The appeal to consensus arises from the fact that humans do not fully understand or agree upon the nature of knowledge or ontology, often making it uncertain what is real, given the vast inconsistencies between individual subjectivities. We can, however, seek to obtain some form of consensus, with others, of what is real. We can use this consensus as a pragmatic guide, either on the assumption that it seems to approximate some kind of valid reality, or simply because it is more "practical" than perceived alternatives. Consensus reality therefore refers to the agreed-upon concepts of reality which people in the world, or a culture or group, believe are real (or treat as real), usually based upon their common experiences as they believe them to be; anyone who does not agree with these is sometimes stated to be "in effect... living in a different world."
Throughout history this has also raised a social question as to the effects of a society in which all individuals do not agree upon the same reality.
Children have sometimes been described or viewed as "inexperience[d] with consensus reality," though are described as such with the expectation that their perspective will progressively form closer to the consensus reality of their society as they age.
In considering the nature of reality, two broad approaches exist: the realist approach, in which there is a single, objective, overall reality believed to exist irrespective of the perceptions of any given individual, and the idealistic approach, in which it is considered that an individual can verify nothing except their own experience of the world, and can never directly know the truth of the world independent of that.
Consensus reality may be understood by studying socially constructed reality, a subject within the sociology of knowledge. (Read page three of The Social Construction of Reality by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann.)
Consider this example: consensus reality for people who follow a particular theocentric religion is different from consensus reality for those who follow another theocentric religion, or from those that eschew theocentric religions in favor of science alone, for explaining life and the universe.
In societies where theocentric religions are dominant, the religious understanding of existence would be the consensus reality, while the religious worldview would remain the non-consensus (or alternative) reality in a predominantly secular society, where the consensus reality is grounded in science alone.
In this way, different individuals and communities have fundamentally different world views, with fundamentally different comprehensions of the world around them, and of the constructs within which they live. Thus, a society that is, for example, completely secular and one which believes every eventuality to be subject to metaphysical influence will have very different consensus realities, and many of their beliefs on broad issues such as science, slavery, and human sacrifice may differ in direct consequence because of the differences in the perceived nature of the world they live in.
Some idealists (subjective idealists) hold the view that there isn't one particular way things are, but rather that each person's personal reality is unique. Such idealists have the world view which says that we each create our own reality, and while most people may be in general agreement (consensus) about what reality is like, they might live in a different (or nonconsensus) reality.
Materialists may not accept the idea of there being different possible realities for different people, rather than different beliefs about one reality. So for them only the first usage of the term reality would make sense. To them, someone believing otherwise, where the facts have been properly established, might be considered delusional.
The connotation of the term "consensus reality" is usually disparaging: it is usually employed by idealist, surrealist and other anti-realist theorists opposing or hostile to this "reality," with the implication that this consensus reality is, to a greater or lesser extent, created by those who experience it. (The phrase "consensus reality" may be used more loosely to refer to any generally accepted set of beliefs.) However, there are those who use the term approvingly for the practical benefits of all agreeing on a common set of assumptions or experiences.
Singers, painters, writers, theorists and other individuals employing a number of means of action have attempted to oppose or undermine consensus reality while others have declared that they are "ignoring" it. For example, Salvador Dalí intended by his paranoiac-critical method to "systematize confusion thanks to a paranoia and active process of thought and so assist in discrediting completely the world of reality".
In summary, Putnam has shown that existing formal versions of objectivist epistemology are inconsistent; there can be no objectively correct description of reality from a God's eye point of view. This does not, of course, mean that there is no objective reality—only that we have no privileged access to it from an external viewpoint.
In argumentation theory, an argumentum ad populum (Latin for "argument to the people") is a fallacious argument that concludes that a proposition must be true because many or most people believe it, often concisely encapsulated as: "If many believe so, it is so."
This type of argument is known by several names, including appeal to the masses, appeal to belief, appeal to the majority, appeal to democracy, appeal to popularity, argument by consensus, consensus fallacy, authority of the many, bandwagon fallacy, vox populi, and in Latin as argumentum ad numerum ("appeal to the number"), fickle crowd syndrome, and consensus gentium ("agreement of the clans"). It is also the basis of a number of social phenomena, including communal reinforcement and the bandwagon effect. The Chinese proverb "three men make a tiger" concerns the same idea.
