Science and Reality

Science attempts to look behind appearances to discover the nature of the underlying physical reality. Although, as we shall see in the next chapter, what it discovers there is very different indeed from the phenomenon we experience. Returning for a moment to the analogy with a computer screen, the noumenon corrresponds to the physical state of the microcircuits in the chip. The computer can never directly access this level; it cannot explore the nature of its own chips, or see the state of the electrons. All that can ever be displayed on the screen is an interpretation of this information by the software -- just as all we can ever experience is the mind’s interpretation of the sensory data. The closest a computer can get to its own underlying reality would be a string of binary code, a series of ־”s and ֿ”s representing its internal state (although, these, too, are just symbols created by the computer, and could just as well be a string of “A”s and “B”s.) Similarly, the closest we can probably come to an understanding of the noumenon is mathematics -- which is where the physical sciences tends to end up. But even this is a set of symbols and models created within the human mind. It is still not a direct knowing of the noumenon.