Re: "Reality"

Tim A. Connor (
Mon, 16 Dec 1996 16:36:15 -0800 (PST)

It seems to me that one difficulty we have in talking about "reality" is
the vagueness of the contrast pole. "Fantasy," "illusion," "delusion,"
"hallucination" all are attributions to an observer, not to that which is
observed. And of course, we are much more ready to apply them to other
people's constructions than to our own. "Non-being" and such metaphysical
constructs strike me as the verbal equivalent of the square roots of
negative numbers--okay for performing certain symbolic operations, but of
little help if you're trying to build a house. If "reality" simply means
"that which is," it seems to me there is no contrast pole--even
hallucinations are real hallucinations--and a construct with no contrast
is empty.

That said, I do think there are sound pragmetic grounds for assuming a
"reality"--principally that I don't think we have a choice. There is no
way to act upon the hypothesis that there is nothing constraining my
actions, nothing that acts upon me and upon which I act. I could proclaim
it loudly and end up on a psych ward, full of Thorazine, but to act is to
act on a presumed something, and to experience is to experience a presumed
something. Even to write a book denying the real existence of anything
presumes the existence of my keyboard, a publisher, and readers.

So as a pragmatist, I'm content to define reality as the constraints on
my actions, and leave it at that. The implication is that reality is not
an object of knowledge external to the knower, but something encountered
and construed in praxis, in a dialectic between my intentions and the
results. The result of negotiations between me and the rocks I trip over.



Tim Connor, M.S. "Psychotherapy is not
Pacific University an applied science, it
School of Professional Psychology is a basic science in
2004 Pacific Avenue which the scientists
Forest Grove, OR 97116 USA are the client and his
<> therapist"
--George Kelly