This fallacy is similar in structure to certain other fallacies that involve a confusion between the justification of a belief and its widespread acceptance by a given group of people. When an argument uses the appeal to the beliefs of a group of experts, it takes on the form of an appeal to authority; if the appeal is to the beliefs of a group of respected elders or the members of one's community over a long period of time, then it takes on the form of an appeal to tradition.
One who commits this fallacy may assume that individuals commonly analyze and edit their beliefs and behaviors. This is often not the case. (See conformity.)
The argumentum ad populum can be a valid argument in inductive logic; for example, a poll of a sizeable population may find that 100% prefer a certain brand of product over another. A cogent (strong) argument can then be made that the next person to be considered will also very likely prefer that brand (but not always 100% since there could be exceptions), and the poll is valid evidence of that claim. However, it is unsuitable as an argument for deductive reasoning as proof, for instance to say that the poll proves that the preferred brand is superior to the competition in its composition or that everyone prefers that brand to the other.Common knowledge
Common knowledge is knowledge that is known by everyone or nearly everyone, usually with reference to the community in which the term is used. Common knowledge need not concern one specific subject, e.g., science or history. Rather, common knowledge can be about a broad range of subjects, such as science, literature, history, and entertainment. Often, common knowledge does not need to be cited. Common knowledge is distinct from general knowledge. The latter has been defined by differential psychologists as referring to "culturally valued knowledge communicated by a range of non-specialist media", and is considered an aspect of ability related to intelligence. Therefore, there are substantial individual differences in general knowledge as opposed to common knowledge.
In broader terms, common knowledge is used to refer to information that a reader would accept as valid, such as information that many users may know. As an example, this type of information may include the temperature in which water freezes or boils. To determine if information should be considered common knowledge, you can ask yourself who your audience is, are you able to assume they already have some familiarity with the topic, or will the information’s credibility come into question.
Many techniques have been developed in response to the question of distinguishing truth from fact in matters that have become "common knowledge". The scientific method is usually applied in cases involving phenomena associated with astronomy, mathematics, physics, and the general laws of nature. In legal settings, rules of evidence generally exclude hearsay (which may draw on "facts" someone believes to be "common knowledge").
"Conventional wisdom" is a similar term also referring to ostensibly pervasive knowledge or analysis.Consensus theory of truth
A consensus theory of truth is the process of taking statements to be true simply because people generally agree upon them.Contextualism
Contextualism describes a collection of views in philosophy which emphasize the context in which an action, utterance, or expression occurs, and argues that, in some important respect, the action, utterance, or expression can only be understood relative to that context. Contextualist views hold that philosophically controversial concepts, such as "meaning P", "knowing that P", "having a reason to A", and possibly even "being true" or "being right" only have meaning relative to a specified context. Some philosophers hold that context-dependence may lead to relativism; nevertheless, contextualist views are increasingly popular within philosophy.In ethics, "contextualist" views are often closely associated with situational ethics, or with moral relativism.Contextualism in architecture is a theory of design wherein modern (not be confused with modernism) building types are harmonized with urban forms usual to a traditional city.Convention (norm)
A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated, or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms, or criteria, often taking the form of a custom.
Certain types of rules or customs may become law and regulatory legislation may be introduced to formalize or enforce the convention (for example, laws that define on which side of the road vehicles must be driven). In a social context, a convention may retain the character of an "unwritten law" of custom (for example, the manner in which people greet each other, such as by shaking each other's hands).
In physical sciences, numerical values (such as constants, quantities, or scales of measurement) are called conventional if they do not represent a measured property of nature, but originate in a convention, for example an average of many measurements, agreed between the scientists working with these values.Conventional wisdom
Conventional wisdom is the body of ideas or explanations generally accepted as true by the public and/or by experts in a field.Hyperreality
Hyperreality, in semiotics and postmodernism, is an inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from a simulation of reality, especially in technologically advanced postmodern societies. Hyperreality is seen as a condition in which what is real and what is fiction are seamlessly blended together so that there is no clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins. It allows the co-mingling of physical reality with virtual reality (VR) and human intelligence with artificial intelligence (AI). Individuals may find themselves, for different reasons, more in tune or involved with the hyperreal world and less with the physical real world. Some famous theorists of hyperreality/hyperrealism include Jean Baudrillard, Albert Borgmann, Daniel J. Boorstin, Neil Postman and Umberto Eco.Mainstream
Mainstream is current thought that is widespread. It includes all popular culture and media culture, typically disseminated by mass media. It is to be distinguished from subcultures and countercultures, and at the opposite extreme are cult followings and fringe theories.
