Nothing is ‘real’ – nothing exists.
Personally, I can’t get enough of this idea – the idea that nothing in this universe, or the universe itself, exists. We’ve all heard the concept of our lives being a dream, or we are AI in a game similar to The Sims, in a coma etc. What I am about to discuss, though, for me, makes perfectly logical sense – I guess it depends on your philosophical twist, also:
Perception is a strange thing at times, especially when it comes to things that don’t ‘exist’ (in the sense that they you cannot interact with them; labels we put on ideas, like numbers and colours for example – see: Flaczyy: What colours actually are and why my red is totally different to your red.). Philosophers have always toyed with the idea, and I don’t blame them – it’s so much fun.
The idea is fairly simple, and basically revolves around the fact that we can’t prove that anything actually exists – all of our observations of and interactions with the universe are exactly that; subjective perceptions. The only way to know for sure would to somehow be an omniscient being – God, I suppose – as any other being would be similarly restricted to their own interpretation of everything (via their senses).
The French philosopher René Descartes was one of these guys who tried to figure out if anything existed, and eventually decided that he must exist. His famous quote ‘I think. Therefore I am ‘ simply states that because he has a conscious mind with the ability to think, he must exist. By this he did not mean that thought causes one to exist, but that thought is proof of one to exist.
But, of course, this comes from the same mind that interprets everything in a subjective way through perception. So, surely, the fact that one thinks is just a perception in itself. We perceive our surroundings through our senses, so we, in turn, must be perceptions of ourselves. How can we prove we, or anything for that matter, exists at all? There’s no way to objectively do so.
So we arrive at this concept: nothing exists except a ‘universal’ (shared) perception. This perception itself doesn’t exist, as it’s not a ‘thing’ – it’s just there, and we are all slices of it:
This universal perception exists (although it doesn’t really), and within that perception is the universe, which technically doesn’t exist either. Imagine this perception as a dream – a dream doesn’t exist as a ‘thing’, it’s just there, and inside that dream is a world. The only difference here is that this universal perception doesn’t have an ‘owner’ – nobody is dreaming the dream. So we, along with everything else (i.e. matter, energy, universal laws) are conjured images/ideas within this dream. We are also the dream itself.
Conclusion (TL:DR): Because we observe and interact with the universe subjectively through our senses, we cannot objectively prove that anything, including the universe itself, exists at all. For the same reason, we cannot prove that we exist – we are merely perceptions of ourselves. So nothing actually exists except a ‘universal’ (shared) perception. This perception itself doesn’t exist, as it’s not a ‘thing’ – it’s just there, and we are all slices of it.