I have been working with my wife, Jan Edwards, on getting up a web site for her Tapestry of the Commons project. Back in 2005 she made a large wooden frame with ribbons that criss-cross it. On the ribbons are names of various Commons, like water, air, the common domain of literature, parks and reserves, biological diversity, etc. As part of putting up this Web page she has been doing the "our perspective" essay.
One of our friends objected to using the word "reality." Who is to say what is real, she said, in a postmodernist, deconstructionist, reflex. Well, I don't mind postmodernism and deconstructionism in English departments; that is someone else's church, and if I had spent half my life trapped between English majors and a blackboard I'd probably be somewhat crazed too.
I admit to the importance of understanding cultural relativity. Different people think different ways, and something isn't true just because a bunch of female Literature professors forcing students to read dead white women's writings say it is (for those of you who don't value insights arrived at through irony, change "female" in the prior sentence to "male" and "women" to "men.")
That said, you can learn a lot about reality from books and even fiction, if you are careful and thoughtful.
Reality is what is out there, and within yourself, whether you think it is or not. Whether anyone thinks it is or not. No other definition makes sense.
And reality can be studied. Scientists study it, poets study it; philosophers, businessmen, children, rednecks and the Volvo-driving, cappucino-drinking elite all study it in their own way. I've noticed that adamant postmodernists avoid walking into walls, whereas if they followed their own philosophy they would walk into walls all the time until they starved to death for inability to get out of the illusory classroom they think they are in.
Human comprehension of reality is necessarilly incomplete. Our concepts have gray areas and soft edges. Often we are just plain wrong.
But Reality is Out There. Your challenge is to get in touch with it and be in harmony with it.
The more you are mistaken about reality, the more harm you cause to yourself, your fellow humans, and to the other creatures in the natural world.
I'll write more on this over time, as part of a series of philosophy essays I have been writing. See also my Philosophy page.
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