Money is an example of things that exist that are dependent on human agreement. Factually, the thing pictured is “paper” with “ink” on it and a “magnetic strip” inside of it. If everybody stops agreeing that it is money it ceases to function as money. It is only by human agreement that the $100 bill is allowed to function as money.
People talk about snowcapped mountains and $100 bills as if they are the same things, but they are not. When we deal with disagreements and conflicts over things, our first step is to identify which kinds of things that are involved. We use the following guideline to help us do this:
My belief system will be large enough to include all of the facts,
open enough to be examined and questioned,
and flexible enough to change if errors or new facts are discovered.
If a group of people stood together and looked at the big thing in the distance they would all agree that it exists – that is fact. It existed long before humans existed. It exists no matter whether they agree on it.
To communicate what we see to other humans requires memes – “snowcapped mountain.” The meanings of “snowcapped mountain” are dependent on human agreement. The memes “snowcapped” and “mountain” exist in the brain’s neural networks independent of the physical object.
Philosophers have been talking about “realities” for centuries. Neuroscientists are just now beginning to enter the discussions. Many of the discussions about realities come down to how people answer two questions:
● What is real?
● What actually exists?
Our answers to the above questions may surprise you.
● Some things exist quite independently of language, any other institution, and independent of anybody’s attitudes or feelings about them. We call those things facts.
● The existence of other things are dependent on human agreement. We call these things memes -- “pieces of electrochemical information stored in the human brain’s neural networks.” We refer to specific types of memes as “beliefs” and “institutional truths.”