pursuit of understanding it remains a fundamental human endeavour.