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The term reality describes everything that is the case. Opposite terms to reality are appearance, dream or fantasy . In philosophy, a distinction is made between reality, the “mere” possibility that is not realized, and necessity according to the modality of being . A reality that is not necessary is contingent ; That is, it would also have been possible that this particular reality would not have occurred in this way. Reality thus comprises the contingent and the necessary. The impossible can never become real.

Conceptual content

The German word Reality was introduced by Meister Eckhart as a translation of the Latin actualitas . In addition to the action ( actus ), this also includes a reference to the temporal proximity of the present . The linguistic reference to activity and work brings the concept of reality closer to the Aristotelian concept of energeia , which goes back to ergon for “work” and which was translated in scholasticism by actualitas .

Often there is no distinction between reality and reality . However, there are also uses of the term in which the term “reality” means a reality that is restricted to things that have or can have an effect , i.e. physical objects (see interaction ). In this distinction, intellectual objects such as numbers or theories are part of reality, but not reality. Ascribing to these objects their own kind of existence, which makes their reality independent of whether someone thinks of them, and which ensures that they can claim validity for all subjects of knowledge , is called Platonism . Whether platonic positions are correct or necessary in certain respects is often the subject of philosophical debates (cf. e.g. problem of universals ).

There is also the opposite thesis in philosophy that all objects of knowledge are only conceptual constructions and that humans cannot recognize whether these objects exist at all or what these objects are like. This debate was and is carried out between the philosophical currents of realism and idealism in many variations over the entire course of the history of ideas . The exact content, the inter subjectivity , the epistemic accessibility, reliability and relativity as well as the metaphysical value of reality are controversial.

The question of the extent to which reality is accessible to human knowledge and whether this access is merely relative to the existing concepts and technical possibilities plays an important role in the discussion about the status of reality. The realism debate in modern particle physics can be cited for this purpose : It revolves around whether the elementary particles assumed by confirmed physical theories, from which reality should be built, are real in the ontological sense, even if in principle they are not perceived directly by the sense organs but their existence can only be confirmed indirectly via measurements and models . Alternatively, such entities are assigned that they are only instrumental constructs . In the early 20th century there was an even more fundamental epistemological discussion about whether statements about reality are verifiable or only falsifiable and to what extent scientific statements are always theory-dependent. If this is assumed, true statements about reality are not possible or always depend on the conscious and unconscious premises of a theory.

For various positions see recent scientific realism , physicalism , Constructivism , externalism and internalism , outside world or social event .


  • Thorsten Benkel: Signatures of the real. Building blocks of a sociological topography of reality. UVK, Konstanz 2007, ISBN 978-3-86764-021-3
  • Christoph Halbig, Christian Suhm (ed.): What is really. Recent contributions to realism debates in philosophy. Ontos, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3-937202-28-5
  • Mercury : Reality? Paths to Reality. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 978-3-608-97073-9
  • Gerhard Roth : The brain and its reality. Cognitive Neurobiology and its Philosophical Consequences. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1997
  • Francisco Varela , Evan Thompson , Eleanor Rosch : The Middle Way of Knowledge. The relationship between the self and the world in cognitive science - bridging the gap between scientific theory and human experience. Goldmann, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-442-12514-6
  • Paul Watzlawick : How Real is Reality? Delusion, delusion, understanding. Piper, Munich / Zurich 1976/2005 (4th edition), ISBN 3-492-20174-1
  • Paul Watzlawick (ed.): The invented reality. How do we know what we think we know? Piper, Munich / Zurich: 1985
  • Marcus Willaschek (Ed.): Realism . Schöningh / UTB, Paderborn 2000, ISBN 3-8252-2143-1

Web links

Wiktionary: Reality  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Reality  - Quotes


  1. The world is all that is the case. Ludwig Wittgenstein : Tractatus logico-philosophicus . Reclam, Leipzig 1990, paragraph 1, p. 9.