The case against reality Why evolution hid the truth from our eyes

Donald D. Hoffman

Book - 2019

Can we trust our senses to tell us the truth? Challenging leading scientific theories that claim that our senses report back objective reality, cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman argues that while we should take our perceptions seriously, we should not take them literally. How can it be possible that the world we see is not objective reality? And how can our senses be useful if they are not communicating the truth? Hoffman grapples with these questions and more over the course of this eye-openin...g work. Ever since Homo sapiens has walked the earth, natural selection has favored perception that hides the truth and guides us toward useful action, shaping our senses to keep us alive and reproducing. We observe a speeding car and do not walk in front of it; we see mold growing on bread and do not eat it. These impressions, though, are not objective reality. Just like a file icon on a desktop screen is a useful symbol rather than a genuine representation of what a computer file looks like, the objects we see every day are merely icons, allowing us to navigate the world safely and with ease. The real-world implications for this discovery are huge. From examining why fashion designers create clothes that give the illusion of a more "attractive" body shape to studying how companies use color to elicit specific emotions in consumers, and even dismantling the very notion that spacetime is objective reality, The Case Against Reality dares us to question everything we thought we knew about the world we see.

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Subjects
Published
New York : W.W. Norton & Company [2019]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xviii, 250 pages, 8 unnumbered leaves of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780393254693
0393254690
Main Author
Donald D. Hoffman (author)
  • Mystery: the scalpel that split consciousness
  • Beauty: sirens of the gene
  • Reality: capers of the unseen sun
  • Sensory: fitness beats truth
  • Illusory: the bluff of a desktop
  • Gravity: spacetime is doomed
  • Virtuality: inflating a holoworld
  • Polychromy: mutations of an interface
  • Scrutiny: you get what you need, in both life and business
  • Community: the network of conscious agents
  • Precisely: the right to be wrong.
Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Hoffman, a UC-Irvine cognitive science professor, devotes his intriguing but overreaching treatise to unveiling a series of interconnected, provocative hypotheses about how humans perceive the world around them. His argument rests on his Fitness-Beats-Truth (FBT) Theorem, which states that natural selection has shaped the perceptive capabilities of organisms to discern aspects of the environment that positively impact fitness: the ability to survive and reproduce. FBT, unlike previous ideas about the relation between perception and evolution, asserts that perception solely maximizes fitness, not truth. Hoffman recognizes FBT "is counterintuitive. How can my perceptions be useful if they aren't true?" He attempts to reconcile this conundrum with the Interface Theory of Perception (ITP): organisms interact with their environment the same way humans do with computer screens through icons that are helpful but mask the computer's inner workings. Hoffman proposes the concept of conscious realism, which "denies that physical objects exist when unperceived," and asserts that conscious agents create the universe simply via their perceptions. If this sounds confusing, it's because it is. Hoffman also dips into his own research on visual perception to describe how humans are fooled by optical illusions. His ideas are complex and fascinating, but if they're to be fully understood, they deserve more space than he's accorded them in this disappointing study. (Aug.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Challenging leading scientific theories that claim our senses are objective, a groundbreaking examination of human perception reveals its evolutionary importance and how it is used today in marketing, design, and personal safety.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Challenging leading scientific theories that claim our senses are objective, a groundbreaking examination of human perception reveals its evolutionary importance and how it is used today in marketing, design and personal safety. Illustrations.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Challenging leading scientific theories that claim that our senses report back objective reality, cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman argues that while we should take our perceptions seriously, we should not take them literally. How can it be possible that the world we see is not objective reality? And how can our senses be useful if they are not communicating the truth? Hoffman grapples with these questions and more over the course of this eye-opening work.Homo sapiensThe Case Against Reality

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Can we trust our senses to tell us the truth?