Our inability to fully understand the universe may have something to do with the fact that we don’t experience it directly, but rather, we experience a symbolic model of it which our brain constructs. Our assumption is that we are aware of all the facets and components of the system being modeled. Yet, there may be parts of the literal physical system which are undetectable and unsymbolized in our model.
When we bite an apple, our physical system, our “self”, responds to the apple bite by evoking the experience of taste, temperature, texture, etc. It is a function of our body, we presume, to taste. But what if we couldn’t taste at all?
We would miss an entire class of human experience without our taste. An apple, its juice and flesh, would have a quality that we would be incapable of perceiving. The only reason we can taste an apple is because our physical body is designed to be sensitive to such input/stimuli. Our eyes are only sensitive to a small portion of the total electromagnetic spectrum, outside of which and even between the gaps in our sensitivity, we are blind. Our physical body seems to be a crude tool for interfacing with the universe. It may be that the actual universe holds an unlimited amount of information, at any point, during any time, from any perspective. We know for certain that it holds a lot. Nature’s elegant solution seems to be a “mind” capable of symbolic thought and critical examination.
Now, let’s take a recursive look at that construction. What is symbolism? How do we determine what parts of a system are critical?
Symbolism is the arbitrary association of two different things, whereby the significance of one is the other.
Whether something is critical to a system depends on the standpoints and objectives of the observer. To a shooter, bullets are a critical part of the system “firearm”, but probably not to a gun collector. To an architect, whether a building is structurally sound matters, but an arsonist just wants to know how flammable it is. Critical examination is the determination of which parts of a system we must symbolize to gain the information we want about the system.
We cannot model the entire universe. Presumably only the universe can perfectly represent itself. A tree or car or cloud you saw today was not the actual thing. It was a much simplified symbolic representation produced by the input to your mind from your senses, through your brain. But, just as the four letters T.R.E.E. cannot perfectly represent or symbolize what you saw, neither can what you saw be a perfect representation of whatever it was that caused you to see it. When you look at the word “tree”, think about how little resemblance that bears to the experience of perceiving a tree. Now, recognize that all the trees you can imagine are not actual trees. They are your brain’s way of symbolizing the same things that T.R.E.E. symbolizes.
Compare a picture of a tree or even an actual tree to the word T.R.E.E. Imagine trying to discern the tree or its image from just those 4 letter symbols.
We cannot perceive the actual things that cause us to experience trees. Trying to discern that causative something just from our perceptual experience is like reading T.R.E.E. and trying to imagine a tree, without ever having experienced seeing a tree.