How to approach someone who questions reality

I have a friend who is A secular humanist. I’ve know him for a while and had many close conversations with him, both about faith and other things. He is very intelligent and extremely interested in math, science and physics.

He says he is open to the truth, but the contradicts that saying “there is no reality.”

Any suggestions on where to begin in a truth discussion with a person who questions the very basis of reality?

I realize this is an objection to truth. I also observe him making this claim to reject what he dislikes, but steps into reality when he wants to press his opinion.

Any suggestions or thoughts would be appreciated. I continue to pray for him often.

God bless, Andrew

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This is another version of “There is no absolute truth.”

If he has a good sense of humor you can try, “Real-ly? :thinking: Here, let me poke you in the eye,” and see how he responds. :laughing: When he flinches, which he will if he has more intellect than a bacterium, then you can ask him why he flinched if there is no reality. It will be interesting to see where your conversation goes from there.

If he does not have a good sense of humor, you may want to tone down the sarcasm and just ask, “Real-ly? How do you know that?” The conversation will still proceed along the same general path.

Either way the word “really” is key, because that is the basis of his claim. These responses will definitely provoke some useful conversation if he real-ly wants to know the truth.

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That makes sense. He does not believe in absolute truth except for science, love and a couple other things. It’s really sort of funny.

He does have a sense of humor so I’ll try that.

I was separating his issue with reality separate from his problem with absolute truth and so I’m now thinking of them as one in the same.

Thanks for your help!

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Turn the question on itself and it will implode. If he doesn’t believe in reality, then simply ask it that belief real? Check out two sources. Tactics- book by Greg Koukl at stand to reason and Crossexamined.com with Frank Turek. They do a great job at teaching you to turn a claim on itself to see if it is self defeating. Good Luck!

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Thanks so much. I love Frank and have heard him speak. I have tactics but have not read it. Need to bring it to the front of the list. That was a very helpful reminder. Somehow I was thinking about the question of reality as being different. You were spot on, I just need to turn the claim on itself.

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Hi @Andrew25,

To begin, I want to commend you in your persistent prayer for your friend. Your acknowledgement that it is God who acts and changes hearts / minds is vital; starting from your knees utterly changes the possibilities. You are off a good start, brother.

You have had some good insights shared here already: turning the claim in on itself can logically compelling, as @Mercury suggests, and @blbossard is correct that demonstrating the experiential shortcoming of the proposition can expose the weakness of this kind of assertion about reality.

For good measure, I’ll throw in another option. It is a bit off the beaten path from the classic and clean apologetics logic moves, but instead of trying to play by rationalist rules, I sometimes prefer to get in the weeds about the definitions of reality and what counts as real, as knowledge, as fact. I think stepping back and trying to define terms is always critical to fruitful conversation (Socrates made a full-time job of it) and can be a very revealing conversation in itself.

I have shared a bit about this foundational level of questioning in a conversation thread here. It is about getting at the issue of epistemology (how we know) to reveal assumptions and open up new possibilities.

I grant that its not as elegantly slick as pointing out a self-defeating position or exposing someone’s lived /practical denial of a proposition they have verbally/theoretically asserted! But in philosophy I am more continental and existential than analytical, given more to prose and dialogue than syllogisms! This is what I have, so this is what I share:)

So often, a good question is like a burr under a saddle…whatever you argue can go like water off a duck’s back, but a question lodges in the mind—the heart—and keeps interrogating, persuading…
I wonder if—as is often the case—a really thoughtful question would help your friend see his own assumptions and open him to new explorations with you? What do you think? After prayer and thought, I wonder if any questions come to mind for you?

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This is encouraging as well. Thank you! I use the question, “what do you mean my that?” a lot. Sometimes, I’ll use that 3 or 4 times in a row because my belief is the person might not know and I’m trying to see if we are on the same page.

Any other ways of asking that question that have been helpful for you?

I’m hearing a couple of things here overall (all the threads)

Listen for self defeating claims.
Also, listen for opportunities to find out how the other person is defining the words they use.

I’ll take a look at the thread. God bless!

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Listen for “on ramps” or points of agreement that can lead to further conversations and keep doorways of communication open.

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A few variations on your theme:

  • “How would you unpack that concept?”
  • “Can you help me understand what you mean by _____?”
  • “I wonder if we are using the term _____ in the same way. What is your working definition?”
  • “When I use the word _____, I mean such-and-such. Do you understand it differently?”

In addition, I’d be sure my dialogue partner knows I am asking because I truly care that I am hearing what they are trying to communicate. I don’t want us to talk past eachother—I want a fruitful discussion. I am being careful to define terms and clarify because I value them and their thoughts.

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What if we were really asking an improper question. Why are requiring a response for there is no answer because the man does not exist in his reality because he has no reality get real and ask questions to people who can respond. Just really another way to answer this question a lot of words but maybe no answers.

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James, I hate to say this, but your post confused me. I think that you are suggesting that we respond to the person who says that there is no reality by pretending that he does not really exist. Did I correctly understand your point?

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No what I meant was that is how the person would think if we addressed him. not how we address him for he must be addressed according to the great commission in a love and kind way it would be unloving not to do so. Forgive me for I did slip in his imaginary shoes and we both have wasted valuable time in pursuing a stupid thought