Both in philosophy and in science, almost everyone believes that the world may appear different from what it is. Things seem small from far away, while they are big. The mirage seems to be made of water and instead it is only a layer of hot air on the hot sand. The dress looks blue and white and instead is gold and gray. And so on.
The idea that the world may appear different from what it is is deeply rooted in our culture, yet it is completely wrong.
Science, in particular, has always been considered to be the method to get beyond appearance, which is usually associated with the senses. Indeed our senses, the supposed doors or windows of subjective experience, have been accused of being truly responsible for the difference between what we see and the outside world.
But all of this is a big conceptual mess, a philosophical / scientific delusion that, from the time of Plato, and from the origins of science by Galileo, continues to misguide our understanding of reality and of ourselves.
I’ll explain it this way: The very notion of appearance is wrong. Nothing appears different from what it is.
A stone is a stone. A cloud is a cloud. A photon is a photon. In nature everything is simply and necessarily what it is. There is no room, no ways nor means, for something to be what it is not.
Yet we have accepted, somewhat naively, the idea that reality can appear different from what it is. Appearing in this sense means not being what you are or being what you are not. This is contradictory, but it is what many attribute to the mind: the power to present to us what the mind is not. I see an apple and I’m not an apple. This is absurd, but it is an absurdity that people accept because we cannot explain the fact of our experience of the world.
Let’s consider a mirage. It doesn’t look any different from what it is. How should a layer of very hot air appear over hot desert sand? Exactly how it looks: like a surface reflecting the sun’s rays. Mirages are not cases in which the world does not appear as it is, but only cases in which we make an inaccurate judgment. We think there is water where there is only sand.
Similarly, the dress just is blue and white (or just is gold and gray) and does not appear at all different from what it is. How after all should it look?
It is not the objects that appear different from what they are; it is we who have questionable expectations on how they should look. We think that only water can reflect light, while many physical objects do: mirrors, very hot sand, the air above the highway asphalt.
We see a plastic flower and we think that piece of plastic looks different from what it is. Yet what should such a colored object look like? Establishing how things should look is just a practical, conventional set of facts. If a boy had grown up in a building where only plastic flowers had ever existed, seeing an organic flower he would say that it looks like an organic flower. But everything is exactly as it appears.
The world always appears only as it is. Between the world and its appearance there is perfect identity. And it could not be otherwise. Everything is and appears exactly as it is.
It is our belief about what the world is that can be wrong, but not the world, and not even our feelings, for sensations and the world work the same!
Tradition that runs back through Galileo to Plato has made a mistake, one of many; it lumped perceptions / beliefs together and contrasted those with the world, thus making the latter unattainable. Instead, only beliefs are detached from the world (I think the mushroom is edible, I eat it and die), while perceptions are one with the perceived world:
To wit, appearance and reality are not separable; they are existence itself.