“Reality, Knowledge and Consciousness” by Nithin Nagaraj


What is Reality?
If we closely and carefully investigate our experience, we can arrive at the following undeniable ‘facts’:
1. There is something rather than nothing. This means that there is something ‘real’. We know this because we have a continuity in experience which is irrefutable, though everything that is experienced as an object is not continuous (it appears and disappears).

2. The subject of experience, i.e., “I” is real since it is self-evident (I KNOW THAT I AM though I DON’T KNOW WHAT I AM), and this subject seems to be continuous in experience. Thus, we can be certain that there is Reality. That which is experienced – the objects, have a ‘lower’ degree of reality in the sense that they are not continuously experienced. Thus, we can arrive at the conclusion that there are at least two levels of reality – the experiencing self/subject and the experienced object. The ‘experienced’ itself could possibly be organized into further levels (like dream, hallucination etc.) with different levels of reality.

What is Knowledge?
Knowing process is always “to someone who is REAL and who is CONSCIOUS”. It is not possible to attribute knowing to an unreal entity or an unconscious entity. Thus, Santa Claus can’t know anything since Santa Claus is unreal. The characters in my night dream can’t know anything since they are unreal, though they appear to be conscious for a short duration (during the dream).

There are two kinds of knowledge. One is subjective and the other is objective. The objective kind of knowledge should have a triad – the knower, known and the instrument/medium of knowledge. The subjective kind of knowledge is the knower knowing itself or aspects of itself. To give examples, “I know Mathematics”, “I know this chair” are examples of objective knowledge, whereas “I know that I AM” (the experience of being) is subjective. The primary way of knowing anything is through experience. Inferior to this are the other tools of knowledge such as inference, memory, intuition, beliefs etc. That which is experienced always as a reality associated with it, though it may not be obvious what that reality is. When I experience a dream, though everything in the dream is eventually known to be unreal, the fact that there was ‘dreaming’ is real and undeniable. There is thus an element of reality in all experiences which can’t be negated.

The Relation between Cognition, Consciousness and the Experiencing self
I define consciousness as the ‘reality that experiences’. Since, there is something (experience) rather than nothing, the reality that experiences is what I would de􀂡ne as consciousness. On the other hand the perceived or the experienced may not be real, and may not be conscious. Thus consciousness has the properties: (a) it is Real and (b) it Experiences. What exactly consciousness experiences depends on whether the experience is objective or subjective. In objective experience, consciousness experiences an object (which has features that are either spatial or temportal or both) which is taken to be ‘apparently different from itself’. In all subjective experiences, consciousness experiences itself or an aspect of itself. For eg., in the experience of peace, it is consciousness experiencing itself without any resistance.