What is Real?

“The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.” – Philip K. Dick

I admit to being a techy-speccy sci-fi geek who occasionally mulls on this question. Well it’s more of a philosophical meandering. Whatever…

The question is, at its core, one of definition:

What is Reality?

And by extension… can something be more real than something else? Is Reality a binary concept? – i.e. is something either real (100%) or not-real (0%)?

The concept of reality arises in films like The Matrix. The World of the Matrix, the Matrix itself, is generally understood, by those who know the truth, to be not-real. Everything else, everything outside of the Matrix, is real. But the Matrix contains sentient beings, who experience it as being real and believe it to be real (mostly). So who are those who know “the truth” (the inhabitants of Zion) to argue for its unreality? If the Matrix is real to its denizens… is it not real? Is it not completely and utterly, 100% as real as Everything Else? It is, if reality is defined by sentience and awareness and consciousness and belief. If. But…

Perhaps reality is defined by other criteria.

The Matrix is a construct. It was constructed by the Machines, who were (ultimately) constructed by Man. Does this fact define its unreality? Who or what constructed Everything Else? Who or what constructed the Universe? God? Itself? A super-powerful alien entity? An alternative version of Man? And if the Matrix is “less real” than Everything Else, on account of being a construct… what of a TV? A computer? A mobile phone? A spoon? Are these things, these constructs, “less real” than you or I or the world we live in?

Of course, the story of The Matrix is a fiction, arising in the minds of the Wachowski brothers (and numerous predecessors and contemporaries thereof). And when we speak of fiction(s), we are getting onto a whole other “level” of (non-)reality. When I write a story, a fictional tale, am I constructing a whole other universe? Or just words on a page?

It all comes down to what you believe.

Picasso said that “Everything you can imagine is real.”

That’ll do.

* * *

See also…

I Don’t Subscribe to Coincidence


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