This word is sometimes used in a pejorative sense by subcultures who view ostensibly mainstream culture as not only exclusive but artistically and aesthetically inferior. In the United States, mainline churches are sometimes referred to synonymously as "mainstream."Map–territory relation
The map–territory relation describes the relationship between an object and a representation of that object, as in the relation between a geographical territory and a map of it. Polish-American scientist and philosopher Alfred Korzybski remarked that "the map is not the territory" and that "the word is not the thing", encapsulating his view that an abstraction derived from something, or a reaction to it, is not the thing itself. Korzybski held that many people do confuse maps with territories, that is, confuse models of reality with reality itself. The relationship has also been expressed in other terms, such as Alan Watts's "The menu is not the meal."Mores
Mores ( sometimes ; from Latin mōrēs, [ˈmoːreːs], plural form of singular mōs, meaning 'manner, custom, usage, or habit') was introduced from English into American English by William Graham Sumner (1840–1910), an early U.S. sociologist, to refer to social norms that are widely observed and are considered to have greater moral significance than others. Mores include an aversion for societal taboos, such as incest. The mores of a society usually predicate legislation prohibiting their taboos. Often, countries will employ specialized vice squads or vice police engaged in suppressing specific crimes offending the societal mores.
Folkways, in sociology, are norms for routine or casual interaction. This includes ideas about appropriate greetings and proper dress in different situations.In short, mores "distinguish the difference between right and wrong, while folkways draw a line between right and rude".Both "mores" and "folkways" are terms coined by William Graham Sumner in 1906.Norm (philosophy)
Norms are concepts (sentences) of practical import, oriented to effecting an action, rather than conceptual abstractions that describe, explain, and express. Normative sentences imply "ought-to" types of statements and assertions, in distinction to sentences that provide "is" types of statements and assertions. Common normative sentences include commands, permissions, and prohibitions; common normative abstract concepts include sincerity, justification, and honesty. A popular account of norms describes them as reasons to take action, to believe, and to feel.Paradigm
In science and philosophy, a paradigm () is a distinct set of concepts or thought patterns, including theories, research methods, postulates, and standards for what constitutes legitimate contributions to a field.Perspectivism
Perspectivism (German: Perspektivismus) is the view that through perception, experience, and reason changes according to viewer's relative perspective and interpretation. There are many possible conceptual schemes, or perspectives in which judgment of truth or value can be made. This is often taken to imply that no way of seeing the world can be taken as definitively "true", but does not necessarily entail that all perspectives are equally valid. Leibniz integrated this view into his philosophy, but Nietzsche fully developed it It rejects both idea of perspective-free or interpretation-free objective reality.Positive deconstruction
Positive deconstruction, in relation to Christian apologetics, is a term first used by Nick Pollard in Evangelism Made Slightly Less Difficult (drawing on Dr. David Cook), to describe a methodology for engaging with worldviews in Christian apologetics. The process is one of deconstruction because it involves 'dismantling' the worldview in order to identify areas of conflict with a Christian worldview. It is positive because the intention is not to destroy a person's ideas and belief system, but to build on areas of agreement between the two worldviews in order to argue for the truth of the Christian worldview.
Pollard identifies four key aspects:
Identify the worldview: What beliefs, values and attitudes are being communicated?
Analyse the worldview, primarily in terms of the correspondence, coherence and pragmatic theories of truth
Affirm the truth: what aspects of the worldview are in agreement with a Christian worldview?
Deny the error: what aspects of the worldview are in conflict with a Christian worldview?Tony Watkins develops this in relation to film in Focus: The Art and Soul of Cinema. He aims to make the positive deconstruction process more accessible, and accordingly re-labels the four aspects of the process (pp. 31–45):
Analyse the worldview, in which he suggests a five-part framework for considering worldviews:
What is reality?
What does it mean to be human?
How do we know what the good is?
How do we know anything at all?
What is the fundamental problem confronting all human beings, and what is the solution?
