Re: "Reality"

Jones, John WEN (
Tue, 17 Dec 1996 9:09

From: Tim A. Connor
To: pcp
Cc: pcp
Subject: Re: "Reality"
Date: Monday, December 16, 1996 7:05PM

>It seems to me that one difficulty we have in talking about "reality" is
>he 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.

Then maybe questions about reality are less fruitful than questions about
how we negotiate and use what seems to be given. The fruitfulness of
theoretical explanations may be based on how well a theory seems to explain
the data we encounter.

>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.

So from a constructivist perspective, what becomes important is how one
frames his or her personal "reality" or what is personally meaningful to the
individual. I've recently had a dialogue with a friend of mine who is an
aeronautical engineer. One of the arguments he presents is that in order to
send someone to space and back, then we indeed need to look at what is out
there as an "object of knowledge." My response is that the idea of going to
space had to be construed in the first place. In fact, it's been a part of
fiction ever sense H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. So then once the idea is
construed, then how we negotiate it is what becomes important. Thanks, Tim.
I appreciate your input on this.


Vic Jones

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