Evaluate the worldview (as with Pollard's second stage, this is terms of correspondence, coherence, pragmatism)
Celebrate the good
Challenge the badSimulation hypothesis
The simulation hypothesis or simulation theory proposes that all of reality, including the Earth and the universe, is in fact an artificial simulation, most likely a computer simulation. Some versions rely on the development of a simulated reality, a proposed technology that would seem realistic enough to convince its inhabitants the simulation was real. The hypothesis has been a central plot device of many science fiction stories and films.Social constructionism
Social constructionism is a theory of knowledge in sociology and communication theory that examines the development of jointly constructed understandings of the world that form the basis for shared assumptions about reality. The theory centers on the notion that meanings are developed in coordination with others rather than separately within each individual.Social constructionism questions what is defined by humans and society to be reality. Therefore, social constructs can be different based on the society and the events surrounding the time period in which they exist. An example of a social construct is money or the concept of currency, as people in society have agreed to give it importance/ value. Another example of a social construction is the concept of self/ self-identity. Charles Cooley stated based on his Looking-Glass-Self theory: "I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am." This demonstrates how people in society construct ideas or concepts that may not exist without the existence of people or language to validate those concepts.There are weak and strong social constructs. Weak social constructs rely on brute facts (which are fundamental facts that are difficult to explain or understand, such as quarks) or institutional facts (which are formed from social conventions). Strong social constructs rely on the human perspective and knowledge that does not just exist, but is rather constructed by society.Three men make a tiger
"Three men make a tiger" (Chinese: 三人成虎; pinyin: sān rén chéng hǔ) is a Chinese proverb or chengyu (four-character idiom). "Three men make a tiger" refers to an individual's tendency to accept absurd information as long as it is repeated by enough people. It refers to the idea that if an unfounded premise or urban legend is mentioned and repeated by many individuals, the premise will be erroneously accepted as the truth. This concept is related to communal reinforcement or the fallacy of argumentum ad populum and argumentum ad nauseam.Truth by consensus
In philosophy, truth by consensus is the process of taking statements to be true simply because people generally agree upon them. Imre Lakatos characterizes it as a "watered down" form of provable truth propounded by some sociologists of knowledge, particularly Thomas Kuhn and Michael Polanyi.Philosopher Nigel Warburton argues that the truth by consensus process is not a reliable way of discovering truth. That there is general agreement upon something does not make it actually true.
There are two main reasons for this:
One reason Warburton discusses is that people are prone to wishful thinking. People can believe an assertion and espouse it as truth in the face of overwhelming evidence and facts to the contrary, simply because they wish that things were so.
The other one is that people are gullible, and easily misled.Another unreliable method of determining truth is by determining the majority opinion of a popular vote. This is unreliable because on many questions the majority of people are ill-informed. Warburton gives astrology as an example of this. He states that while it may be the case that the majority of the people of the world believe that people's destinies are wholly determined by astrological mechanisms, given that most of that majority have only sketchy and superficial knowledge of the stars in the first place, their views cannot be held to be a significant factor in determining the truth of astrology. The fact that something "is generally agreed" or that "most people believe" something should be viewed critically, asking the question why that factor is considered to matter at all in an argument over truth. He states that the simple fact that a majority believes something to be true is unsatisfactory justification for believing it to be true.Warburton makes a distinction between the fallacy of truth by consensus and the process of democracy in decision-making. Democracy is preferable to other processes not because it results in truth, but because it provides for equal participation by multiple special-interest groups, and the avoidance of tyranny.Weinberger characterizes Jürgen Habermas as a proponent of a consensus theory of truth, and criticizes that theory as unacceptable on the following grounds: First, even if everyone's opinion is in agreement, those opinions may all nonetheless be erroneous. Second, truth by consensus is conceived as a limit that is approached via an idealized process of discourse; however, it has not been proven that discourse even tends towards such a limit, or that discourse even tends towards one single limit, and thus it is not proven that truth is the limit that is approached by ideal discourse and consensus.Zeitgeist
The Zeitgeist (, German pronunciation Zeitgeist ) is a concept from 18th- to 19th-century German philosophy, translated as "spirit of the age" or "spirit of the times". It refers to an invisible agent or force dominating the characteristics of a given epoch in world history.The term is now mostly associated with Hegel, contrasting with Hegel's use of Volksgeist "national spirit" and Weltgeist "world-spirit",
but its coinage and popularization precedes Hegel, and is mostly due to Herder and Goethe. Other philosophers who were associated with such ideas include Spencer and Voltaire.Contemporary use of the term may, more pragmatically, refer to a schema of fashions or fads which prescribes what is considered to be acceptable or tasteful for an era, e.g. in the field of architecture.